In the footsteps of James Joyce in Trieste –

A bronze statue by James Joyce on the Ponterosso, which crosses the Grand Canal, is a popular photo motif among tourists. Born in Ireland, he came to the port city in 1904. As a writer, he was only just beginning. He appreciated going to the opera at the Teatro Verdi and took bel canto lessons himself.


Joyce statue in Trieste old town

Always in need of money

For a time, the family lived on the third floor of a house in Via della Barriera Vecchia 32. Today, a hotel and a pharmacy are located in the same building. The owner at the time dumped Joyce and his family on the street after the writer could not pay the rent.

Former home of James Joyce in Trieste


James Joyce’s family lived here in Via della Barriera Vecchia

He earned his living by teaching English. In between, he even took a job as a banker in Rome to earn money. Back in Trieste, his wife Nora was often worried, says tourist guide Tiziana Zamai, because the money is barely enough to keep his family afloat. He also regularly asked friends or wealthy students who came from the upper class of Trieste for money. Again and again he accumulated new debts, because idleness seemed to have top priority for him.

Pirona confectionery in Trieste


Pirona confectionery

Joyce liked to indulge in idleness

At Pirona, where he was a regular guest between 1910 and 1912, everything is still the same as when it was founded. But James Joyce didn’t just come to drink coffee, says Tiziana Zamai: “He came here to the Pirona confectionery every day and ate a typical Trieste breakfast: Presnitz and also torroni. He also drank wine or spirits. So here in Trieste he ate a lot, drank a lot and enjoyed life.”

Tiziana Zamai in the Cavana district in Trieste


Tiziana Zamai in front of a former brothel in the Cavana district

Before James Joyce moved to Paris in 1920, he lived for a time in the Cavana district, on Via della Pescheria. “Trieste was a great port, the port of Austria-Hungary. So there was also a red light district here. James Joyce loved the vibe of this neighborhood,” says Tiziana Zamai.

Shipment note:

Servus, Good luck, Ciao; 13.8.2022

According to tradition, he often turned night into day there: “His favorite brothel was here – it was called Metro Cubo, meaning cubic meters. The rooms were very small, so it was like a simple sailor’s brothel. This neighborhood is also inspiration for James Joyce. When he talks about Montgommery Street in Dublin in Ulysses, he might be describing the Cavana district of Trieste.”

Pictures of James Joyce in the Cavana district in Trieste


Collection full of memories of Joyce and Svevo

Today a hotel still bears his name there and at 13 Via Madonna del Mare there is a museum dedicated to James Joyce. Riccardo Cepach is the keeper of many mementos of the writers. He is particularly proud of this first edition of The Dubliners from 1914 with a dedication. A similar work by the author from this period recently fetched 200,000 euros at an auction.

Riccardo Cepach and Tiziana Zamai at the Joyce Museum


Riccardo Cepach and Tiziana Zamai at the Joyce Museum

The museum at number 13 Via della Madonna del Mare is not only dedicated to James Joyce. Aron Hector Schmitz, who was born in Trieste, is also the focus of interest. He would later go down in history under the pseudonym Italo Svevo. Despite a 20-year age difference, he and James Joyce shared not only a shared love of literature, but also a close friendship.

Photo of Joyce and Svevo

Municipality of Trieste

This is considered to be the only picture in which James Joyce (3rd from left) and Italo Svevo (2nd from right) can be seen together.

Joyce encouraged Svevo to write

Svevo’s daughter Laeticia Fonda Savio once recalled James Joyce’s visits to her parents’ house in an interview: “James Joyce came to us at the Villa Veneziani and read his own books for the first time – to my father and my mother. My father said they were very beautiful and very interesting. Then he says shyly: ‘I also wrote something, but nobody spoke about it’. Joyce said to him, ‘Please give me your books.’ Then, when he came to Villa Veneziani for the second time, he said to my father: ‘Do you know that you are a great writer?’”

Riccardo Cepach says that the admiration that Joyce had for Svevo’s work rekindled in him the desire to write actively: “The younger one encouraged his older fellow artists.”

Exhibits about Italo Svevo


Memories of Italo Svevo

Own literature museum is created

The two talked and wrote to each other in Triestine dialect – for Joyce the language of a world where no one lies.

Whether Rainer Maria Rilke, Umberto Sava, Srecko Kosovel or the recently deceased Boris Pahor – the linguistic diversity that characterizes the writers in the port city is to be documented in a separate museum in the future, says Riccardo Cepach: “In their works, these writers reflect the History of Trieste again. In the 20th century in particular, it was fraught with conflict. It is the basis for being able to explain all the details that we are addressing in detail.” It is not yet certain when the museum will open.

Brochures about writers related to Trieste


Numerous writers found and still find inspiration in Trieste

Bloomsday wants to make literature accessible

What is fixed is that next year’s “Bloomsday” will take place again on June 16th. It is named after Leopold Bloom, the main character of the novel “Ulysses”, published exactly one hundred years ago. Set on a single day, June 16, 1904, it gives an insight into everyday life in Dublin.

Every year on Bloomsday in Trieste, a chapter of the work is artistically prepared. Riccardo Cepach says it’s a fun, enjoyable way to delve into this work: “As we know, it’s considered very comprehensive and well thought out. Many readers find it difficult to understand. In this way, we also want to make it palatable to a broader audience.” In this way, James Joyce’s world literature should be accessible to everyone.

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