In the collective imagination, the Port of Trieste is linked to the international fame achieved in the first decade of the 19th century as the most important port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when the volumes of cargo handled ranked it as the 7th port in the world and the 2nd port in the Mediterranean after Marseille. This fortunate circumstance dated back to the beginning of the 18th century when the Emperor Charles VI of Austria proclaimed it as a “Free Port”. Since then until present the free port regime has remained a prerogative and peculiar characteristic of the Port of Trieste.

In the second half of the 19th century, the rail link with Vienna turned the Port of Trieste into a primary point of transit, leading the Habsburg authorities to embark on the first major expansion of the port facilities and resulting in the construction of the complex now known as the Old Port between 1868 and 1883 according to a design by Paul Talabot.

In response to the flourishing of trade with the Middle and Far East, following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, it was soon necessary to enlarge the port facilities even more. Initiated in the early 1900s, this project was mostly completed only in the 1920s and 1930s after Trieste was returned to Italy, thus giving birth to the New Port.

Overcoming the destruction wreaked by the Second World War, which had halved operational capacity, the Port recommenced its development by adapting to the new geopolitical environment.

A quantum leap in the volume of traffic was made at the end of the 1960s, with the opening of the Transalpine Pipeline, and in the early 1970s, with the completion of the container terminal.

The Port later added new infrastructure to serve the needs of modern logistics, such as the multi-purpose terminal in the Old Port and the terminal for Ro-Ro vessels and ferries in Riva Traiana.

The start of the new century has seen strong, steady growth in intermodal rail services and in passenger traffic and marine tourism (pleasure craft and cruises). This complex profile, comprising a mixture of historical factors, technical know-how and material resources, is the strong point on which the Port of Trieste can now rely to fully recover its traditional role and importance in the European Economic Area and the Mediterranean.

Shipbuilding in Trieste is identified with the history of the San Marco Dockyard – founded in 1853 – and developed continuously from the era of Austrian Lloyd until recently. After a period of transition, the business is once again flourishing thanks to ship repairs and maintenance. Apart from a number of small shipyards, particularly for yachts, the Port of Trieste has four large dry docks, two of which owned by the company Ocean S.r.l. and two under concession to Fincantieri S.p.a., which also has its headquarters in Trieste where it designs the cruise ships built at its Monfalcone shipyard.

The history of Trieste makes it a city with a clear cosmopolitan vocation, a strategically placed meeting point between East and West not only for trade but also for politics, culture and science.
Already the home to prestigious international institutions, the city aims to boost its tertiary, office and financial services sectors, as well as activities involving research and development of innovative technologies, and is seeking to augment tourism, particularly in sectors related to the sea. The Port and tourism in Trieste are an inseparable pair: not only recreational boating, boasting a long tradition with the annual Barcolana regatta and extensive marina facilities (with more than 3,000 berths), but also the cruise industry, which is undergoing a crucial phase of development. Fitting into this context is the plan to redevelop the oldest of the free zones, the Old Free Zone, which has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as a unique example of industrial archaeology. It covers an area of more than 65 hectares on which a modern general cargo terminal (Adria Terminal), two basins to be redeveloped for recreational boating, and a hydrodynamic plant that powered cranes and hoists in the Old Port for over a century, coexist with many historic warehouses due for redevelopment as offices, museums, accommodation and for recreational tourism.

With an area of 30,000 square metres and length of 244 metres, Warehouse 26 is the largest of all the buildings in the Old Port. It is of extraordinary historical and architectural worth, serving as a witness not only to Habsburg Trieste but also to a culturally and architecturally forward-looking Trieste.
During the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, Warehouse 26 hosted the Friuli Venezia Giulia Pavilion for the 54th edition of the Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition.
The building is divided into twelve main areas and has five levels: a basement used as a cellar, a ground floor and three upper floors. The design is rectangular and consists of stand-alone buildings whose facades are interposed with a series of galleries.