History of Trieste - History

History of Trieste - History

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(Bathyscaph: t. 50; l. 59'6"; b. 11'6"; dr. 18' (f.);
cpl. 2)

Trieste-a research bathyscaph-was the development of a concept first studied in 1937 by the Swiss physicist and balloonist, Auguste Piccard. World War II abruptly terminated Piccard's work in Belgium on his deep-sea research submarine-a bathyscaph-and he did not resume it until 1945. Piccard later worked with the French government on the development of such a craft, until invited to come to Trieste, Italy, in 1952, to commence the construction of a new bathyscaph. Scientific and navigational instruments to equip the craft came from Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. There, on the southern shore of the Gulf of Naples, at the Navalmeccanica, a civilian shipyard near Naples Trieste took shape. In August 1953, the bathyscaph was placed in the water for the first time. On 11 August 1953, Professor Piccard and his son Jacques made the trial dive-to a depth of five fathoms.

Between 1953 and 1956, Trieste conducted many dives in the Mediterranean. In 1955, Dr. Robert Dietz, of the United States Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR), met Professor Piccard in London and discussed the project. During their talks, Piccard invited Dietz to Italy to see the bathyscaph. During his visit the following year, Dietz invited Piccard to the United States to discuss the bathyscaph's future as an American submersible.

A group of American oceanographers and underwater sound specialists visited Castellamare, Italy, the following summer, 1957, and tested and examined Trieste.

They eventually recommended that the craft be acquired by the United States government. They thought that the submersible was the ideal craft to participate in Project "Nekton"—an inspection of the deepest point in the world's oceans, the Challenger Deep, off the Marianas.

Thus, in the fall of 1958, Trieste was transported to San Diego, Calif., her new home port. Starting in December of that year, Trieste made several dives off San Diego. Fitted with a stronger sphere, fabricated by the Krupp Iron Works of Germany, Trieste was taken to Guam for Project "Nekton." With Wandank (ATR 109) as support vessel, Trieste climaxed her participation in Project "Nekton" on 23 January 1960 when Lt. Don Walsh, USN, and Jacques Piccard-the professor's son who had accompanied the bathyscaph to the United States to instruct the Navy in its operation and maintenance-descended seven miles to the bottom of the Challenger Deep. The world's record descent had taken nine hours.

Between 1960 and 1962, after Trieste was overhauled at San Diego upon her return from Guam and Project "Nekton," the bathyscaph conducted many dives in the San Diego area. In November 1962, another period of repairs commenced. At this time, a new bathyscaph float was on the drawing board, and construction began early in 1963. Trieste's modifications were proceeding apace when the submarine Thresher (SSN-593) sank off the Massachusetts coast. Trieste was brought across country to Boston, where she soon entered the search to locate the lost submarine. She made five dives before returning to the Boston Naval Shipyard for repairs. Trieste later conducted five more dives. In August, during this series, she discovered the debris from Thresher including the submarine's sail which still clearly carrier the number "593." About this time, the bathyscaph— then 10 years old-began to show signs of age.

Hence Trieste-her search mission accomplished— was returned to San Diego, where she was taken out of service. For her part in the search, however, the bathyscaph and her commander, Comdr. Donald A. Keach, received the Navy Unit Commendation. Subsequently, Trieste was transported to the Washington Navy Yard where she was placed on exhibit in the Navy Memorial Museum in early 1980.


A rich and influential Jewish community lived in Trieste, a large port city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that became Italian only after the First World War. During the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, this community had a profound impact of the economic and cultural life of the city. Enclosed in the ghetto in 1696, the Jews enjoyed a de facto emancipation in 1782 through the Toleranzpatent of Emperor Joseph II. Consequently, the history of Trieste’s Judaism mingles with that of Austria, especially Viennese Judaism, and shares all its splendor. This is still in evidence today by the many palaces of large bourgeois families in the city, such as the Morpurgo de Nilma, the Hierschel de Minerbi, the Treves, the Vivantes, and others. This large commercial port was the empire’s only access to the sea. It was also an intellectual capital, where the Jews, before and after 1918, had important roles as writers (Italo Svevo, Umberto Saba, the publisher Roberto Bazlen, Giorgio Voghera and as painters (Isodoro Grünhut, Gino Parin, Vittorio Bolaffio, Arturo Nathan, Giorgio Settala and Arturo Rietti). The presence of Edoardo Weiss (1889-1970) in the city made it the cradle of Italian psychoanalysis. During the the first half of the Twentieth century, Trieste was also one of the ports of departure for Jews emigrating to Palestine. The Shoah was deeply felt by the Jews of this city. Nowadays, the Jewish community counts one tenth of what it was before the war.

Synagogue © Zacqary Adam Xeper – Wikimedia Commons

The Grand Synagogue

Constructed in 1912 by a community that wanted to show its wealth and power, the synagogue of Trieste represents architecturally one of the most significant edifices of emancipated Judaism at the end of the nineteenth century. Spacious, elegant, and free of any kitsch, the synagogue was designed by the architects Ruggero and Arduino Berlam without any regard for expense. The decorations, in part inspired by those of certain Christian edifices of the Near East (i.e., Syrian), also show – in the mosaics, the starry dome, and the splendid luminosity of the interior – the influences of the styles fashionable in Vienna at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Jewish Trieste

The Jewish cemetery is at 4 via della Pace since 1843. The old one was on the hill of San Giusto (mid 15th century – mid 19th century), behind via del Monte, the steep street in which are now located the Jewish school and the Carlo and Vera Wagner Museum. This was formerly the location of an Ashkenazic oratory where German, Czech, and Polish refugees prayed before emigrating to Palestine between the wars. The building hosted the Jewish Agency for Israel, which helped thousands of people escape from Russian and then Nazi anti-Semitism. In fact, Jews called the port city of Trieste the “Door of Zion”. The oratory is now part of the Museum. Ornaments and gold objects on display here are in some cases quite antique many come from Bohemia and Germany as well as from Italy.

Caffè San Marco. Photo by Alexandros Delithanassis – Wikipedia

Narrow streets such as Via del Ponte, near the Piazza della Borsa give an idea of what this former Jewish quarter might have been like a century ago, when it was inhabited by poor Jews and still had four synagogues, whose discreet facades hid richly decorated interiors. The buildings and synagogues of the early Ghetto were totally razed in the 1930s to the great joy of the heads of the Jewish community of Trieste, which had no desire to see the remains of their miserable past. Many of the synagogue’s furnishings are now in Israel.

The Caffè San Marco near the Grand Synagogue, a favorite haunt of Trieste’s intelligentsia, remains one of the most memorable places in the city. Italo Svevo frequented Caffè San Marco, as did a number of artists and writers both Jewish and non-Jewish. The traditions continues today with authors such as Claudio Magris, who dedicated the magnificent pages Microcosmes (Paris: Gallimard, 1998) to the café. The turn-of-century Viennese Succession-style interior is remarkable -as are the coffee and food.

