You see them sitting in the early evening by the canal, under the statue of James Joyce, or else in the heart of Trieste's Piazza dell’Unita, where the sea meets the square.
The woman with her grey hair piled high upon her head and the greyhounds quasi-pulling her wheelchair like a chariot. The man with his flat cap and his too-big but still so formal suit.
In Trieste, funerals outpace births by a factor of three to one, but my friend Stefania is intent on showing me that there is more to her city than staid elderly elegance. She grabs my arm and marches me at impossible speed toward Piazza dell’Unità, announcing in brisk and perfectly accented English that Trieste is the most beautiful, the most civilized, city in Italy.
She takes me to her favorite bar, newly-opened, tucked away in the ghetto’s heart, where an enormous table has been fitted atop a repurposed World War I cannon the owner found in Bologna. She demands a spread for me: thin-sliced prosciutto and spice-encrusted salami, Liptauer Condito, a Central European sheep’s milk cheese spread seasoned with anchovies, caraway and spice.
For Stefania, Trieste’s Austro-Hungarian heritage has found renewal in the development of the EU – Slovenia is part of the Schengen Zone; Croatia will be later this year. “I go to Slovenia for dinner at least once a week,” she says. “I love the food. I speak some of the language.”
At the shoe shop where she works, she says up to 90 percent of her weekend customers are Slovenian or Croatian. “They’re in love with our style,” she says, with pride.
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