Antico Caffe’ San Marco is one of the most iconic historic cafes in the heart of Trieste and must not be missed. Established in 1914, it soon became the intellectual hub of the city. Writers, artists, musicians, students and activists (the “Irredentisti”) all met here to read the daily paper, study, write, discuss and debate the issues of the day. Among the more famous patrons were James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Umberto Saba, and Triestine writers Giani Stuparich & Virgilio Giotti. It is said that the cafe housed a hidden passport forging center which facilitated the escape of anti-Austrian patriots into Italy.
Nowadays, the cafe’ is host to students, longtime patrons and tourists who enjoy its old world charm; the marble tables with claw-footed cast iron legs, the black lacquered chairs, the painted wall medallions (some old, some new), frescoes (mostly by Vito Timmel), the antique pendant lights, ornate moldings depicting coffee plant leaves and the imposing bar. The staff wear long aprons and white shirts further evoking ghosts from the past.
San Marco also houses a small but well stocked bookstore which has been instrumental in reviving the cafe as a cultural and intellectual hub by creating encounters with writers, actors and artists.
Open from 8:30-22, food is available from a substantial menu. Their coffee is custom blended and roasted just for them by an outside service. Of course, they also serve wine and spirits.