Renowned throughout the city for the quality of its products – not to mention its interior decor – the celebrated pastry shop La Bomboniera was also, until the 1930s, a kosher pasticceria whose Purim cakes made between February and March delighted Trieste’s residents, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

The poet and writer Umberto Saba’s masterpiece Canzionere was first published in his bookstore in 1921. The shop, which he managed until his death in 1956, has remained as it was during Saba’s lifetime, when he was often found engaged in long discussions with the customers and friends he received here.

Risiera San Saba © Pier Luigi Mora – Wikimedia Commons

Morpurgo de Nilma Civic Museum

Installed in the palace he had built in 1875, the Morpurgo de Nilma Civic Museum is named after Carlo Marco Morpurgo, declared a valiant knight of the empire for his achievements. The palace suggests what daily life was like for a large Jewish family of Trieste.

The private apartments are on the third floor and include a magnificent Louis XVI-style music room, a large azure reception hall decorated in the Venetian style, and a pink salon, among others. Other palaces once belonging to great Jewish families such as the Hierschel de Minerbi at 9 Corso Italia, or the Vivante at 4 Piazza Benco are located in the neighboring streets and have been transformed into apartment buildings or offices.

Risiera of San Saba

The Nazis established the only Italian concentration camp with a crematorium, Risiera of San Saba, in the buildings of a former rice-processing factory. It was a camp used for the detention and elimination of Jews, hostages, partisans and political prisoners. For Jewish prisoners, it was mainly a transit site on the way to the extermination camps. Between October 1943 and March 1945, 22 convoys of Jews were deported from Risiera. In total, more than 1000 Jews were deported from Trieste and about 30 were killed in the Risiera.

The site was transformed into a memorial in 1965. Ten years later, it became a Civic museum designed by architect Romano Boico and it has been recently renewed.

Trieste: The Italian city that wants a divorce

In the aftermath of the Scottish referendum, independence movements across Europe are seeking their own media moments. And Italy - which only became a unified country in 1861 - has more independence movements than most.

The Venetian independence movement, spearheaded by businessman Gianluca Busato, made headlines recently with a non-binding online referendum in which Busato claims 87% of the population voted for independence.

Two hours east of Venice, near the Slovenian border, another city stakes its claim for independence.

Trieste has always had a culturally diverse history - for centuries, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by the post-war years, it was Churchill's southern outpost of the "Iron Curtain" dividing the West from the communist East.

Immediately after World War Two, Trieste, on the border with Yugoslavia, was recognised as a free state under international law, though it remained under military occupation until 1954, when it was returned to Italy.

But for the members of the Free Territory of Trieste Movement, which has seen between 2,000 and 8,000 protesters at its rallies in recent months, Trieste's freedom has not ended.

In a dilapidated 19th-Century mansion, five minutes from the sea, Vito Potenza dreams of liberation.

Three red flags - sporting Trieste's traditional coat of arms - hang from the windows another drapes the office tables.

The insignia is everywhere: on pins, on mugs, on Potenza's Facebook page.

"We are fighting for the rights of the people of the free Territory of Trieste," Potenza says. "We are fighting against the Italian government."

After all, they are under occupation.

Here, where the Venetian Spritz cocktail is served with Slovenian cheese on wheat bread, where seaside cafes offer their cappuccinos with a side of Viennese whipped cream, many identify as Triestine first, Italian second.

Once this city was the great port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Piazza dell' Unita, three sides of the square are occupied by splendid Habsburg buildings the fourth is sea.

A plaque commemorates the spot where Mussolini announced his policy of racial laws against the Jews. The Catholic Church of Saint Antonio shares space on the Grand Canal with the Serbian Orthodox Church the synagogue is two minutes away.

"We are a multicultural people," Potenza says - he himself is half-Italian, half-Croatian.

His Free Territory of Trieste movement, which claims independence for the city and its hinterland, is designed to reflect that: he envisions Italian, Slovenian, and Croatian as joint official languages.

"Italy has kept our culture down for too long," he says. The fascist years of the 1920s and 30s, during which Trieste's Slavic population was subject to a programme of forced "Italianisation", are not so long ago.

Potenza and his supporters believe that Trieste is legally free under international law.

They cite a 1947 United Nations Security Council charter, which recognised Trieste and its surroundings - including parts of what is now Croatia and Slovenia - as a free state, with both Italian and Slovenian as official languages, subject to the appointment of an internationally recognised governor.

That "free territory", however, never existed in practice - during the seven years of Triestine independence, sections of "free territory" were governed by Britain, America, and Yugoslavia - until the London Memorandum of 1954, which returned the majority of the territory to Italy.

This decision, Potenza believes, amounts to unlawful invasion: "For 60 years, [Italy] has imposed sovereignty on our people. The treaty of 1947 is the law it is the constitution of our territory."

His colleague, Giorgi Deskovich Deschi, fervently agrees.

Trieste is the "cold-weather Jerusalem", he insists.

"I am culturally Italian, but I keep within myself Croatian genes, Venetian genes, Slovak genes. This city can encompass all these characteristics in order to make itself a true centre."

He envisions a free Trieste as a "powerful symbol" for the future, where "all religions, all knowledge, all art" exist in unison.

"Trieste is truly open to the world," he says, using a masonic term, "agape", to describe his vision of togetherness. "We are living in a great moment, and Trieste is at the heart."

It is a Trieste where "Catholics, Serbian Orthodox, Jews, and freemasons" all live together.

He smiles cagily. "All religions and none," he says.

But Potenza's aims are economic as well as cultural.

Trieste has an internationally important port, Potenza points out - with plenty of import taxes he sees as owed to the Free Territory - but "the Italian government refuses to apply the law" and collects the money.

Why should the relatively prosperous Trieste "fall down with Italy?" which, as he sees it, is in inevitable decline.

What about the majority of people in Trieste, who are perfectly happy to be both Triestine and Italian? Potenza shrugs. They cannot deny the law: "This project is more important."

It's only a matter of time, he says. Over the past year, he has sent several letters and signed petitions to the United Nations, demanding recognition of Trieste's free status.

Exploring Trieste’s historic cafes

Trieste is one of the best locations in Italy for coffee lovers. The history of Trieste is deeply tied to global coffee production and has served as a gateway for coffee into Italy since the 18th Century. This bustling seaport has been the main coffee harbour in the Mediterranean for centuries.

Because Trieste was a distribution hub for the world’s most in-demand bean, it also became a global center of coffee roasting. Illy, one of coffee’s most famous brands, originated in Trieste.

