Series 14 Vol 3 Special Issue (2020)

A City without Territory. Trade, Tourism and the Use of the Sea: the Case of Trieste

Sergio Zilli
Università di Trieste, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
Giovanni Modaffari
Università di Trieste, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici

Published 2021-06-21


  • Trieste,
  • trade,
  • tourism,
  • Adriatic Sea,
  • Italian Eastern Border


This contribution offers a glimpse into recent developments in the administrative, economic and political history of Trieste, within the framework of the local, regional and – because of the town’s unique circumstances – international communities. In the first parts of this work, the identification of the city with Italy’s eastern border is retraced, following the historical events of the second post-war period, a phase in which Trieste was one of the sites of the confrontation, also from a commercial point of view, between Western democracies and the socialist countries of the Eastern Bloc. From the nineteen-sixties onwards, the city had to re-establish its position both within the autonomous region of which it is now the capital – Friuli Venezia Giulia – and in terms of its relationships with the neighbouring countries of Slovenia and Croatia, which are now members of the European Union alongside Italy. This new situation has highlighted the uncertain nature of Trieste’s hinterland by reason of its limited administrative and political power. As is described in the second part of this work, the city had to redefine an economic system in which critical issues such as the absence of major manufacturing industry, the reduced activity of its port, and a trading network stuck in the local dimension have led to the image of Trieste being reconsidered from the point of view of an outside observer, and to a focus on tourism, also through, and as a consequence of, a new and different use of the sea. In this way, we will see how the redevelopment and gentrification of central areas such as the Cavana district or the triangle of via Torino has progressed at the same pace as the private sporting initiative known as the Barcolana, whose economic success and its promotion of the image of Trieste have contributed to remodelling the relationship between the city and the sea, that is, between its inhabitants and the resource upon which Trieste built its fortune.