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Saturday, September 7, 2019


Never judge a book by its cover.
Caffè San Marco is a historic art nouveau coffeehouse and bookstore in Trieste, Italy. Founded in 1914, it became famous as a rendezvous for literary and artistic types including Italo Svevo, Gustav Klimpt, James Joyce and Umberto Saba, a tradition that continues to date with Claudio Magris.

A meeting point for Trieste's intellectuals, the café was destroyed by Austro-Hungarian troops during the first World War but was reopened when hostilities ended.

Beautiful interior of Caffe San Marcos, Trieste
The interiors reflect the style of the Vienna Secession (Gustaf Klimpt was the first president of the group). A few of the frescos are attributed to Vito Timmel.

The café is owned by Italy's largest insurance company (also based in Trieste), Assicurazioni Generali.

Italians campaigned to save the historic cafe in 2013 and it has now been restored, incorporating the bookshop.

Address: Via Cesare Battisti, 18, 34125 Trieste TS, Italy

Caffe San Marcos Bookstore
In 1982, Anthony Burgess wrote a New York Times travel article “In the Footsteps of James Joyce Trieste.”  The following (in italics is from that article):
James Joyce statue on Via Roma bridge, as it crosses a Trieste canal.
“...As for James Joyce, you will find his stay celebrated in a street named for him - Viale Joyce. There's also a street named for the great Triestine novelist Italo Svevo, whom Joyce discovered and persuaded to publish. His best novel is ''Senilita,'' made into a fine Italian film, and Joyce provided the English title -''As a Man Grows Older.''

“When Joyce left Dublin in 1904 with Nora Barnacle, a Galway girl who bore his children and belatedly became his wife, he went first to Pola, which was then in Austria. It is now called Pulj and is in Yugoslavia.

When Pola became suspicious of foreigners, Joyce moved from the Berlitz School there, where he taught English, to the sister establishment in Trieste, which was also in Austria. He liked the place, which was a kind of Adriatic Dublin, only bigger. It was the chief seaport of Austria-Hungary, with its mouth open for the engorging of oriental trade. He found his English-language pupils chiefly among naval officers.

“Being full of sailors, Trieste was a convivial town, and Joyce drank more than he earned. It was full of Jews, who were more welcome there than in other cities of the empire, and Joyce was able to dream up a Leopold Bloom, the father-seeking-a-son of ''Ulysses,'' with an authentic Jewish background - difficult to do in Dublin, where the Jewish population was small (according to Mr. Deasy, in ''Ulysses,'' it is nonexistent). Leopold Bloom is more a Triestine figure than a Dublin one.

“It is useless to go tirelessly around Trieste seeking out the taverns from which Joyce emerged drunk and incapable, often spending the night in the gutter. He was in all of them, but some of them are no longer there. His various lodgings are still around - 3 Piazza Ponterosso, 31 Via San Nicolo, and 1 Via Giovanni Boccaccio.

“Ulysses, though completed and published in Paris, is a product of that huge culture whose center was Vienna but whose extremities touched the Adriatic. Ulysses may be about Ireland, but only turbulent and cosmopolitan Trieste could have given Joyce the impetus to start setting it down..."

Caffe San Marcos
Bar James Joyce at 3 Piazza Ponterosso.

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