Words: Alessandra Ressa
Illustration: Giovanni Alberti
Are you planning to visit or move to beautiful Trieste? Do you want to quickly blend in and be treated like a local? Here are some tips to become a true Triestine in no time.
1. If your first name is Mona or it vaguely resembles it, you may want to consider changing it before you arrive in Trieste. The name is usually associated with the charms of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa (it derives from the ancient word Madonna), but in Trieste the word mona is a totally different matter. It is used to call someone a fool in the local dialect. It can also refer to a woman’s reproductive organs (la xe un toco de mona, she’s a piece of …). When driving, Triestini will often send each other to their respective mothers’ “origin of birth”.
2. Unlike the rest of Italy, in Trieste volentieri (with pleasure) means no. If you forget, you will end up endlessly waiting at the pharmacy or shop counter when making requests, while being given mocking glances by shop assistants and customers alike. A common addition to volentieri is no tignimo (we don’t have it), riva domani (it will be here tomorrow) and la provi in Friul (literally, try outside of Trieste in the remaining region of Friuli). A classic!
3. Although Trieste is located in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, never ever call a Triestino Friulano. This is considered to be the worst insult! Triestini refer to Friulani as less intelligent, hardworking peasants, while they consider themselves civilized intellectuals (not always true), while they sip coffees and spritz Aperol all day (always true).
4. Get quickly used to the notorious rudeness of Trieste’s bar tenders and shop assistants. Remember, it’s nothing personal but has been so for generations and is probably the result of centuries of Austro-Hungarian social equality, where bar tenders and waiters have always been all-powerful to coffee-dependent customers. Also, make sure you know how to order coffee in Trieste, where most people drink it in a glass and regular cappuccino comes in the size of a peanut. Interestingly, there are famous restaurants and cafés all over Italy where you actually pay extra to be abused by rude waiters. In Trieste, it’s free of charge.
5. Don’t be caught waiting at the tram stop in Piazza Oberdan to catch a ride on Trieste’s iconic tram of Opicina. It’s been out of service for six years and having it back in service has become a current utopian joke among Triestini. Interestingly, Triestini never blame themselves for such things. Triestini will rather blame Italy in general for any problem related to the city and will nostalgically look back at the efficiency of the Austrian Empire, which ruled Trieste until the end of the Great War. It is no coincidence that the city’s motto is “no se pol” (it can’t be done).
6. Drink at least five or six espresso coffee cups before driving around Trieste. This should make you edgy enough to resemble a true Triestino behind the wheel. No matter where they are going, whether to the beach in Barcola, to get cheaper gasoline in Slovenia, or to escape the heat and relax with a dark glass of terrano wine in a typical osmica on the hilly Carso, Triestini always appear to be frowning and in a terrible hurry when driving. They will cut you off left and right, pass you with a look of despise, and then push on the pedal as if racing in Montecarlo.
7. Triestini don’t really enjoy talking to strangers and will stick with the same friends from elementary school to the grave. Do not despair, however. Once you befriend them (this may take some time), they will be there for you forever. And if you get invited to their place, remember that this is a truly exceptional occasion to be savored.
8. If you want to be a true Triestino, be a bastian contrario, which means you must always hold the opposite view of whoever you are talking to, even if you agree with that view and can give no support to your statements. It may appear rude, but it will actually be greatly appreciated by your new friends, who may even adopt your believes. If they do, you should immediately switch opinions in return.
9. Double park in via Ghega to buy a two-scoop ice-cream at Zampolli. Then, just stand in the street for as long as you like slurping your delicious gelato and looking with satisfaction at the traffic jam you’ve caused. The key to act like a local is to park illegally right in front of the gelateria. If you look for regular parking, you will blow your cover.
10. If you plan to retire in Trieste you will find plenty of fun things to do for senior citizens that will allow you to socialize in no time. At the top of the list is definitely the always popular “staring at construction sites for hours” with your hands locked behind your back and a hat on your head. Second place goes to the “bus complainer”. You can complain just about anything and get away with it (not only on busses). Senior citizens in Trieste also enjoy cutting lines at the post office or at the bank, or paying a 95 euro bill at the supermarket with 1 and 2 cent coins carefully picked one by one from their purse.
11. And finally, to be a true Triestino, always look tanned. Locals have a thing for sunbathing and will rush to Barcola beach as early as February. By June they are as dark as charcoal. What are you waiting for? Chop chop!