With a long-standing tradition of having the best beans and the skills to roast them to perfection, it’s no surprise that Trieste has had a thriving cafe culture going back hundreds of years. The first coffee shop was opened on the Via S. Nicolo in 1768. Walking through the streets today you’ll find many stellar small roasting businesses, often connecting to some of the city’s historic cafes. Long an artistic hub, chatting away in coffee shops has been one of the things to do in Trieste for centuries, with writers like James Joyce, Stendhal, Franz Kafka, and Italo Svevo known to have lounged and had their favorites.

Which is the locals’ favorite Trieste cafe? It depends on taste, but there are a wide variety to choose from. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable examples.

A favorite hotbed for Italian politics during World War I, and afterwards for intellectuals, Caffè San Marco opened in 1914. Decimated by the war, it was immediately rebuilt in the 1920s and hasn’t changed much since. With spacious ceilings yet a cozy vide, the interior design of the coffee shop contains many hidden symbols and metaphors that recall the cafe’s political origins.

Since 2013 the Bookshop San Marco has also become a part of the space, featuring regular readings, concerts, and cultural events. Come for the books, coffee, and conversation. Stay for a bite of their famous chocolate and pear cake.

Located in the main square of Piazza Unità d’Italia, this cafe has long been in the center of Trieste’s cultural life and history. Founded in 1839, it was originally decorated with a series of engraved mirrors that would allow the light of candles and oil lamps to be reflected back, creating ambient light well into the evening. Before the days of electricity, many patrons would leave cafes early as they were extremely dark. This cafe, in particular, was a favorite of James Joyce.

Caffè degli Specchi remains well-kept and beautiful today, with much of its original charm of dense wood, great lighting, and of course spectacular coffee.

If your list of things to see in Trieste contains the oldest coffee shop in the city, you’ll want to stop by Caffè Tommaseo, which opened in 1830. The cafe is elegant in the extreme, featuring neoclassical decor that was fully restored in 1997.

One of the first places to serve gelato in Trieste Italy, Caffè Tommaseo was also a meeting spot for revolutionaries during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. You can sit at the tables, sipping your cafe and just imagine the revolutionaries conspiring into the long hours of the night. Though you may not be plotting revolution, you might still enjoy brunch or dinner if you drop by with your travelling companions.

We hope you enjoy your time in Trieste with a relaxing stop at one of these famous cafes.

Charlie Grigio

Trieste, the birthplace of my father, has a colourful and diverse background.

Historical records show that the region where Trieste currently lies, was occupied by settlers during the Neolithic period, some 12,000 years ago. The first Indo-European groups that appeared there were known as Histri (living in Istria) around the 10th century BCE.
(see image below)

This area would become known by its German name of Tergeste, a Roman municipality following the Roman conquest of Istria in 177 BC.

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Ancient Roman settlement remains can still be seen at the city&rsquos historic centre of San Giusto Hill. The Roman temples dedicated to Jupiter and Athena are also visible in some of the architecture of the Basilica di San Giusto (above).

Of the many reasons to love living in or traveling through Europe, many people bring up its rich history. When compared with the history of North American cities or regions, European cities and countries can offer centuries of stories and events that have shaped what a place looks like today.

This could not be truer for the Italian city of Trieste. With its unique location surrounded by Slovenia, near Croatia and almost detached from the rest of Italy, this somewhat underrated city for travel (noted by Lonely Planet) has one of the longest and most exciting histories in Europe.

With an illustrious location on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and on the Gulf of Trieste—perfect for trading and being a seat of power—Trieste has been inhabited since the 9th or 10th century BC. The list of different ruling empires alone is enough to convince you to visit this city. From Venetian rule to the Roman, Habsburg, Slovene, French, Austrian and Yugoslav, with a short time as a Free Territory, this city has seen so many cultures cross paths.

In addition to being ruled by many different empires, Trieste has been home to many different communities and cultures throughout history, including Italian, Slavic, German, Croatian, Serbian, and communities from various Balkan States. Some have even compared it to New York City with the diversity of minority groups living there. Over time, the language has been fought over, changed and evolved, and today it has its own dialect made up of Italian, German, Croatian and Greek.

When it is safe to travel again, the wide range of influences can easily be experienced with a trip to Trieste. You will see different styles of architecture, hear a range of languages and taste the many culinary traditions that have passed through this important city. Even the name Trieste highlights the importance of commerce and exchange of cultures, as it comes from the pre-Roman name “Tergeste,” meaning market.

Within the city, you can experience the Piazza Unita d’Italia, one of Europe’s largest squares along a coast and the Grand Canal where merchants docked. You should stop by the immense port to contemplate the history that this stretch of land has seen and endured.

It is also worth a visit to the Trieste Roman Theatre, which serves as a great example of its time under Roman rule. You can then experience the 15th-century architecture of Habsburg rule at the Castle of Saint Giusto. Jump ahead a couple of centuries and 15 minutes outside of Trieste you can see the beautiful 19th-century Miramare Castle. Continuing your architectural tour through the centuries, 20th-century Viennese architecture and coffeehouses can still be seen as well as buildings and monuments from the period of Fascist rule.

Outside of the city you should also visit the Grotta Gigante, with its name meaning huge cave. It is one of the largest tourist-visiting caves in the world—a hot air balloon even flew through it!

You are also not far from experiencing some of Slovenia’s top destinations, such as the beautiful and mysterious Lake Bled, the capital city of Ljubljana and vast caves such as Postojna and the Predjama Castle, which is built in the mouth of a cave.

Whether you are there for the sights, sounds or tastes of Trieste, it is hard to ignore the layered history and stories that the walls and streets could tell. Eventually, I hope that a day in Trieste includes a moment of quiet, where you ponder all of the history of this place, from conflict to peace and prosperity, and everything in between.

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Jan 10 Trieste's Voyage to the Deep

You stare into the black abyss where no man has gone before, hoping for some sign of life as you continue to descend further into the gaping maw of the Earth. Sitting inside the cramped bubble you glance over at your partner who is also staring out the tiny window, the hum of electrical gauges and hiss of pressure sensors form a shallow rhythmic pattern before drifting out of tune with one another. Suddenly the cabin violently shakes and a loud cracking noise cuts through mechanical whirring! In wide eyed horror the two of you frantically search for the cause, all the while hoping that the next few moments won’t be your last.

The bathyscaphe Trieste. Courtesy of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

The Trench

The Marianas Trench is the deepest known spot in the world. Located in the Pacific Ocean it was formed at a convergent tectonic plate boundary, a boundary where one tectonic plate pushes another into the Earth’s crust. In this case the Marianas Plate is pushing the Pacific Plate into the crust and at this boundary where the two meet is where the Marianas Trench was formed. Within this trench is a valley that runs deeper than the trench itself, Challenger Deep, and it is the deepest known point in the world. In this spot it is so deep that if Mount Everest was placed at the bottom then it would be two kilometers short of the surface.

