topics: History, Trieste, FIAB (Federazione Italiana Amici della Bicicletta), chat 'n' debate, Miramare Castle, Austrian Empire, Carducci School, Lanza family, Italian unification; jump to dispatch

BikeAbout Log


Rider Notes: April 30-May 1, 1998

Food of the Day: Calzone

A calzone is simply a pizza that his been folded over before being baked, so that its toppings become stuffing. It's sort of like a pizza pie.

Person of the Day: students (and teacher) at the Instituto Magistrale G. Carducci (the Carducci School)

Many months ago, while we were still cycling through Tunisia, we received an unsolicited email from some students at the Instituto Magistrale G. Carducci (the Carducci School) in Trieste. They graciously invited us to visit their school and promised to show us around their city. Of course we enthusiastically took them up on their offer, though we had to wait seven months to do so.

Anthony and Padraic first met our Carducci contacts on Wednesday night when Elena and Michela, along with their Science Teacher and Webmistress, Bettina click to view a photograph, joined Anthony and Padraic at the offices of Spin, our Internet Service Provider in northeastern Italy, to take part in the regular Wednesday chat 'n' debate. There they arranged a school visit for noon the next day.

When we (all) arrived the next day, we were particularly impressed to find that the students had made a special trip into town to meet us despite the fact that it was a school holiday. They gave us a short tour of the school, and then introduced us (and posed for a picture with) the Principal click to view a photograph before convening in the computer center where Anthony (so excited that his head became blurry click to view a photograph) shared our Web site with everyone. After our presentation, each student gave us a hand in recording some Italian words for us to use as future words of the day. Here Ethan coaxes a phrase out of Astrea, Anna, and Michela. click to view a photograph

Following our time in school, Anna, Elena, Michela, Astrea, Sara, Nicole click to view a photograph, Loredana, and Giulio took us all out to lunch at a nearby restaurant click to view a photograph where we enjoyed both excellent pizza and conversation. click to view a photograph The BikeAbouters were very interested to hear the details of the Carducci School's presentation of the musical "Grease," which garnered them the first place prize in Trieste's school theater contest. We had the honor of dining with most of the stars of the production!

After a long lunch we began to make our way out to Miramare Castle, stopping of course for a gelato. Joined at Miramare by Anna's boyfriend Luca as well as Nicole's boyfriend Maurizio, the group took us on an excellent tour of the grounds. click to view a photograph

But their hospitality did not end there. While Ethan and Corinne made their way to the offices of Spin by bike), Elena and Michela made sure Anthony and Padraic got on the right bus. Anna, Michela and Loredana also set an appointment to meet us the following day to show us more of the sights of Trieste.

We would like to thank them (and particularly the ringleaders, Anna, Elena, Michela click to view a photograph and their teacher Bettina) for organizing our program in Trieste, for showing us around, for offering us a great introduction to Italian culture, and for the hospitality and friendship they showed to four strange cyclists. We have seldom had such conscientious and generous hosts. We only hope that if and when they come to visit us in the United States, that we can do as good a job hosting them.

Place of the Day: Miramare Castle

Our guides, the students from the Carducci School, took us to one of Trieste's most lovely spots, the Miramare Castle. Located on a point five km north of the city center click to view a photograph and overlooking the Bay of Trieste click to view a photograph, Miramare Castle was built as a showpiece for Maximilian click to view a photograph, the brother of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. Built in a grand style click to view a photograph with beautiful grounds and gardens surrounding it click to view a photograph, the Castle is one of Trieste's most beautiful attractions. click to view a photograph

Unfortunately for Maximilian, he never had the chance to enjoy it. His political ambitions took him to Mexico, where he too became an Emperor, of sorts. However, a revolution in Mexico soon ended his reign and his life. He was executed by a Mexican firing squad in 1867. His wife, Carlotta, escaped this fate but was so overwhelmed by grief that after she retired to Miramare Castle, she reputedly went insane. Legend has it that she threw herself from the cliffs next to the castle. We're not sure whether the story is true, but Miramare certainly boasts a setting worthy of such a romantic tale. (Note: the story is also worthy of Emperor Franz Josef's unhappy family. Besides the assassination of his brother in Mexico and premature death of his sister-in-law, his son committed suicide, and both his wife and nephew, Franz Ferdinand, were assassinated.)

