Trieste Liberty

In the Art Nouveau era, Trieste was part of Austria-Hungary. It was the fourth biggest city of the empire and also its major seaport. Art Nouveau was very popular in Trieste, like in Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, but the buildings in that style look clearly more Italian here. This can be verified if one takes a look at the names of the architects of the buildings below.

My portfolio is not complete, of course, but it is representative in that it includes the major Liberty-style buildings in the city. I took the photos in November 2016.

You will find the locations of all the mentioned buildings on this map:


1. Building on Via Armando Diaz 14

Early 1900s

The upper part of the otherwise Neoclassical façade is adorned with mascarons. The building also has an elegant Liberty-style entrance door and frescoes decorating the hall and the stairwell wall.


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2. Casa Agnani

Viale XX Settembre 32
Eugenio Geiringer, 1901

This building was designed by the famous Triestine architect Eugenio Geiringer. It hosted the well-known Caffè Secesion.


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3. Casa Basevi

Via San Giorgio 5
Eugenio Geiringer, 1903

Eugenio Geiringer designed this building for Giuseppe Basevi, a famous entrepreneur. The façade is adorned with polymorphic friezes, flower garlands, medallions, and fluted pilasters.


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4. Building on Via Giovanni Boccaccio 1


This building close to the Central Railway Station is less famous for its architecture than for the fact that James Joyce lived here on the second floor from January 24 to July 30, 1906.


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5. Trieste National Hall (Narodni Dom) / Hotel Balkan

Via Fabio Filzi 14
Max Fabiani, 1902-1904

The designer of this massive brick building was the Austrian-Italian-Slovene architect Max Fabiani. He had been a student of Otto Wagner and had designed the Portois & Fix House and the Artaria House in Vienna some years before.

This building was constructed as a centre of the Slovene community of Trieste. It was a multifunctional structure, including the Hotel Balkan, the Slovene theatre, a restaurant, two cafes, a gym, a print shop, a bank, and apartments. It also had a Secessionist entrance designed by Koloman Moser.

The building was set in fire in 1920 by Italian Fascists, which made it a symbol of the repression of the Slovene minority in Italy. It was later restored.



6. Casa Bussi

Piazza Cornelia Romana 1 / Via dei Crociferi 5
L. Miani & Michele Bussi, 1904-1905

This building behind Piazza Hortis has a cheerful Liberty-style façade.


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7. Triest Staatsbahnhof / Stazione di Campo Marzio

Via Giulio Cesare 1
Robert Seelig, 1901-1906

The first railway station built on this site was the Trieste Sant’Andrea Station, which opened in 1887. It was a terminus of the Trieste-Erpelle Railway. From here it was possible to reach Rovigno and Pola and later also Parenzo in Istria. With the opening of the Transalpina Railway in 1906, the station was rebuilt and renamed as Triest Staatsbahnhof.

After World War I, the station got the name of Trieste Campo Marzio, but its imporance gradually diminished. The Parenzo line was closed in 1935, the service of the Transalpina line ended in 1945, and in 1959, the Erpelle line was shut down as well. The station now hosts a railway museum. Its façade looks austere, but has some floral decorations.

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8. Casa Bartoli

Piazza della Borsa 7
Max Fabiani, 1905-1906

This is one of the most famous Liberty-style buildings in Trieste. Here as well as in his other buildings in Trieste, Fabiani followed the rational style of his master Otto Wagner. The Liberty style is visible on the upper two floors where there is a beautiful leaf cascade ornamentation, whereas rationality is expressed in the organisation of the building. The lower part, dedicated to business, has space arrangement and large windows characteristic of department stores. On the storey with the veranda operated Restaurant Goldberger, a kosher café-restaurant for observant Jews. The floral ornamentation of the upper floors is said to have been imposed on Fabiani to beautify the building which, otherwise, would have looked too avant-garde. Fabiani had originally only designed the grating that adorns the floors below. There are elegant balconies in front of the windows.



9. Casa de Stabile

Riva Grumula 4 & Via Belpoggio 1
Max Fabiani, 1906

This building has a terrace-like roof, a bay window at the corner, and rustication reaching up to different heights. Above the windows of the second and third floors there are stucco decorations with leaves. The drainpipes going down from the roof were designed as decorative elements (typical in the work of Max Fabiani). The building is named after Ernesto de Stabile, whose home was located on the top floor. On the ground floor there was a Vienna-style café.