Diagram of how a convergent boundary works. Courtesy of Geogrify.

Challenger Deep lies beyond the Abyssal zone, the deepest zone in most oceans, and extends into what is known as the Hadal zone. This is a zone that ranges from 6,000 meters down and is the deepest sector of the ocean. In this region there is no light as the sun's rays cannot penetrate to these depths, it is pitch black and the pressure is so immense that it exceeds one thousand pounds per square inch. Reaching these depths is almost as difficult as space travel, and is just as alien.

Diagram of ocean zones. Courtesy of Sea and Sky.

The Vessel

Professor Auguste Piccard was a Swiss scientist who invented the bathyscaphe submersible. Best known for his work with buoyancy in regards to balloons, he set the world record for highest altitude balloon flight in 1931-1932. In 1933 he went to the World’s Fair in Chicago to display his high altitude balloon and it is there that he encountered a bathysphere, a precursor to the bathyscaphe, and became enamored with deep sea exploration. Unfortunately World War Two interrupted his research and Piccard had to wait until 1946 to start building his new vessel.

Auguste Piccard. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unsurprising considering his past research, the basic idea for this new type of vehicle was similar to how a balloon works, and would be made up of two main sections. The top section would be like the actual balloon, a large hollow steel tank that would be filled with gasoline. Gasoline was used because it is more buoyant than water and is resistant to compression which makes it an ideal candidate for deep sea dives since it maintains an equal pressure. On either side of the gas tank were air tanks that could be pumped full of water to act as a ballast and allow the craft to sink. In addition to the water ballasts it would also have two hoppers filled with iron pellets that would add weight and allow it to sink. The pellets would be held in place by an electromagnet and when they needed to be released then power to the magnet would be cut off, thus allowing the gasoline to lift the craft up. The large tank would also have halogen floodlights attached so that the occupants could see in the dark depths. The second part of the submersible consisted of a sphere that hung at the bottom of the large tank, similar to the gondola on a balloon. This small steel sphere was where the occupants would work and do observations out of. It had a small plexiglass viewing port that was used to look out into the ocean and another one at the top that was used to enter the sphere. The entrance went through the middle of the gas tank and when the craft submerged the corridor would be flooded and have to be flushed out with compressed air once the crew surfaced. The vessel was not fast and really could not move much aside from going up or down, the bathyscaphe was invented with one goal in mind, deep sea exploration.

Diagram of how a bathyscaphe, specifically the Trieste, works. Courtesy of U.S. Naval Historic Center.

Piccard built two models that he and his son, Jacques Piccard, tested. The first built in Belgium between 1946 and 1948 was named FNRS 2. Unfortunately it was damaged soon after its completion in 1948 during trials in the Cape Verde Islands. The vessel was quickly rebuilt, improved, and renamed FNRS 3. It performed a number of excellent dives down to 4,000 meters, so with the idea now successfully tested Piccard set to building an even better model. On August 1, 1953 the Trieste, named after the city it was built in, was launched and with ease dived to a depth of 3,150 meters. In order to understand the importance of these depths one must keep in mind that most submarines during this time were only operating in depths between 200 and 280 meters. Auguste Piccard and his son continued testing their craft as they searched for someone to fund their research. In 1958 the United States Navy purchased Trieste and designed a new sphere that could be used to explore deep sea trenches. This new sphere was made of 5 inch thick steel that weighed over 14 tons, now making it necessary to lengthen the gas tank had to account for the increased weight. The Navy was interested in studying how deep sea pressure, sound, and temperature were affected at great depths, as well as mapping the ocean floor for strategic purposes. In fact by 1958 the US Navy was funding roughly 90% of all oceanographic related ventures in the United States and they were not going to let a chance to explore the deepest part of the ocean slip away from them.

The FNRS 2. Courtesy of the FNRS Society.

The Men

Two men would make the trip in Trieste to the bottom of the ocean, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh. Jacques Piccard was a Swiss physicist, oceanic engineer, and economist who was son to famous Professor Auguste Piccard. Between 1944 and 1945 he took a break from his studies to serve in the French First Army during World War Two. After returning from the war he helped design the Trieste with his father, and after helping build and test the submersible he went to the United States in 1956 to try and find a buyer. The US Navy purchased it two years later and Piccard met Don Walsh.

Jacques Piccard. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Don Walsh was a Lieutenant in the Navy and had been interested in the ocean most of his life. He became an engineer while in the service and worked on submarines, becoming one of the most experienced at the time. In 1959 he became officer of the Trieste, and him and Piccard began testing the vessels capabilities and performing underwater tests in the Pacific.

Don Walsh. Courtesy of the National Geographic Society.

The Dive

For four days the US Navy tugboat Wandank had towed the Trieste 220 miles from its staging base on the Island of Guam to the trench. As they proceeded further and further out to sea the weather conditions and ocean surf became rougher and made the men begin to doubt their voyage. In the early morning hours of January 23, 1960 they reached the spot they were to dive. For the past two days a Navy destroyer had detonated more than 800 TNT explosion underwater in order for them to find the Marianas Trench and Challenger Deep, there were existing undersea maps but they were old and likely inaccurate. When the men reached the spot marked by the destroyer they were disheartened to find that several of their scientific instruments had been damaged during the towing. The surface telephone, the device used by the Trieste’s captain to communicate during the launching process, was torn away and inoperable. The tachometer, a device that measures the speed of descent and ascent, was completely destroyed, it had weathered over 50 dives without mishap. Finally the vertical current meter that measures the waters velocity was broken and barely clinging to its supports. It looked like they might not perform the dive so the crew set about repairing what they could.

Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard standing on Trieste’s deck. Public Domain.

They now had a choice to make, go ahead with the dive despite not being able to use some of their most important, though not vital, equipment, or let all their hard work go to waste and return to Guam. Structurally the craft itself was perfectly fine and all the electrical circuits were working so they would be able to release the ballasts and use the lights. Still, Piccard was nervous and did not want to perform the dive in such unfavorable conditions but Walsh being the one in charge said he would make the dive with or without him, inviting the Trieste’s engineer to come along if Piccard did not. Piccard promptly followed and began preparations. They made final checks and created impromptu signals for the crew since the Trieste now lacked a surface telephone, the undersea telephone would be used once they were below the waves. The sun began to rise and the sea worsened, tossing the Trieste and other ships in the area all about. The two men now wanted nothing more than to dip below the waves and escape the awful quake that was tossing their balloon like vessel around.

Trieste sitting on top of the water. Courtesy of Naval Historic and Heritage Command.