Tech Fact of the Day: Trieste is a coffee capital

Trieste is known as one of the coffee capitals of Italy, and thus of Europe. The influence of three separate cultures - Italian, Austrian, and Turkish - each of which take coffee very seriously, has ensured that Trieste remains a "coffee town." As one of the important ports open to trade with the Turks in the east, a lot of coffee was imported to Trieste. The Austrians added their custom of grand cafés in which sipping coffee became practically a vocation. The Italians - famous for their espresso and cappuccino - have refined coffee drinking to an art form. All of these cultures have been brought together in Trieste, which, along with a special law allowing the importation of coffee without tax, have helped to make Trieste one of the coffee capitals of Europe.

Group Dispatch, April 30-May 1
photograph of Padraic

Padraic and Anthony arrived in Trieste on Wednesday night, just in time to cycle to the offices of Spin, our Internet Access Provider while we are in northeastern Italy. There, joined by Elena, Michela, and Bettina from the Carducci School (see our People of the Day), as well as by Alberto Deana, a local representative of the Federazione Italiana Amici della Bicicletta (FIAB - the Italian Federation of Friends of the Bicycle), they took part in that night's chat 'n' debate.

Despite the short notice (and having met them), Alberto volunteered to host Anthony and Padraic that night. He picked them up after the chat and took them first to meet Pino, the President of Ulisse, the local cycling club associated with FIAB. Alberto and Pino are leading figures in the club, which sponsors tours in the area (and further afield - Alberto was leaving the next day to scout out a trip through the islands of Croatia), and advocates cycling as an alternative form of transportation. (They do great work and anyone interested in contacting Ulisse can visit their Web site (see above) or send a message to Alberto at After sharing a drink with Pino, Alberto drove the boys up the side of a steep mountain (with a 26% grade) to his apartment overlooking Trieste. While his wife stuffed the BikeAbouters full of delicious gnocchi and beef cutlet, Alberto filled their brains with all sorts of useful information about the current political situation in Italy.

After dinner Alberto turned his attention to making sure BikeAbout made it to Venice by the best possible route. Since he didn't have a copier in his home, or extra copies of his many detailed maps, he and his wife carefully scanned the maps into his computer and printed them out for our use. By midnight we had eight pages of detailed charts with every turn marked, and the sites of interest circled.

The next morning Alberto gave the boys a ride back into town so they could keep their appointment to meet Corinne and Ethan at the train station. Thanks again Alberto for all your help. We look forward to riding our bikes with you sometime - back in Italy, or maybe in the United States.

To Anthony and Padraic's surprise Ethan and Corinne did not get off the train, but instead were waiting for us outside of the station. Anxious to take advantage of the clearing weather, they had gotten off the train before the border and ridden their bikes down from there... which was actually faster than taking the train. As Ethan and Corinne ran off to take care of some errands, the boys walked over to the Carducci School to meet with Bettina and the students. For details of the visit, see the Persons of the Day and then the Place of the Day.

Just before our visit to the Carducci School had ended, Antonio Lanza of Spin stopped by to say hello to Ethan and Corinne (whom he had not yet met) and to inform us that he had managed to find a place for us to stay. Through his brother-in-law Giuseppe, he arranged for us to use an apartment located in the rectory of a small church near the offices of Spin. (We would like to thank Antonio, Giuseppe, and Don Mario Vatta for having made this possible for us.)

After we returned from Miramare Castle, Antonio drove us up to the rectory and helped us settle in. We were excited to see that our new home also had a kitchen in which we could cook for ourselves - our funds are running low and cooking for ourselves is more economical. Corinne and Padraic rushed to the nearest grocery store to stock up on enough food to last for a couple of days. As in Slovenia, our timing has been bad. May 1 is a national holiday in Italy and all the stores would be closed.

Although we had a late dinner, we woke up early the next morning to try to get some work done on our dispatches. Unfortunately we became so wrapped up in writing that before we knew it, we were late for our luncheon with Antonio and his family. Fortunately the Lanza's didn't mind. Antonio, his wife Francesca, their two delightful children Daniele and Aurora, and Giuseppe (Francesca's brother) click to view a photograph all welcomed us into their home, heaped food onto our plates, and engaged us in interesting conversation. We talked about Trieste, Sicily (Antonio, Francesca and Giuseppe are all natives to Sicily which is where Antonio's brother, Franco, still lives), Italy, the Internet, and astrophysics (besides working at Spin, Antonio is also a professor of astrophysics!). For more about Antonio and the Lanza's, see tomorrow's Person of the Day.

