As Trieste lies off the route from Austria to other parts of Italy, we never made the detour to visit this town, which is an important part of the Austrian history. At last, we took the time to visit Trieste and the castle of Miramare, and discovered a lovely town with an interesting mixture of the old charm of the monarchy and a modern Mediterranean city.
Trieste belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy from 1382 until 1918. In the 19th century, the monarchy was one of the Great Powers of Europe, and Trieste was its most important seaport. As a prosperous trading hub in the Mediterranean region, Trieste became the fourth-largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Vienna, Budapest, and Prague).
The Austrian Archduke Maximilian (1832 – 1867) was the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Before he became Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian was commander-in-chief of the Imperial Austrian Navy. He was particularly attached to Trieste, and had his residence, Miramare Palace, constructed nearby.
A couple of kilometres north of Triest, lies the Miramare Castle, which was built from 1856 to 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium.
The castle’s grounds include an extensive cliff and seashore park designed by the archduke. The grounds were completely re-landscaped to feature numerous tropical species of trees and plants. We found a good parking at the northern entrance, from where we could stroll through the park and admire the castle but also the garden with tunnels, pathways and viewpoints, where you could imagine the royals taking a walk.
The castle was finished only after the departure of Maximilian to Mexico in 1864. After a brief reign as Emperor, he was executed in June 1867 and never came back to live here. Later the castle was used by various Habsburgs: in 1882 Emperor Franz Joseph with Elisabeth of Austria (Sissi) and the heir to the throne Rudolf with his wife Stéphanie of Belgium, stayed in Miramare during an official visit to Trieste. Sissi stayed in Miramare on at least fourteen occasions. In 1914, the heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand lived in the castle with his wife and sons and gave hospitality to the German Emperor William. Only two months later, the archduke was assassinated at Sarajevo and WWI started. Also the last Emperor Charles and his wife Zita visited Miramare.
On the way to Austria, we decided to stop at Görz or Gorizia at the river Isonzo, which became sadly famous for the battle during WWI. More on our next post.