Quickly they climbed into the sphere and sealed the hatch behind them. Only a single bolt was used to hermetically seal them in, the thousands of pounds of pressure outside would ensure it stayed shut. At 0823 hours they began their dive and the Trieste became calm for the first time in days as it slipped below the waves. Though the nerve wracking task of descending to depths never seen before lay in front of them, they were somewhat happy to be in this position so they did not have to experience the waves and storms that the remaining crew would. The bathyscaphe slowly descended, only reaching 300 feet in 10 minutes but this was by design so the men could do any final checks that were needed.

Unfortunately an issue had already risen, they had reached the level where water cooled rapidly and completely halted their descent. In cooler water the relative weight of the craft was diminished so it would no longer sink. There were only two options, wait for the gasoline to cool to the outside water temperature or release some gasoline to bring down their weight. Both options held risks. Waiting meant that they might disrupt their timeline and it was imperative that they returned to the surface while it was still daylight. However if they released some of the gasoline then they might not have enough left to make their return to the surface. After a minute of deliberation the men decided to release some of the liquid. They were confident that their fuel calculations were correct and would not need the extra 150 cubic feet of extra gas they had brought along. After releasing their reserve they would have 4,000 cubic feet of gasoline left to lift them to the surface. Piccard opened the gas valve to allow some of the fuel to escape and after about a minute they began to descend once again. The valve was closed to keep what they could of the reserve tank but after descending only 35 more feet they hit another layer of cooler water and were halted again. More gas was released to resume the dive. Five minutes after this second halt, at a depth of 425 feet, they were stopped once more by another layer and had to release even more fuel. Seven minutes later they were stopped again at a depth of 530 feet and had to release more of the precious liquid. Jacques later stated that “This was the first time in my 65 dives in the Trieste that I had observed this phenomenon of repeated stratification.”

There was an upside to all of these stops however, they were able to watch their new electric thermometer and accurately take temperatures of the thermocline. This information would be helpful to oceanographers in defining the different temperature zones of the ocean.

After diving 650 feet the problems appeared to be over as the men were now descending at a steady rate of four inches per second. The true dive was just now beginning as they had nearly seven miles to go. Luckily as the men continued to dive deeper and deeper the increased pressure would add weight and cause them to descend faster, eventually coming to a mean speed of three feet per second. The only time Piccard or Walsh would interfere with the process was when they released ballasts to ensure they were traveling at a safe speed.

Piccard and Walsh sitting inside the Trieste. Courtesy of Wikiwand.

At 1,500 feet the ocean was already pitch black and they turned on a small light inside of the sphere, just bright enough for them to read their instruments. The temperature was dropping rapidly so the men decided to put on their dry clothes as they had both been soaked by ocean spray when entering the craft. All precautions were taken to ensure the men stayed warm as they would basically be sitting motionless for nine hours with little chance to move around.

A little further down they began to see phosphorescent plankton appearing. The searchlight was rarely used during the descent as they wanted to observe these luminous creatures, but were a bit disappointed as they only saw them around 2,200 feet and 20,000 feet. The men were not seeing much life at all on their descent, describing the depths as “extraordinarily empty”. However they theorized that the presence of the bathyscaphe may have disrupted the natural habitat and caused many fish and other creatures to disappear. Piccard later went on to say that he rarely saw fish during a rapid descent and even when travelling at a creep it was rare to see anything other than plankton or other “relatively primitive species.”

Trieste. Courtesy of Factinate.

The men had planned on allowing the bathyscaphe to descend at a rate of three feet per second until they hit 26,000 feet, at that point they would slow to two feet per second. They would continue at two feet per second until 30,000 feet and then reduce even further to one foot per second, this would allow sufficient time for them to slow down before hitting the bottom. Of course there was always a danger of a deep sea current sweeping them off course or landing on a hard slope of the trench. In order to avoid these catastrophes and control the speed of the craft the men had to continually check the outside water temperature, the gasoline temperature, the quantity of ballasts still available, and, likely most important of all, the pressure at the exact time and depth. They also were constantly checking the humidity, oxygen percentage, carbon dioxide and temperature inside their sphere while also taking notes that would be used for research after they returned to the surface. Piccard and Walsh later said that all this work made the five hour descent go by rather quickly.

At 5,600 feet, an hour after the dive began, the men received a phone call from the surface. Buono, the Trieste’s engineer, on the surface assured the men that despite the less than favorable wave and weather conditions everything went as planned. They received another phone call at 10,000 feet and a third at 13,000 feet. It was difficult to tell whether they would be able to maintain contact for the duration of the dive but for the best chances it was paramount that the surface crew to stay directly above the Trieste, not an easy task in rough seas.

Past 24,000 feet the men were in virgin territory, no one had ever been to these depths before. It was the fourth time the Trieste had broken the deepest diving record, a craft built to withstand any depth had served well. However they were still not at the bottom and had quite a ways to go. They continued to 26,000 feet and were still able to hear conversations between the tugboat and their Naval escort over the telephone.

At 1130 hours they reached 30,000 feet and slowed to one foot per second. The pressure outside squeezed the bathyscaphes walls with 150,000 pounds of force, if the men were not protected by the steel sphere then they would be crushed instantly. The water at that depth was extremely dead and they saw no signs of life. For a quick moment the spotlight was turned on and its beam penetrated the waters below, but no sign of the bottom could be seen. Piccard said, “We are in the void, the void of the sea”. By this point they had turned on the sonic depth finder and were expecting to reach their goal at any moment. The searchlights were switched on once more but still no appearance of the sea floor. Ever so often ballasts were dropped to slow their gradual descent time seemed to move extremely slowly as they waited for the bottom to rise out of the opaque abyss.

The Trieste being lifted into the water. Courtesy of Britannica.

All of a sudden at 32,500 feet the sphere was overtaken by tremors and the men were petrified to hear a dull cracking noise coming from their battered craft. The men looked at each other, both worried and confused as to what it might be. At first they thought they had hit bottom but that idea was quickly thrown out as the depth finder did not show anything and looking out the viewport they could see they were still descending. For a moment they theorized they may have even met a large sea creature unknown to them, a veritable sea monster. All systems inside were still running normally, the gauges were all working, there was no change in the bathyscaphes equilibrium, and they were descending at a steady rate. They were not sure what to think. They turned off everything on board that made a noise, humming electronic instruments, hissing oxygen gauges, all of it was silenced as they attempted to discover the origin of the cryptic noise. In the quiet depths all they could hear was “tiny crackling sounds, like ants in an ant hill, little cracking sounds coming from everywhere, as if the water were being shattered by our passage.” The men theorized everything from small shrimp hitting the outside of the sub to the outer paint cracking under the enormous pressure. Fortunately they were still descending at a regular pace which was a great reassurance to both of them, and because of this, along with the fact that nothing was leaking, they decided to continue the descent and discover the origin of the sound later.