Before, during, and after our delicious meal, the children eagerly chimed in. Aurora click to view a photograph quizzed Ethan in Italian on various important subjects, such as all our names, our ages, and our addresses. Meanwhile Daniele click to view a photograph tried out some of the English he has been learning, and shared a few of his many projects with us. He showed us his impressive phone card collection (to which we were glad to add some unusual ones... from Slovenia and Turkey!), and then brought out the numerous sheets of paper on which he has carefully begun compiling a list of all the animals in the world (he already has over 400 listed!). Antonio is not quite ready to have his children travel around the Mediterranean so we could not carry through on our plan bring back the B.O.B.s and carry Aurora and Daniele with us to Gibraltar.

Unfortunately, our late start had also made us late for our next appointment with Anna, Michela, and Loredana click to view a photograph of the Carducci School. Corinne went down to apologize and tell them we would be late because we simply could not bear to tear ourselves away from the hospitality of the Lanza's. The young ladies waited patiently for us and mercifully did not chastise us too much before we set off on a sightseeing tour of Trieste (minus Corinne who returned to the rectory to catch up on work).

Over the next four hours, our lovely hostesses showed us Trieste's most notable historical and cultural sites. After checking out the Roman gate to the city, they led us up to the Colle di San Giusto (Hill of San Giusto) where we visited the beautiful Basilica di San Giusto, an odd combination not only of building styles (both Venetian and Byzantine), but also buildings. Anna pointed out that parts of another building had been used to make the 14th century church. Here Anthony poses next to part of a Roman gate stuck right into the entrance. click to view a photograph We then went on to visit the 15th century Venetian castle. We thought the view of Trieste from the ramparts of the castle was well worth a picture by itself click to view a photograph and with the group. click to view a photograph

Despite its commanding position over the city, the castle could not preserve Venetian control of Trieste (or of the Adriatic). In the 18th century, the Austrian Hapsburg Empire took over the city - and later virtually the whole Istrian and Dalmatian coasts. In desperate need of a good seaport and recognizing Trieste's potential, the Austrians transformed the city. During the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, engineers pushed back the ocean and created a bigger harbor, and ambitious city planners oversaw the demolition of much of the medieval city and the construction of huge neoclassical buildings along the Austrian model. It was through this "new" portion of town that our guides next took us. We paused only at a popular gelateria for some much needed gelato refreshment click to view a photograph and a candid photo of Anthony posing in front of the neoclassical church of his namesake (Saint Anthony). click to view a photograph

Finally, we ended up at the grand Piazza dell'Unita d'Italia (the Plaza of Italian Unity), a good spot at which to sum up Trieste's subsequent history. The region, at the confluence of Austrian, Slavic and Italian influences, has been contested for centuries. Although under Austrian control since the 18th century, Trieste and much of the coast of modern-day Croatia were claimed by Italy after the latter had been united (in the 1860s). Italy then broke its pre-war alliance with the Austrians and Germans and joined World War I on the side of the French, British, and Russians, primarily in hopes of reclaiming Trieste and the Croatian coast. The war ended with the defeat of Austria and Germany and the takeover of Trieste by the Italians, but at a horrible cost. The Italians lost over 700,000 soldiers, mostly in fighting over this territory. And, Italy's claims on the coast beyond Trieste were denied. That territory instead became part of newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (which later became Yugoslavia).

After our guided tour had ended, Anna and Michela offered to meet us for dinner as well. Since they both lived quite near to our "apartment," we agreed to meet at a neighborhood restaurant for pizza. At dinner we met more of their friends and continued to talk about life in Trieste and Italian culture in general. All the while, the BikeAbout boys (Corinne was still working at the rectory) marveled at their hostesses' patience, good humor, and rapidly improving English. Though we didn't talk about astrophysics, as we had at the Lanza's, we found it hard to tear ourselves away. But finally, after a long dinner, we regretfully said farewell to Anna and Michela and headed back to the rectory, sad that our time in Trieste had flown by so quickly.

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