This attractive city plan (on one side) captures Trieste as it appeared on the eve of World War II, while on the verso is an illustrated travel guide to the city and the natural wonders of the surrounding Karst Region. The map provides a detailed, yet well-designed, bird’s eye view of Trieste, then, as it is today, one of Europe’s greatest port cities. Every major street is delineated and named, while all key buildings are represented pictographically (all labeled below by a numbered legend). Trieste is shown to be an eclectic mix of old and new, owing to its ancient history and its traditional role at the nexus between Italian, Slavic, Germanic and Jewish cultures. The ancient Castel de S. Giusta (72) rises above the centre of the city, while the grand 19th century Plazza del’Unita graces the middle of the quayside. Also depicted are the new Fascist-style edifices of the Faro della Vittoria (Victory lighthouse), the Stazione Marittima and the University. The height of the Karst Plateau rises behind the city.
The verso of the piece presents a detailed tour guide, illustrated by photographs, of the major sights in an around Trieste, including the legendary Postojna Caves (today in Slovenia, here called the ‘Grotte de Postuma’).
The present map was made in May 1939, just months before the beginning of World War II, when Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy joined the conflict with Nazi Germany against the Allies, and notably, the nearby state of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
Even before the war, Trieste had endured 20 years of turmoil at the hands of Italy’s Fascist government and it supporters. Until 1918, Trieste was the fourth largest city and the premier seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With the Empire’s collapse at the end of WWI, Trieste and a large part of neighboring Slovenia and all of the Peninsula of Istria were given to Italy. Trieste had traditionally been a nexus of Italian, Slavic, Germanic and Jewish cultures and, for the most part, the different cultural communities had gotten along quite well over the centuries. Indeed, there was quite a bit of intermarriage between the communities. This all changed from 1920 under the new Italian Fascist regime, particularly after the ascension of Mussolini to become ‘Il Duce’ in 1922. The regime embarked upon a policy of forced ‘Italianization’ of the over 500,000 non-Italians in Trieste province. Right wing hooligans migrated to the city form other parts of Italy. The resulting Fascist mobs were particularly hard on the Slovenian community, torching their cultural centers, shops and homes. Many Slovenians emigrated, while others organized the anti-Fascist TIGR resistance movement, the forerunner the Slovenian Partisans of WWII. In spite of all the turmoil (and maybe, in part, because of it), Trieste had an artistic renaissance during the 1920s and 30s, when music, the visual arts (such as Dada) and Art Deco architecture flourished.
Trieste would escape mass-destruction during WWII, although its large and ancient Jewish community was virtually destroyed. The Yugoslavian Partisans at the end of the war captured the city. After a heated territorial dispute, the city of Trieste and a narrow corridor connecting the city westward was awarded to Italy, while the majority of the Karst region and Istria was awarded to Yugoslavia.
The present map was issued by the Istituto Geografico De Agostini, then one of Italy’s leading cartographic publishing houses. The enterprise was owned and operated by Giovanni De Agostoni (1863 – 1941), an esteemed Italian geographer and publisher. De Agostini trained in cartography under the legendary German mapmaker Heinrich Kiepert (1818-99), where he became proficient in scientific and thematic cartographic methods. While in Germany he published an essay on the Tierra del Fuego that gained great acclaim in the international geography community.
Upon his return to Italy, De Agostini worked at the Military Geographic Institute of Florence and at the Hydrographic Institute in Genoa. This led him to publish his pioneering scientific atlas on the Italian Alpine lakes, Atlante Limnologico.
In 1900, De Agostini first established his own map publishing house at Como, named the Stabilimento Cartografico del Dott. G. De Agostini. Some years later, he moved the company to Novara, changing its name to Istituto Geografico De Agostini, where it prospered, becoming one of the largest private cartographic studios in Italy. De Agostini specialized in the large, beautifully designed and works, such as the present map of Triese. De Agostini’s family continued the business after his death in 1941.
Maps of Trieste from the Fascist Period are today scarce, and this piece is especially attractive.