TRIESTE PROVINCE

TRIESTE

MIRAMARE

DUINO

THE CARSO

MUGGIA

GORIZIA PROVINCE

UDINE PROVINCE

PORDENONE PROVINCE

 

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Trieste Province

Castello di Miramare

For the most dramatic view, the Castello di Miramare is best approached by boat. The starkly whitewashed castle perches on the tip of a promontory just north of Trieste, its wedding-cake façade glistening against sea and sky. Even on an overcast day, the castle makes a stunning picture, the gray skies a particularly fitting backdrop for this most tragic of castles.

Archduke Maximilian, brother of the Hapsburg emperor Franz Joseph, decided to settle in Trieste after being appointed Rear Admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Navy. He chose the headlands of Miramare as the site for his new home, which was built by Karl Junker according to the archduke’s detailed designs. In 1860, Maximilian moved into the castle with his young wife, Carlotta of Belgium. They lived there only a few short years before their happiness came to an unfortunate end.

As an attempt to counter the growing strength of the United States, an imperial plan was devised in 1864 to re-establish a European power in North America. Napoleon III of France offered Maximilian a position as emperor of Mexico, which the archduke reluctantly accepted. Just three years later, Maximilian was captured and executed by Mexican rebels. Carlotta, who had returned to Miramare only months earlier, was devastated. She moved into the Castelletto, a smaller villa on the castle grounds, where she went mad from grief. Legends tell of many subsequent house­guests—dukes, emperors, and generals—who have met a similarly tragic fate, thus giving Miramare a reputation for cursing anyone who sleeps under its roof.

Today, the castle is open for visitors to explore the couple’s lavish apartments, all featuring the original 19th-century decorations and furnishings. Of note are Maximilian’s study (designed in the style of a ship’s cabin), library, and music room (where Carlotta often played the piano).

At the time Maximilian selected his castle’s location, the landscape was practically barren. His goal was to transform this rocky Carso terrain into a lush garden, rich with rare and exotic vegetation. Today, Miramare stands amid fifty-four acres of perfectly manicured gardens, complete with statues, ponds, and walking paths. Within the grounds is the Parco Tropicale, a garden filled with numerous species indigenous to South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Here, tropical plants and trees are home to butterflies, parrots, hummingbirds, flamingoes, bats, and reptiles.