Caffè Tommaseo, the atmosphere of freedom
It is rumored that in 1830 Carolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger sister and the wife of general Joachim Murat – King of Naples and Marshal of France – secretly bought Caffè Tommaseo, in Trieste.
While we have no way of confirming this rumor, we can say for certain that the venue – one of the oldest bars in the city – was a favorite of bankers on their way to the Stock Exchange, journalists working for the “Favilla” (a cultural magazine published in Trieste in the first half of the 1800s), artists, lawyers and intellectuals, including Stendhal. The café’s ability to attract such refined clientele never faded, and won over James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Franz Kafka.
Thus we may continue to call the Tommaseo with its old, ironic nickname: “La conventicola dei dotti” (“The erudites’ circle”). But it was also a circle of patriots! It is named after Niccolò Tommaseo, hero of the short and heroic Republic of San Marco (1848-1849), exile in Corfu, and author of the “Dizionario della Lingua Italiana”, the most important vocabulary written in Italy during the Risorgimento.
The plaque outside the bar, placed by the National Institute for the History of Risorgimento, reads, “In 1848, the spark of enthusiasm for Italian freedom spread from this Caffè Tommaseo, center of a nationwide movement”.
Renovated in 1830 by an art connoisseur from Padua, Tomaso Marcato, and partially altered over the years, the Tommaseo has been further renovated and renewed in 1997 drawing inspiration from the traditional style of Viennese cafés.
Here, among relics from the Italian unification and famous writers’ autographs, you can still feel the old – yet always new – atmosphere of freedom.