Trieste and Its Bora Wind

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Photo credits Keiron Mayora
Reading Time: 5 minutes

by Helena Zonta

Trieste is known as la citta del vento – because of its famous wind, the Bora – an integral part of the city’s unique charm and an essential element of the Triestin mentality.

The Bora is a dry, ice-cold northern to north-eastern descending wind that blows in violent gusts from the Altopiano carsico (the Karst plateau) toward the Adriatic sea. Its name comes from the Latin word boreas for North, and specifically for the north wind; the Latin name however comes from Greek, and the strong and violent Greek God of the cold north wind and bringer of winter, Boreas

Trieste’s particular geographic configuration and location, between a relatively warm sea and an elevated, cold backdrop of mountain passes, produces big differences in temperature and atmospheric pressure, creating thus the strong wind that blows toward the sea.

Stendhal, who was the French consul in Trieste in the 1830s, explains poignantly the difference between a strong wind and the bora, which he claimed gave him “visceral rheumatism”. He says a strong wind is when one has to constantly hold onto his hat, but it’s bora when one is afraid of breaking an arm.

photo credits Museo della Bora

The bora blows intermittently, with brief pauses between gusts and each time with a different intensity. Its interval gusts are called raffiche or refoli, which evokes machine-gun fire or blasts. It is so powerful and violent that its colpi di vento sometimes assume the qualities of a hurricane, with the wind blowing above 170 km/h; on occasion and in certain places it exceeded 180 km/h and even 200 km/h. 

photo credits Museo della Bora

There are two main types of Bora: the first is the bora chiara [light bora], which occurs when the wind blows on bright and sunny days, while the bora scura [dark bora], brings clouds, rain or snow. At its most extreme the bora scura is known as the bora nera [black bora], a boron is a very strong bora, and a boraza is a particularly violent bora.

photo credits Museo della Bora

One of Trieste’s most celebrated writer, Umberto Saba, eulogizes the allure of the bora scura:

Conosco la bora,chiara e scura,la detesto quando scende fuori misuracon cielo sereno.Amo l’altrache ha una buia violenza cattivaIo devo recuperare la boraoppure qui affondarenel mio paese natalenella mia triste Triestenella mia Trieste tristeche amare è impossibilee odiare anche.I know the bora, Light and dark, I hate it when it descends excessivelyWith a clear sky. I love the otherThat has a dark evil violenceI have to bring back the boraOr drown hereIn my native landIn my sad TriesteIn my melancholy TriesteWhich is impossible to loveAnd also to hate. [my translation]

The Bora is especially strong and audible all along the rive, the sea, particularly on Molo Audace, Trieste’s iconic pier – a wondrous stage for the fight between the bora and the sea; many come here for a passeggiata da brivido [a thrilling walk], and to take photos of the rippling waves thrashing fiercely from one side of the molo to another.

Next to Molo Audace, Piazza Unita is also a favorite spot where one can observe the workings of the bora – the women walking with skirts flapping a la Marilyn Monroe, people chasing after tumbling hats or soaring umbrellas, everyone bent out of shape, in eccentric and outlandish positions, trying to stay on their feet and battling against the cold wind.  

photo credits Museo della Bora

In the old city center, encircling the church of Santa Maria Maggiore there is the Via della Bora – rumour has it that it’s impossible to walk through this street when the bora blows. 

Photo credits Museo della Bora

 The so-called “heart” of the Bora is in the Carso, under Monte Carso, in Val Rosandra. This is the point where in the Trieste province the bora is the strongest and reaches the highest speed and force.

But if, on the other hand, you’re looking for a place to walk without getting chilled to the bone and blown away, head up to Parco Globojner, in the Padriciano Area di Ricerca, under Mount Spaccato. 

Note that when you park or arrive here you’ll be exposed to extreme winds, and that it might be difficult to walk – however, follow path 18 – the sentiero Derin, and once you turn around the bend, you’ll be shocked to discover a spectacular panoramic view of Trieste and the gulf, in absolute tranquility.

The woods of the park belong to Padriciano, and have been under the management of their wood consortium, since 1898. The path was one of the most common routes for inhabitants of Padriciano to Trieste’s San Giovanni area, where they would take their milk, fruit and vegetables. 

 The path is not difficult and you’ll have the most amazing view, with the sun warming you and no bora to get in the way of a perfectly lovely walk! 

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