Literary tour: visiting Trieste in the footsteps of Italo Svevo

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Among the many aspects that make Trieste so full of charm is the fact it’s a literary city: here lived some of the most famous writers of the twentieth century, from James Joyce to Italo Svevo, working on books that have made the history of literature. Italo Svevo in particular has been strongly linked to Trieste, city that can be found in his novels as a real protagonist character.

To relive the atmosphere of his works, it is worth exploring the city in a new literary tour to discover Trieste in Italo Svevo’s footsteps.

Literary tour Italo Svevo Trieste

The places of Italo Svevo in Trieste

The birthplace of Ettore Schmitz

Aron Hector Schmitz, called “Ettore” by the family, was born in Trieste in 1861. The exact location of his birthplace, however, is a first interesting anecdote to tell. The address of Via dell’Acquedotto, now Via XX Settembre, where an official plaque has been displayed for decades, has long been reported on all the documents and biographies of the writer.

Too bad that this information was wrong: in 2020 new research found the name of Ettore Schmitz in the birth register of the Jewish communityat number 27 of the current Via Mazzini (just a few steps from the DoubleTree by Hilton Trieste). The plaque has been moved, but to update all the literary anthologies we imagine that it will take some time.

The Galleria Tergesteo and the job at Union Bank

Walking up to Piazza Borsa you reach the Palazzo Tergesteo, a majestic neoclassical building inaugurated in the mid-nineteenth century. On the ground floor the building is crossed by a beautiful shopping gallery, where there are several shops in addition to the Caffè Tergesteo: like other historic cafés in Trieste, this place was also frequented by intellectuals and writers of the time and is still worth a visit today.

Italo Svevo worked for almost two decades at Palazzo Tergesteo, as an employee at Union Bank of Vienna. These are the years in which Svevo begins to write his novels and these places, as well as the entire city of Trieste, will appear in various ways: Alfonso Nitti, protagonist of the first book “A Life” is a bank employee, while the protagonist of “Zeno’s Conscience” knows his future father-in-law at the Galleria Tergesteo.

Piazza Borsa and Palazzo Tergesteo

The Berlitz School and the meeting with Joyce

After his marriage to Livia Veneziani, Italo Svevo left his job at the bank to work for his wife’s family. Given the commercial commitment, he felt the need to improve his knowledge of English and then enrolled in the Berlitz School: the language school in Via San Nicolò where in those years James Joyce worked as a teacher.

The two writers thus began a relationship of mutual esteem and encouragement, fundamental to Svevo’s career. Italo Svevo had already published the first two novels at his expense, but without achieving the desired success: it is Joyce, struck by the works of his colleague, to promote and make his texts famous, first abroad and then finally also in Italy.

The Civic Library and the statue of Italo Svevo in Trieste

Finally, we can’t miss to reach Piazza Hortis, where the statue dedicated by the city to Italo Svevo is located. The sculptor is Nino Spagnoli, who also made the bronze statues of James Joyce and Umberto Saba and who here depicted the writer on his way to the Civic Library Attilio Hortis.

It is in this same building, where for years Svevo went every evening after the job to read and work on his novels, that Trieste is about to inaugurate its new Museum of literature. The LETS will host among other things the collections first exhibited at the Svevian Museum, and can therefore be the perfect conclusion of our itinerary to discover the places of Italo Svevo in Trieste.

Literature museum Trieste