(Later when we returned to check in after lunch, a forlorn family was being turned away – too late).
We fetched our few bits of baggage, engaged in another round of texts with the very SHOUTY landlord from the apartment (who was still threatening to CALL THE POLICE), and contemplated the different styles of hospitality on offer in Trieste.
Trieste has very distinct districts, and we went to see the old medieval quarter on its steep hillock, where the view few remaining bits of Roman work can be seen – a sorry sight, all over-worked, over-restored, unexplained and neglected. Concrete and modern steel railings adorn it all, and puddles and steep fences. But the tiny twisting alleys and streets are charming, and it’s all very arty. We found fruit shops, delis, museums (free in August and very well presented), antique shops stuffed with nice things, cafes, etc etc. down to the huge quays and wharves, where the massive trade of the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire once burgeoned in the 19th century, before war and politics sucked it all away again, leaving vast structures, buildings, ornaments and not much else.
Talking of ornaments, a stroll through the Thomasini (?) gardens revealed a truly remarkable collection of statue-busts of famous men from Trieste. Dozens of them. Most are wearing hats. Their names, occupations, dates of birth and death are all inscribed, and sometimes a quote from their (evidently infinite) wisdom. Not one woman.
Women get their revenge by draping themselves furiously about the place semi-naked, either around the occasional full-length male heroic statue (a botanist, perhaps), or around doorways. These females are absolutely terrifying, huge.
The atmosphere is very calm, rather middle-aged, though there are plenty of youngsters about, too.
We met a friendly couple at lunchtime – she Scots, he Triestrian. This is their favourite city in Italy, they said.
We went to the Post Office to buy two stamps. To get in, you have to go through an automatic one- or two-person security airlock. How anyone gets in with a buggy, a wheelchair, a dog or a family I do not know. You have to get a queue ticket – but the right one, as they are categorised (but only in Italian)… It’s not easy to distinguish the meanings of the categories, apart from ‘finanzia’ and ‘telefonica’.
We waited about ten minutes in the queue. The atmosphere was – well – languid.
Eventually, our ticket came up, and we asked for our stamps. The woman looked appalled. (We may have been in the wrong category). She checked that these were for simple postcards. For England. She clicked away at her computer. She went to see her supervisor. She went behind a big partition (like an Orthodox iconostasis). She came back with two beautiful aeronautical stamps. She clicked again at her computer. She pulled out a calculator, and added things up. She went to see the supervisor again. She did sums on a bit of paper. Eventually she put a sheet of A4 in the printer and out came two lines of print – a receipt. This she carefully folded in two, and tore off the bottom half of the paper. We git the top but. There! About twenty minutes, all up.
Perhaps the real highlight of the day was the tram trip to Opicina, up on the karst plateau which surrounds the city and kept it isolated from its hinterland for so long. This enchanting little railway was built in the 1920s, and its middle section is so steep it needs an extra push (or help with the braking coming down) from a sturdy extra engine. Andrew was – well – radiant with pleasure watching it all, and I was pleased he was so pleased. We went to the end, stopped at the famous Obelisk on the way back, just about dodged the rain, trundled back down on the next tram, took photos of the distant views, and came back to the city for a stroll, a drink, supper in a bistro (red and white check tablecloths), and then bed. Bliss.