Arco di Riccardo – Trieste, Italy - Atlas Obscura

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Arco di Riccardo

This Roman monument is surrounded by more recent construction, offering a stark contrast between ancient architecture and the modern urban landscape. 


The Città Vecchia (Old City) in Trieste, Italy, is the oldest part of the settlement dating back to the Roman era. Among the maze of alleys there is the small, stone-slabbed Piazza Barbacan. Articulated and with no right angles, it’s flanked by historic buildings of light colors, mostly different hues of yellow, but also orangey-red or light pink.

Whichever of the three alleys you come from, the white stone Arco di Riccardo pops out from around a corner, standing in the middle of the road, roughly perpendicular to a building. At 23 feet tall and 17 feet wide, it’s not especially large, but surrounded by newly restored facades and clean street pavements it seems slightly out of place.

There are no precise records to pinpoint its initial construction. It’s thought to be one of the entrance gates to the Roman Trieste (‘Tergeste’ in Latin), from the first century B.C. The few decorations are thought to have been added later on, in the first century A.D., but this is also an educated guess.

The name of the arco is the subject of a few different theories of its own. The Riccardo, or Richard, might refer to English king Richard I the Lionheart, who was said to have been a captive in Trieste while on his way back north. Another theory is that it originates from the word cardo, which was the name of one of the two main roads of the Roman settlements.

You can walk underneath the arch. Enjoy the contrast with anything else around you, including the new or restored bar, café, and restaurant.

Know Before You Go

The arch is in a public square. Visit during quiet times, or at night - even if it's not quiet, the dark creates a nice atmosphere.

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May 18, 2021

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