Took a break from watching movies and drinking excellent Friuli wines and hopped the train to Trieste. Trains make me happy. I start replaying The Lady Vanishes in my head (“Zere is no Eenglish lady”).
An hour later my day trip is off to a bad start. When I first came to Trieste a decade ago the train station seemed grand. Now it’s not, but maybe it’s the bitterness of age. Made the mistake of going to the station WC. Generally, bad idea to go to the WC in any train station.
Went across the street to a cafe to use their facilities, bought a cappucino (It was 9am) and sat outside. The area around a train station is not the place you want to hang out in, in Trieste or elsewhere. It looks like the place to disappear into after you’ve accidentally killed someone. A guy who looked like DJ Qualls with consumption sat at the next table and started smoking out the last of his lungs. I asked the waitress to point me to Piazza Dell’Unita by the sea.
It’s a five minute walk, but I ended up asking two more random pedestrians because I have no sense of direction.
The last time I was here it took me an hour to stop feeling that if I stepped off the curb I would vanish forever. That part in Catcher in the Rye really does happen.
I’d planned to join the James Joyce walking tour—he lived here and operated a cinema—but there was none scheduled for the day. The tourism office has audioguides for rent, but when I asked a woman in Italian for directions she said, “No parlo inglese” and turned away. What is the world coming to when the French are friendlier than the Italians? Later I went into a shoe store to buy socks and the old lady with a hairsprayed helmet cried “No! No!” and just about shooed me away. Jeez, lady, watch your blood pressure, I know your economy sucks but don’t take it out on the tourists. Tourists with money, hah, the euro is down to 46 pesos.
At the tourism office the very nice lady said the audioguide cost 5 euro till 6pm and for the life of me I could not locate my wallet. Does that happen to you? I had to take out every item in the backpack before I found it in the first place I looked. (Was it the backpack that triggered hostility? But it’s quite small and I wanted my hands free to take photos.)
Then when I started the audio tour not only was the audioguide cumbersome and the narrator too chatty, but the route was totally counter to my usual wandering. 250 pesos wasted.
I had a light lunch at the beautiful old Caffe Degli Specchi where James Joyce and Italo Svevo used to hang out (since their respective museums were closed). Cafes are always conducive to writing. Who am I kidding, if you really want to write, you could do it on a moving bus.
For years I’ve wanted a copy of Claudio Magris’s Microcosmos in English. Yes I could order it online, but I thought I’d get it from the source. Stupid romantic notion. If Triestine bookstores don’t have English translations of Magris, Svevo, their most famous writers, who would?
I would, actually. I have more Svevo in English than any bookstore I visited. Ubik, a well-stocked bookstore at the Palazzo Tergesteo had Magris, Svevo, Saba in Italian, German, French but not English. The clerk, noting my bitter disappointment, dug up a profusely illustrated book containing one poem by Umberto Saba rendered in 20 languages.
At another bookstore they had more Magris and Svevo in the original. “No,” said the manager, who was too busy arguing politics with an old man to attend to the moron who knew only English.
My mood in Trieste was appropriate triste, and for cinematic punctuation it started pissing rain. I don’t know if I’ll ever visit Trieste again, it feels like we’ve broken up.
P.S. I’ve been in Italy 5 1/2 days and have not seen a single cat. However I notice the distinctive smell of cat pee in parks, which tells me they are lurking there.