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According to one misty legend, Trieste was founded by Japhet, son of the biblical Noah, while another legend grants founding-father status to Tergeste, a companion of Jason (of Argonaut fame). More prosaically, the Roman colony of Tergeste was established in 178 BC and rapidly became a wealthy port. The Goths, Byzantines and the Lombards followed and, in 1202, the city fell to the Venetians. Trieste battled for, and won, its independence, but in 1382 voluntarily accepted the overlordship of Austria.

Trieste (along with Gorizia) and extensive territory in what is now Slovenia and Croatia were assigned to Italy after WWI and the region of Venezia Giulia was created alongside the region of Friuli (whose main cities are Udine, Pordenone and Cividale). Defeat in WWII saw most of Venezia Giulia pass to the then communist Yugoslavia, and Trieste (under Allied control until 1954) was made capital of the single mixed region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, much to the irritation (to this day) of the Udine and Friulian populace.

The 18th and 19th centuries were a prosperous era for the cosmopolitan Habsburg port. Sigmund Freud, James Joyce and Italo Svevo came here to think and write, while two of Verdi’s operas (Il Corsaro and Stifelio) premiered here. The city is also a candidate to star as the site of Expo 2012, an international summer exposition.