Trieste, initially Tergeste, (Latin "market city," began as a Roman city in the 2nd century B.C. (from terg, "market", and este, "city") founded by the Romans in the 2nd century B.C. Trieste became a commercial hub on the basis of its salt-mines, thanks to the Roman's channeling and drainage projects. For four centuries, Trieste was prosperous and peaceful, but in the 4th century A.D., once the Roman Empire began its decline, Trieste economy crashed. It would not recover until the 12th century.

In 1236, Trieste declared itself independent of the Republic of Venice, and allied itself with Austria. In the 17th century, under Austria-Hungary's rule, Trieste became an economic and cultural center of the empire, since it was the only seaport Austria-Hungary had. In 1719, it became a free port form the empire, and since it was a tax-free city, it drew merchants from all over the world. Many of the businesses formed in this time period survived until now, such as the bank Lloyd Triestico.

For a short period of time in the 18th and 19th century, France ruled Trieste. However, Austria reannexed Trieste, and once again, now thanks to the opening of the Suez Canal, which allowed further trade with India and the Far East, became one of the most prosperous cities in the world. Despite this prosperity, some revolutionaries, such as James Joyce, Italo Svevo, and Umberto Saba wanted freedom for Trieste from the Austrian rule. Trieste would get its independence, but it did it very little good.

After WWI, and the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, Trieste was reunited with Italy. No longer was Trieste the only seaport of its country. It became just another province in Italy, and in World War II, the fascists gave Trieste to the Third Reich. Over the war, Trieste hosted a concentration camp in its darkest period. Even when Germany and Italy lost the war, the new Republic of Yugoslavia and the Allies both wanted this important outpost. In May 1945, communist Yugoslavian armies occupied Trieste, after which followed forty days of repression, and slaughtering of anti-communists. The Allies took the city in June.

In 1947, the Paris Treaty of 1947 was split into two sectors, similar to Berlin, one controlled by the Allies, and one by Yugoslavia. In 1975, the Allied zone was given to the Italians.