10. Casa Terni / Casa Smolars

Via Dante Alighieri 6
Romeo Depaoli, 1906

This is probably the most outstanding Liberty building in Trieste. It consists of three parts. The central part stands a bit behind the lateral wings. The façade shows superabundant plastic richness and has a chiaroschuro effect with the big variation of its horizontals and verticals and receding and protruding elements. In the design of the ground floor, the architect was inspired by the works of Max Fabiani. There are sophisticated angular balconies at the corners. Another striking element is the round window flanked by two female sculptures above the main entrance (made by Romeo Rathmann).

Constructed for Augusto Terni, the building was later called Casa Smolars, because of the a stationery shop owned by Costanza Carniel Smolars located at the corner of Via Giuseppe Mazzini and Via Dante Alighieri.


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11. Casa dei Mascheroni

Via Tigor 12
Giovanni Maria Mosco, 1906

This building has a façade adorned with masks. There are several sculptures around in other parts of the building, such as statues representing the seasons in the entrance gallery and a sculpture group representing two children and Saint Anthony in the garden.


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12. Palazzo Viviani-Giberti

Viale XX Settembre 35
Giuseppe Sommaruga, 1906-1907

This building was designed by Giuseppe Sommaruga, a well-known Art Nouveau architect from Milan, for Cesare Viviani and Arturo Giberti, members of the Viviani & Giberti construction company, who were buyers and builders at the same time. Opened on Christmas Day in 1907, it originally hosted an amateur drama theatre. One of the first cinemas in Trieste, Cinema Eden, was also located here. Today the building hosts Cinema Ambasciatori.

The female statues located at the entrance were made by Romeo Rathmann and the putti above it are the work of Romeo Depaoli. The female statues were baptised by the Triestines with the names Gigogin and Barbara, probably after two prostitutes of a brothel located nearby.



13. Casa Valdoni / Casa del Fauno

Via Commerciale 25
Giorgio Zaninovich, 1907

This building, constructed for surgeon Pietro Valdoni, is also called Casa del Fauno because of a statue in the sculpture group on its façade. Its decoration is elaborate in other parts as well. The lateral wings have balconies with heavy stone balustrades and rich ornamentation. The lower parts are elegantly rusticated. Two big pairs of consoles support the central balcony above which there are three small arched windows. Only the long and narrow windows higher up are unadorned.


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14. Casa Polacco

Corso Italia 22
Romeo Depaoli, 1908

This building got its name from its owner, Signora Gisella Polacco. The ground floor was meant for commercial use. The upper floors were the residence of the Polacco family. The female figures at the corner under the cornice are the work of Romeo Rathmann, who also designed the statues on the façades of Casa Terni and Palazzo Viviani-Giberti. It is thought that they represent his two lovers.



15. Building on Via San Lazzaro 2

Giacomo Zammattio, 1910-1912

The façades of this building are divided into two parts. The lower part has semicircular arches of the windows and rich Liberty-style decorations around them (work of Pietro Lucano, a Triestine painter). The upper part is simple and sober. The balcony at the corner marks the boundary between the lower and the upper part.


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16. Central Fish Market

Riva Nazario Sauro 1
Giorgio Polli, 1913

The Central Fish Market of Trieste is an interesting example of the use of the basilica plan for the profane purpose of a market. The Triestines call it ironically Santa Maria del Guato, after a common local fish. It has a reinforced concrete structure, sober brick walls, and large windows. Its prominent bell tower contained a raised seawater tank to serve the sales desks. Today the building hosts exhibition spaces under the name of Salone degli Incanti.


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17. Banca di Praga

Via Roma 7 & Via Giuseppe Mazzini 20
Josip Costaperaria & Osvald Polívka, 1914

This building successfully mixes late-Art Nouveau and rationalism. It has solid and compact volumes. The bay windows are pronounced and the windows have a stone frame. There are some anthropomorphic decorations on the top floor. At the main entrance there are two bronzed figures depicting Labour and Industry. These latter were the work of the famous Czech sculptor Ladislav Šaloun (cf. Šaloun Villa in Prague). Osvald Polívka was the architect of many important Art Nouveau buildings in Prague (e.g. a co-author of the Municipal Hall).