A few signs of life were now beginning to show themselves. Though they had a difficult time seeing them the men believed jellyfish were swimming around their viewport, not a surprise as they knew that there is bacteria and various other invertebrates that can survive at great depths. The real question to them was whether fish could survive under such pressure. They continued to descend and the telephone stopped picking up signals from the surface. Save for the hum of the instruments, everything was silent and time moved slowly as the men feverishly glanced back and forth out the tiny window then back at the depth finder, sure that they would be reaching the bottom soon. At 1256 hours the men saw the ocean floor on the depth finder, 300 feet below them was the bottom of the trench. It took them 10 minutes to traverse those 300 feet and at 1306 hours with a light thud they touched down on the pale sea floor. Indifferent to the close to 200,000 tons of pressure pressing against it, the Trieste quietly sat 35,797 feet at the very bottom of the Pacific Ocean. As luck would have it they set down just a few feet from a fish, not bacteria or an invertebrate, but a true fish. This answered a question that oceanographers and ichthyologists had asked for decades, could fish survive at such extreme depths under intense pressure? The answer was a resounding yes. The fish was flat, “like a halibut or sole”, measuring about a foot long and about half a foot wide. The men carefully watched as it slowly swam out of the garish spotlights and back into the dark void it knew so well. As the fish disappeared the white dust kicked up by their landing was beginning to obscure their view.

CGI of what the Trieste looked like on the bottom of the ocean. Courtesy of the National Geographic Society.

The two planned on staying at the bottom for 30 minutes and would try to record as much information as they could in that short amount of time. They took temperature readings, 38° F, attempted to find any sort of current, they discovered none, and checked for radioactivity, none. The two also spent several minutes peering out the viewport and watched as a lone shrimp fluttered past them in the tranquil water. To make sure they left nothing up to scientific curiosity, Walsh picked up the phone and skeptically called the crew on the surface, “This is Trieste on the bottom, Challenger Deep. Six three zero zero fathoms. Over.”

The men lit up as they heard “I hear you weakly but clearly. Please repeat the depth.” Slowly and articulately Don repeated the depth and they received another reply, “Everything O.K. Six three zero zero fathoms?”

Walsh again answered, “That is Charley. (Seamen's jargon for correct) We will surface at 1700 hours.”

“Roger” was the simple response from the surface. The two were elated after this conversation as they now knew that even at great depths they could maintain communication with those on the surface.

Picture that Piccard and Walsh took inside the Trieste after reaching the bottom. Courtesy of Don Walsh.

They had planned on staying on the bottom for 30 minutes before ascending. At around the 20 minute mark Walsh had Piccard swing the spotlight around to the rear viewport, and after peering out it for a few seconds he told Piccard that he knows what that jolt and cracking noise was earlier. The plexiglass viewport that the men used to enter the sphere had cracked in several places. This did not worry the men as the pressure would make sure the cracks did not leak, what worried them was if the cracks would prevent the entrance way from being drained once they reached the surface or if the window cover would need to be replaced by a spare. In such rough seas this would need to be done in daylight and if they did not reach the surface in time then they may have to stay in the cramped sphere even longer, a thought that appealed to neither of them. In order to try and prevent this unfavorable outcome the men reluctantly left for the surface 10 minutes early. Piccard flipped the electric switch that released the iron pellets that acted as ballasts and watched as a white cloud of gleaming dust engulfed the vessel. This dust was made of silica from the skeletons of dead sea creatures that fell to the bottom and reflected the spotlights rays back onto the craft. The men began their ascent to the surface, leaving the abyss in the utter darkness that had engulfed it for centuries.

The spotlights were kept on for much of the ascent and the two watched out the porthole but were still unable to see anything, the feeling of emptiness that they had felt on their descent was quickly being restored. Trieste’s ascent grew gradually as the pressure slowly decreased and allowed it to rise faster. At first just one and a half feet per second, then at 30,000 feet they were going two and a half feet per second, at 20,000 feet roughly three feet per second, and at 10,000 feet about four feet per second. Not long before they reached the surface they were traveling at about five feet per second but this was soon slowed as they reached warmer water and the weight of the craft was increased by about a ton. The Trieste performed flawlessly throughout the entire ascent, never rolling, tipping, or jolting through the whole returning voyage. Their instruments were the only indication that they were ascending as the ride was so smooth. It was still chilly in the cabin, about 40 °F, but sunlight was now beginning to enter through the viewports, they did not have much longer to go.

CGI image of the Trieste ascending. Courtesy of the National Geographic Society.

At 1656 hours the Trieste pierced the ocean's surface, completing the deepest dive man had ever made. The men now had to blast the water out of the corridor with compressed air so they could exit the craft. Usually the operation only took two or three minutes but because the plexiglass window was cracked they could not put too much pressure too fast, and it ended up taking 15 minutes for them to expel the water. A final challenge for the men who had been to one of Earth’s most treacherous places. As they climbed out of the sphere they were tossed about by the waves and high winds that had worsened since they had begun, but no amount of bad weather could break their spirits now. The two men stood on the top deck of the Trieste and were met by a noisy salute as several Navy jets and a jet from the Guam Air Rescue unit flew overhead and dipped their wings to greet the men. A few miles away the Wandank and the Navy escort ship were rapidly approaching to pick up the men and their craft. As the ship and boat greeted them they were overtaken by a crowd of photographers who kept yelling for the men to salute as they took pictures. In the words of Piccard, “ indeed, we saluted gladly not for posterity, to be sure, not for the photographers, but for the rediscovered sun and pure air, even for the wind and the waves that submerged us each instant. We had only one thought: profound gratitude for the success achieved, gratitude toward all those who had contributed to the success of this uncommon day.”

The full crew of the Trieste posing in front of her. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy.


After the 1960 expedition the Trieste was taken by the US Navy and used off the coast of San Diego, California for research purposes. In April 1963 it was taken to New London Connecticut to assist in finding the lost submarine USS Thresher. In August 1963 it found the Threshers remains 1,400 fathoms (2,560 meters) below the surface. Soon after this mission was completed the Trieste was retired and some of its components were used in building the new Trieste II. Trieste is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard.

The Trieste II. Courtesy of Cybernetic Zoo.

Jacques Piccard went on to continue designing submarines with his father, most notably the mesoscaphe class submarine which could carry multiple passengers. He also continued helping the US Navy perform underwater research, specifically with the Gulf Stream. In his later life he went on to work as a consultant for several private deep sea research companies. Jacques Piccard unfortunately passed away on November 1, 2008.

Jacques Piccard with some of his submersible designs in front of him. Courtesy of AFP.

