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4.4 out of 5 stars23
4.4 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 March 2002
Trieste is a city I knew nothing about, but always had a vague impression of. That impression, of faded grandeur, old-Europe cosmopolitanism gone to seed, and melancholy, is largely confirmed in this, the first of Morris' books I've read. The fishing village at the top of the Adriatic was a sleepy burg until the Austro-Hungarian empire transformed it into it's only seaport and HQ for its imperial navy in the early 1700s. It rapidly became one of the leading seaports of the world, and an international center of commerce. Following the defeat and dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Trieste was handed over to Italy, which already had plenty of ports, and thus it quickly reverted to sleepy backwater. Over the last century it was occupied by the Nazis, Allied forces, was a UN free territory, and eventually reverted to Italian rule. Nowadays, as Morris writes, "It offers no unforgettable landmark, no universally familiar melody, no unmistakable cuisine, hardly a single native name that anyone knows."
And while Morris ably rambles through the city's history (which she first visited in 1946), the book is a bit of a metaphor for human aging and memory. She has vowed this is her final book in a prolific career, and the melancholy tone echoes the melancholy of a city whose glory days lie a century in the past. She writes, "Trieste makes one ask sad questions of oneself. What am I here for? Where am I going?" That's not to say the book is depressing or sad, because her love for the city is evident throughout, as she grapples with its place in her own psyche. While she clearly enjoys recreating in her mind's eye the hustle and bustle of the imperial era, she also finds, "For me, Trieste is an allegory of limbo, in the secular sense of an indefinable hiatus." So while the narrative is studded snippets of history, amusing and telling anecdotes from her own visits, and evocations of past residents such as Richard Burton and James Joyce, it's also rich in introspection. Above all, Morris' meandering prose is beautiful and has inspired me to delve into her past work. I do wish the publishers had included a few historical maps, some photos, and a bibliography of other works on Trieste.
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on 29 October 2001
As an Englishman living in self-imposed exile in Trieste, I find that Jan Morris eloquently expresses the unique atmosphere of this unusual, beautiful and all-but forgotten city, along with the strange spell it casts on anyone possessing a sensitive and inquisitive nature. Much more than a travel guide, the book prompts the reader to reflect on many aspects of life, just as the city itself does to those that visit it. A haunting book about a haunting city.
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on 20 October 2001
Trieste is an amazing city - the sort of place the haunts the memory ofr years after you visit. In Italy, but not really Italian - a real mix of cultures and influences.
Jan Morris seems to have captured the spirit of this remarkable city so clearly - whilst writing some of the most eloquent, beautifully-written prose that I've come across in a non-fiction book for very, very many years.
Memorable and wonderful.
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on 15 December 2007
I really enjoyed this book about a city I drove through many times but only recently stopped in to enjoy its atmosphere. When I came home I eagerly read this book and was so taken by Jan's writing on the city that I want to go back at the earliest opportunity. That for me is travel writing at its best.
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on 18 October 2013
I chose this book by chance from your list online, as the beginning of a personal quest--I lived in Trieste as a toddler and Italian became a second mother tongue--after WWII, with American parents. I was overcome with the scope of the history Morris lays out, and am sincerely grateful for her frank and beautiful descriptions of places, people, empires and minute, daily details. Wonderful indeed and I'm anxious to go face the 'bora'--that eternal wind--in mid-winter this year.
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on 6 November 2003
God, it's so refreshing to read a proper piece of travel writing for a change. Forget the ridiculous faux-madcap adventures as our hero travels with a ridiculous companion or implement. And if I see another book about someone buying a house somewhere and recounting his (it's usually his) encounters with 'amusing' locals I'll scream. This is thoughtful, wistful, intellectual and accessible. A real cracker - and I've never been to Trieste, but I already know how I might feel if I ever do. Which is exactly what a travel book should do. Please don't let this be Jan's last book, as she promises in the Epilogue. Travel writing needs you...
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on 5 April 2011
A simply superb book, about a place apart, "capital of the nation of nowhere" of which I am proud to be a citizen.

This book describes the experience of Trieste, it's robustness as a city, it's gentleness as a place of considerate humanity unique in my experience, highly recommended read.
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on 6 December 2012
I served in the Army in Trieste and have never read a better account of this unique place. Quite superb.
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on 29 November 2015
I had not visited Trieste as I looked for a books to accompany me on my road-trip through Bosnia. I had tried to accommodate it on my route but it was just to out of the way and difficult to reach. Is this why, so out of the way, that Trieste as Jan Morris describes, avoided the paranoid delusions of nation states killing each other through the centuries, as empire, colonialism and power-lust rent its way through each generation?

A wistful book written beautifully, read easily, by a man-woman now drowning in time, looking for kindness, finding a place that she describes is the closest to humanist, or perhaps as farthest from petty ideas of race, religion, gender as you might get. If I did believe in ghosts, which I don't, I would see them in every page of this brief jewel. In describing Trieste Jan Morris describes herself and her yearning.

I find this hard to believe, so I need to visit Trieste.
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on 20 November 2015
It's a curious book, this, by a curious person. After all, when James Morris first went to Trieste he was an army officer ; now Jan Morris is a dear old lady and grandfather living in Wales. Perhaps what attracts this writer to Trieste is that it doesn't know if it is a mighty Austrian port, or a desired part of Yugoslavia, or just another seaside Italian town.

The iron curtain which was erected just east of Trieste was always flimsy, so that thousands of English holidaymakers hopped over it and were welcomed by Slovenians and Croatians on the other side. Too late for the book, the whole thing is now in the European Union, and you can stand astride the former much disputed frontier without hindrance, like you can on bridges over the Rhine. Can't be bad.
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