The Major Themes


Trieste at War

The history of the city at war, from 2 July 1914, the day the corpses of the crown prince Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophia landed after the journey at sea, up to the tumultuous days of the people’s reaction to Italy’s declaration of war, a prelude to the long agony of a great city too close to the front, which was affected by several problems: depopulation, food shortages, widespread poverty, and the threat of bombing from the sky and from the sea.
All Municipal authorities were dismissed and the Lieutenancy, headquartered in Piazza Grande, took over all powers. A militarised climate spread, with the city’s cinemas and theatres organising patriotic shows to collect funds for the mutilated soldiers and for the orphans and widows of war.

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Man Versus Man

The vicissitudes of Trieste’s inhabitants and more in general of the people living along the coast involved in the First World War: the tens of thousands of soldiers enlisted in the Hapsburg army and spread across the different fronts of the war, between charges of cowardice and proven acts of courage, of which little is yet known; the different and certainly better known story of a thousand irredentist volunteers who fled from Austria to enlist with Italy; the refugees, the political prisoners and the many regnicoli (subjects of the Kingdom), namely Italian workers who had been living in the city for decades with their families and who were now forced to return to their homeland.

The large host of irredentist volunteers is the subject of a section of the exhibition presenting the ideals and aspirations of a part of the city’s population whose language and culture were Italian: young men from Trieste who deserted the Austro-Hungarian army or who dodged the draft and fled across the border to enlist in the Italian army, often finding a heroic death. Their story is told through the images and the letters of three of them, chosen to represent all irredentist volunteers: Roberto Liebmann Modiano and Guido Corsi, who both died in war, and Mario Nordio, an officer of the information office and later a great journalist and writer.

The Civico Museo del Risorgimento (Civic Museum of the Risorgimento) and the Civico Museo di Storia Patria (Civic Museum of Italian History) have both made a major contribution to this aspect presenting a wide array of uniforms, memorabilia, letters and documents regarding the irredentist volunteers from Trieste.

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The Daily War

The exhibition of a wide and complete collection of “Trench art” (ornaments, jewellery and various items of daily use made with scraps from weapons) and propaganda items, from the rich Hellmann collection in Rome—one of the most interesting in Italy—reflects, in a manner that is only apparently reassuring, the progressive surrender of the society of the time to the war.

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The Disputed City

A circular installation of great spectacular impact that places a large map of Trieste at the centre, a city disputed by different armies represented by an “army” of about a thousand toy soldiers dating from the period from the Luisi Collection of Trieste. Above this spectacular installation there is a hovering “cloud” of paper made with the letters of more than a thousand soldiers, testifying to the fact that war is above all an individual human experience that becomes collective. Other written testimonies of soldiers and civilians, as well as some literary references, accompany the sections of the exhibition, establishing a bond between the many items, images, posters and infografics with the figures of the war and the countless personal stories that are woven into the “great history” of the world at war.

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