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21 November 2009

the oh-so-multicultural trieste

i had breakfast at my favorite bar early this morning, cafe erica. it had to be a nutritious meal because i had just had my blood tested for my routine check up at the lab. i love people watching, i'm a curious person who ambitiously calls herself a writer, and this morning there were a few interesting clients sit there. but my mind was distracted by something i read in the local newspaper, il piccolo.

my attention was all for this news. i read that the canteens initiative to serve ethnic meals in primary and junior schools ended up as a kick off boycott. students refused to eat cantonese rice and the chefs had to prepare emergence sandwiches for most of them. i immediately thoght that alice wouldn't refuse nice chinese food or the other meal proposed, serbian cevabcici sausages. we always encourage her to try new food and i wondered why other parents don't do the same. especially, why they don't do it here. the journalist didn't write if the initiative would go on now after this unsuccesfull debut, but he mentioned some parents filed a complaint to the school authorities, so it's easy to imagine how the whole story will end.

what's wrong with this city? i raised my eyes and looked around the cafe while sipping my latte macchiato. the cosy, wood-paneled interior evoked the fin-de-siecle vienna like in the days when writers joyce, svevo and saba lived here. just outisde the window there was a beautiful neoclassical building. strolling through trieste is like leafing through a large architecture book, because of the combination of different cultures and artistic expressions. still, its people are ambivalent. i've been living here for nearly 3 years now and i still feel an outsider. it seems people are new to the multiculturalism of their place, though trieste has always been permeated by it, and you never get integrated well in their society.

i looked at the barista, an attractive woman in her 60's, who was amaibly chatting with another old lady. trieste is full of aged people, it has scarcely populated and it is ageing. maybe the elders are another reason that explains the persistence of the tension with slovene, which is still alive. they remember the foiba horrors and the other brutal episodes of the communist occupation very well. historical revisionism must be particularly blatant in this part of the world. i don't know, all i know is that the history of the slovene minority in trieste is a cyclical one. every so often the same episodes occur as before the war or in the nineteen-forties; it's the foiba story last year, then the tale of corrupt bank directors, and when they get over that, triestini will invent something else.

a young student entered and asked for a cappuccino. he must be an exchange student and new, he didn't know he'd be served a miniature cup of foam-topped, caramel-tinted hot milk. that's a triestine cappuccino. in the the rest of italy, we call it a macchiato (espresso with a dash of frothed milk.). i looked at him and started wondering why he chose trieste as his destination to study. the presence of a long-standing and worldwide known academic institutions for sure. the geographical crucial position with the rest of europe. one thing is sure: once he'll learn how to get a cappuccino, he'll go back home and will tell his friend how messed up triestini are. but when he'll offer to cook italian for his family, nobody will refuse to taste it and they'll eat everything. as there will be no alternative meals like sandwich if they don't like it!


  1. Very interesting to read bella, you are really good :) I love this, it felt like I was sitting at cafe Erica and your thoughts where showed like a movie. Like I really was there :D Cool! And what do you need to ask for if you want a capucci in Trieszte :)?

  2. thanks, juuke :)

    you have to ask for a caffelatte here in order to get a cappuccino. coffe is a tradition in trieste, its idustry took root here. in 1719, the city was part of the hapsburg empire and was declared a duty-and-tax-free port. it became everybody's favourite anchorage and, austrians being notorious caffeine addicts, coffee was one of their biggest imports.

    today, trieste is the leading coffee port in the mediterranean; the hometown of illy caffè and supplier of more than 40 per cent of italy's coffee. it's one of the few places in the world where you'll find every cog in the coffee-industry wheel: importers, wholesalers, purifiers, roasters, dealers, tasters, not to mention torrefazioni (fresh coffee shops) and hundreds of cafés. the average triestine drinks twice as much coffee per year as other italians!

  3. I wish I could visit Trieste in the near future and have a cappuccino together. Seems Trieste is a very interesting place :)

  4. it is, oli! as i told u, you're welcome here all the time!


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