After relinquishing command of Trieste in 1962, Don Walsh continued to work on submarines and became the commander of one in 1968. In 1975 he retired from the Navy and went on to become a professor of ocean engineering at the University of Southern California. Throughout the rest of his life he would speak about the ocean in TV and radio interviews and continue writing ocean related publications. His expeditions did not stop with the Trieste however as he would go on to make dives to deep sea vents, the wreckage of the R.M.S. Titanic and the battleship Bismarck along with going on polar expeditions in the Antarctic. Walsh would go on to obtain many prestigious awards from academic organizations, including the Hubbard Medal, National Geographics highest honor. At the time of writing this article he resides in Oregon where he is a courtesy professor at Oregon State University.

Don Walsh. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

Though there were a few unmanned submersibles to explore the Marrianes Trench, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh remained the only two people to reach the deepest known part of the ocean until the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition in March 2012. Canadian film producer and inventor James Cameron dove solo to the bottom of Challenger Deep. Don Walsh helped Cameron’s crew understand the unique challenges they would face at these depths. A brand new unique submersible was built for the voyage. This time the sub was outfitted for more indepth research as it possessed a robotic arm and other tools for collecting samples and specimens. It was also outfitted with 3D cameras that would take high quality video and audio of the surrounding area. Cameron spent a few hours on the ocean floor collecting data and samples and plans on making more trips in the future. All this being possible thanks to the sacrifice and determination that was made many years ago.

James Cameron’s submarine. Courtesy of the National Geographic Society.

Personal Thoughts

I have a love hate relationship when it comes to ocean exploration. On one hand it fascinates me, but on the other it terrifies me and I’ve been this way since I was little. I loved learning about the ocean but at the same time not knowing what all lives down there scares me quite a bit. I do really enjoy learning about deep sea expeditions like this however.

Something I kind of have to wonder is that they said they didn’t see much life when they were down there and I just can’t help but think that might have something to do with all the TNT they dropped beforehand.

History of Trieste - History

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The Natural History Museum in Trieste exhibits large botanic, zoological, mineral, geological and paleontological collections. These are divided into two sections: one for the public and one for specialists.

The botanic collection has about thirty herbariums and other material coming from the region and also from all over Italy.

The zoological collection has, among others, corals, madrepores, sea and softwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals from all over the world.

The mineral and paleontological collections are also rich, among which the fossil of a 4-metre long hadrosaurus practically complete and anatomically connected, found near Trieste.

The Museum hosts also a section on the evolution of hominids, with the skull of the Man from Mompaderno and many important casts of fossil hominids among which the famous "Lucy".

The scientific library is well furnished of books, where you will find mainly periodics (both domestic and foreign).

Trieste, Italy: a cultural city guide

The vast Piazza Unità d’Italia

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To discover the secret of a happy life head to Trieste, the Italian port tucked inside the Slovenian border. The Triestini embrace life with a passion that is palpable and infectious, if the chatter at evening aperitivo is anything to go by. And at the merest hint of sunshine, Triestini are off to the nearby seaside, Barcola, even in November, and even though it’s a concrete strip.

This unsquashable humour is no doubt born of being a frontier city, variously owned or occupied by the Romans, Habsburgs, Mussolini’s regime, Germans and Allied Forces, only finally returning to Italy in 1954. The consequence is a glorious jumble of architectural and ethnic influences. In the space of 15 minutes, I came across Serbian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Helvetic Evangelist churches, while the city’s synagogue is one of the largest in Europe.

It was Austrian Emperor Charles Vl’s stroke of genius in 1719, in the midst of 500 years of Habsburg rule, to declare Trieste a free port, thus attracting flocks of merchants, that led to this “Mitteleuropean” mix. The wealth created led to a splashy “new town” to the north of the medieval core, all grand neoclassical buildings, boulevards and piazzas, and with two hearts: the Canal Grande and the vast Piazza Unità d’Italia. The latter, open-sided to the sea, is clearly modelled on Venice’s St Mark’s, and is (whisper it) more breathtaking.

To gain an idea of how wealthy some Triestini became, I visited Museo Revoltella, the former 19th-century palazzo of Pasquale Revoltella, a whizz-kid financier who, amongst other things, put money into the Suez Canal. It dazzles from the marquetry-style parquet flooring and silk wall-hangings to the chandelier-hung ballroom and white-and-gold dining room. His art collection forms the basis of the Modern Art gallery, which spreads into two adjoining palazzi.

Canal Grande

After staggering through this, I was in need of reinforcement, specifically caffeine. And here’s another happy fact about Trieste it has, probably, the finest coffee in Italy. Its tax-free port status coincided with the coffee craze sweeping Europe. As well as becoming a big importer (and still today Illy has its HQ here), it developed a string of Viennese-style coffeehouses. Several still exist, such as Caffè Tommaseo with its faded bello époque charm and where my “capo in B” (macchiato in a glass) came with a tiny dish of whipped cream.

Recharged, I climbed the narrow, paved streets of the Old Town, lined with tall, shuttered, sorbet-coloured buildings – from one of which a relic from the Roman walls, the Riccardo Arch, leans out like a lost limb – eventually popping out at San Giusto Cathedral.

More Roman remains – a forum and basilica – lie nearby in the shadow of the 15th-century castello, a fortified residence for the Habsburgs and, frankly, dull, but worth it for the views over city and Adriatic. Sparkling on a headland to the north, like a frothy-white Disneyesque creation, was Miramare Castle to which I headed the following morning.

Built between 1855 and 1860 for Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg, the castle is a temple to his vanity, bristling with castellations, over-the-top furnishings and a ludicrous Throne Room whose throne, with gilded lions as feet, was never used as he was executed in Mexico in 1867 when he was their Emperor.

The surrounding parkland is a mix of Italianate and English, but I preferred the little-frequented Orto Lapidario (Lapidary Garden) in the city’s Museum of History and Art (a musty treasure trove of archaeological plunder, from Roman glass to Egyptian mummies). Like a lost garden, strewn with classical urns, tombstones and inscriptions, it was a perfect sun-soaking spot to gear myself up for the evening’s high-octane aperitivo hour.

Miramare Castle

Did you know?
The fastest recorded speed of the ferocious local wind, ‘bora’, is 176kph

Getting there

Ryanair (0871 246 0000 ryanair.com), flies to Trieste from Stansted where a half-hourly bus costs €3.80/£3.20 for the hour’s journey to Trieste’s Piazza Libertà, a 10-minute walk from the centre. Taxis cost around €60/£51 and take 35 minutes. The city is walkable, if hilly in parts. The excellent bus service costs €1.25/£1 for a 60-minute ticket, €4.15/£3.50 day-ticket.

Where to stay

Urban Hotel Design £
A radically renovated 16th-century building, with 62 minimalist rooms of white walls, designer lighting and funky coloured chairs (0039 40 302 065 urbanhotel.it doubles from £76 b&b).

