This historic Mediterranean crossroads is seeing a modern renaissance

Trieste, an overlooked cultural gem in northern Italy, is poised for a new era of prosperity as nations vie for access to its once vibrant port.

Reflecting the port city’s storied maritime history, the annual Barcolana regatta unfurls behind Victory Lighthouse, which memorializes those who died at sea in World War I.

Unless the epic bora wind is blowing in the colder months, there are only good routes to stroll through the Italian city of Trieste, its uncluttered streets framed by noble Habsburg-era architecture.

By Italian standards, Trieste is strikingly diverse, owing both to its days as the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s thriving port city and to its location, tucked between central Europe and the Balkans. It is a borderland of merchants and transients, each leaving a cultural footprint.

One cloudless October morning, I headed from my rented flat in the working-class neighborhood of San Giacomo to the center of Italy’s 16th biggest city (population 200,121). On my way, I passed the ruins of a first-century Roman theater, a domed 19th-century Serbian Orthodox church, and a procession of African street vendors walking from the train station. The air off the Adriatic Sea was faintly saline, redolent as well of roasted coffee.

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