by Alessandra Ressa
At the end of Via Giulia, the busy street which connects the lovely neighborhood of San Giovanni to the city center, right in front of the shopping mall Il Giulia, you may notice an anonymous looking arch by Via San Cilino, next to a trattoria.
Do not be deceived by the shabbiness of the entrance and do not walk past it, as that anonymous gate is truly a door to another world. It is the entrance to La Piccola Parigi, “Little Paris”, a surviving corner of old Trieste surrounded by tall, ugly, modern apartment buildings.
When you enter the gate and you will find yourself thrown back in time. There are no lively cafés nor men in striped shirts with a mustache carrying baguettes under their armpits, however. In truth, there is nothing to remind you of Paris here, and not even of France.
Tiny country houses, many of them abandoned and spooky, narrow cobbled lanes surrounded by small vegetable gardens and apple trees, cats, old bizarre statues, stone fountains, potted flowers, drying laundry and birds chirping- all these characterize this minuscule corner of forgotten land in the heart of the city, which is slowly becoming abandonded and is becoming attractive for real estate developers.
So, why name it La Piccola Parigi? Legend goes that Napoleon’s army and its horses found shelter at the end of Via Zanella – a lovely residential road that surrounds the settlement. Unfortunately, there are no official records to prove it. Here, every house is connected to the next by a maze of tiny lanes, and every building has a different style.
Many houses are now abandoned and beyond repair. A fraction of the area, known as Corte Fedrigovez, is also enveloped in mystery. According to some residents, terrible unsolved murders happened in the dark narrow lanes of La Piccola Parigi about a century ago, and ghosts wander there at night. I could find no evidence of the crimes, nor could I see anything scary except for the garden gnomes…
La Piccola Parigi is definitely one of those unusual places you don’t want to miss in Trieste. You can access it through the arch in Via Giulia or through two old staiways from Via San Cilino. No matter how lost you may feel in the narrow lanes, you’ll always end up finding one of the three entrances. However, make sure to visit in the daylight as public lighting in the settlement is poor.