La Vita Triestina – Enjoying the Barcolana 2014

La Vita Triestina – La Barcolana 2014 – Tribute to Ottavio Missoni

October 12, 2014

La Barcolana closes the regatta season with a huge sailing regatta on the Gulf of Trieste. But it is also so much more than the Sunday of regatta day. It is a spectacle, first and foremost of course, to see the close to 1900 sailboats of all sizes that fill the Gulf with their white triangular sails but is also about the people passionate about enjoying everything that comes with La Barcolana.

Everything that comes with La Barcolana probably starts with the huge crowds, 300,000 people, that stroll along the waterfront Friday and Saturday (Le rive), to see the sail boats that are moored there.

Many of the sailboats carry the corporate logos of very diverse sponsers from wine producers like Prosecco, to Insurance companies, to Land Rover, to Courrier companies. These are large sleek crafts that command attention. And most are set-up to offer dignitary type guests with a sail, a good glass of wine with maybe some prosciutto. These are the VIP moorings but there are also the passionate sailors moored there also enjoying a nice glass of wine and a meal with friends and family as these thousands of people stroll by.

It is a lot about people watching and La Barcolana brings out many interesting characters from the yachting crowd, to celebrity chefs, to politicians, to people just out and about enjoying the perfect late summer weather and feeling the energy of moving in and out of this crowd of people. While you are surrounded by a huge number of people the feeling is festive and relaxed and you just move past all these kiosks as part of the tide but not feeling battered about in any way.

The waterfront is lined with kiosks all with identical white tent roofs and blue astro turf carpeting. They range from Tourist Information Centres for Slovenia and Croatia, to Huegar watches for sale, to Land Rovers showing off their all wheel drive features, to all manner of sailing gear and clothing to trendy wine tasting bars with their uber trendy bar stools and sofas, to fish and sausage and oyster food kiosks, to book sellers.

The tables at every bar, restaurant and caffe in the city centre are jammed with people. The Caffe degli Specchi in Piazza Unita is also filled to capacity and seems to have all the yachting crowd in the front row seats.   The walk along the Mole Audace is obligatory. Despite the masses of people walking by, others seem to be able to find a spot to lay back on the paving stones, catch a moment of sun and drink a glass of wine.

Sunday of Regatta Day everybody strategizes about the best place to be to get a good view of the race. The most popular places are up high above the Gulf – La Strada Napoleonica being the most popular viewing point. People arrive early on Sunday morning, stake their spots and set-up their picnic lunches. The weather on Sunday is warm and sunny – perfect for being out and enjoying the glorious day. The sight of all the boats sails up in a line off Barcola – many deep like the start of the NYC Marathon–is truly impressive in that this huge number of boats are able to manoeuver themselves into position.   We chose to watch from the Castello San Guisto where we had a perfect view of the Gulf. A flare goes up into the air with a high column of smoke at precisely 10:00 a.m. and then the boats are off, as they say, to the races. Alas this year the main criteria for a race – wind – is missing!

From the height and distance that we are watching from it feels like you are looking at a still life painting of a mass of white sails, on azure blue waters, with the dark grey green of the Carso as a background. The Gulf is also filled with all kinds of other kind of water craft from the Coast Guard, Guardia della Finanza, container ships waiting to get into port, to helicopters hovering overhead, to hundreds pleasure craft with people looking forward to seeing the race from sea level. One of the largest sail boats and winners of last years events stands out with its blue sails and because it seems to be the only boat that is moving.  After about 90 minutes of little or no wind the race organizers decide to cut the event short.

La Barcolana this year is dedicated to Ottavio Missoni who along with his wife was the founder of the Missoni textile and now fashion house.

He arrived in Trieste as did many people after the Second World War as a refugee from Croatia in the then Communist Jugoslavia. He was an Olympic athlete before becoming the designer of the trendy zigzag and colorful Missoni fabrics. He had all the characteristics of good leaders including the “legends and stories” that surrounded his life. He lived into his nineties, enjoyed sailing and the Barcolona and apparently always remained true to his roots. The story that is most often told is that despite the financial and other status that he reached in life when interviewed he still spoke his Triestine dialect. The logo for the Barcolana 2014 incorporated the easily identifiable Missoni pattern in its design.

Another interesting presence in the Barcolana Food kiosks this year was Eataly.   I first saw the Eataly concept in Bologna last year. It is a multilevel kitchen store-bar-bookstore-salumeria-hosteria all dedicated to good food! An Eataly outlet is planned to open in the former wine warehouse in the Port of Trieste and this was an opportunity for the owners to give a preview of their concept.

Interestingly enough Lidia Bastianich whose family also fled to Trieste from Istria after WWII, along with her son, Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti, opened Eataly outlets, in New York City and Chicago.

A bit of a non-event as far as a regatta but from a spectator perspective an engaging and entertaining event with splendid weather and in a grand setting both natural with the splendid Gulf of Trieste and the historic waterfront of Trieste itself.


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