L’Albero Nascosto £
Tucked into the tight streets of the medieval old town, this narrow 10-room hotel (no lift) oozes charm simple but classy with wood floors, toile de jouy bedspreads and antiques (300 188 alberonascosto.it doubles from £89 b&b).

Savoia Excelsior Palace ££
Stepping distance from Piazza Unità, this grand hotel wears its neoclassical elegance lightly. Spacious rooms mix marble bathrooms and sleek furnishings with powdery colours and black-and-white photographs. Push the boat out for a sea-view (77941 starhotels.com doubles from £125 b&b).

Where to eat

Da Pepe £
The chefs in this noisy and crowded “buffet” will fix a platter of mixed cold cuts – predominantly pork – in minutes. Add sauerkraut and a beer and it’s little more than a tenner (Via Cassa di Risparmio 3 366 858).

Nettare Di Vino £/££
At this relaxed, enoteca-style restaurant in a former warehouse, there’s no menu waiters explain the daily-changing choice: perhaps “jota” (bean and sauerkraut soup), beef tartare or spaghetti with home-made pesto (Via Diaz 6b 310 200).

Osteria Istriano ££
Beyond the waterfront’s noisy bars this unsophisticated osteria rewards with simple, home-cooked fish (Riva Grumula 6 306 604).

Al Bagatto £££
Despite its old-fashioned interior, this restaurant serves seafood cooked with flair while traditional dishes such as salt-cod are given a stylish twist (Via Cadorna 7 301 771).

Trieste waterfront

The inside track

The FVG (Friuli Venezia Giulia) card (48-hour, €15/£12.75 72-hour, €20/£17) gives free museum entry and transport. Buy online (turismo.fvg.it) or from the Tourist Office, Via dell’Orologio 1 00 39 040 347 8312.

Take Bus 2 or 4 to Opicina, in the Carso (limestone) region above Trieste and follow the two-mile Napoleonica Walk to Prosecco for views out to sea and Slovenia before catching bus 42 back.

Pasticceria Pirona (Largo Barriera Vecchia 12), whose polished fittings seem unchanged since writer James Joyce frequented during his 15 years in the city, serves exquisite cakes such as polentina, strudel and presnitz.

For a summer lunch, take bus 34 to Ristorante Scabar (Erta di Sant’Anna 63 810 368), a family-run restaurant above the city with creative cooking and terrace views over olive groves.

History of Trieste - History

Traces of its earliest past have almost all been lost, but according to scholars, the first inhabitants of this region lived in large caverns in the upland plains at the beginning of the Ice Age.

However, it was only in two thousand B.C. that a settlement of sorts began to take shape on the summits of the hills. These were the first villages or castellieri which were surrounded by defensive walls, designed to keep out both invaders and bears which were frequently spotted in the surrounding areas. Inhabited by people of Indo-European (rather than Venetian or Gallo-Celtic) descent, these villages rapidly became commercial trading ports, as they were a natural gateway between east and west and between land and sea.

It was on the site of one of these castellieri - probably the one that dominated the hill where the San Giusto Cathedral stands ' that the village of Trieste originated. Its name (derived from the Latin Tergeste) indicates its original purpose: Terg is a Paleo-Venetian word meaning 'market' and este means 'town'. There is no shortage of myths and legends surrounding the place: according to ancient texts, it was here that Jason and the Argonauts were said to have landed on their quest for the mythical Golden Fleece it was also the place where Antenore and Diomedes were said to have disembarked during the battle for Troy.

Next came the Romans. The area was conquered and in 52 B.C. Tergeste became a colony of the Eternal City. Commerce and trading began to increase at an astonishing rate, particularly during the second century A.D. This went hand in hand with rapid architectural development. Many remains from this period are still visible to this day including the Arco di Riccardo, the Teatro Romano, the patrician villas and the Basilica Forense.

The fall of the Roman Empire heralded a period of great uncertainty. After a succession of Barbarian invasions, the region passed through the hands of the Goths, the Longobards, the Byzantines and the French. The situation was barely any better throughout the Middle Ages. Violent battles for control over the Adriatic lead to Trieste pledging allegiance to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or rather to Duke Leopold of Austria.

In 1382, an indissoluble bond was created between Trieste and the Hapsburgs. It was a bittersweet bond based on love and hate, respect and submission. It was indeed the Austrians ' towards whom many people of Trieste still feel conflicting emotions ' that ordered the construction of the castle on San Giusto hill, between 1470 and 1630. This castle has now become one of the principle symbols of the city.

It was in accordance with the wishes of the Hapsburgs (a huge international power) that Trieste was swiflty transformed from a sleepy seaside village to a large European port. With the exception of a few other periods of foreign rule ' Venetian, Spanish and finally Napoleonic ' Trieste remained subjugated by the Hapsburgs until 1918.

Merchants, entrepreneurs and adventurers from all over the world flocked to Trieste and the city was radically restructured in the eighteenth century by the energetic Empress Maria Teresa. By the end of the nineteenth century the city numbered over one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Large insurance and shipping companies began to appear and shipyards and factories also opened their doors.

Trieste became an important port under Viennese control and numerous economic and cultural initiatives were set up. Thousands of people arrived here from Greece, Turkey and other countries even further afield. This migration gave rise to a multi-ethnic community unpararalled in the rest of Europe. Numerous religions and corresponding places of worship were welcomed to the area ' many of these remain standing to this day. Great writers such as Italo Svevo Scipio Slataper, Rainer Maria Rilke and James Joyce lived here. The city's streets are laiden with charm, charisma and mystery it is full of places of historical interest such as the ancient café or bookshop owned by the poet and intellectual Umberto Saba.

In keeping with the irredentist movements that were taking hold all over Europe, many inhabitants of Trieste began to show their support for Garibaldi's forces and the Risorgimento. By the end of the First World War, Trieste had become part of a united Italy. However, the upheavals did not end here. The Second World War brought with it new tragedies. Italy lost the war and Trieste was invaded by Tito's Yugoslavian troops. The thousands of Italians who spoke out against the Communist regime were incarcerated in large underground rock cavities called foibe. They were eventually released thanks to the interventention of Allied troops and the city ' with feelings of both euphoria and disorientation ' came under U.S. military rule until 1954. It was at this time that Trieste was finally and defintively returned to Italy and it became the administrative seat of the smallest province in Italy and the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.

When the Ameicans left however, there were further problems. Many people found themselves being made redundant and the region underwent a progressive de-industrialisation. The crisis facing the port and the undeniable lack of business acumen among the citizens of Trieste were the final straw. The city's economy was transformed into an anomalous phenomenon. Regaining the wealth and prosperity of the past was to be a difficult task. Even today, the percentage of unemployed in Venezia-Giulia is one of the highest in Northern Italy.

Watch the video: Taking Of Trieste 1945