Duino (Friuli-Venezia Giulia), Italy August 2022 (Tour 6)

Duino was recommended to us as a nice place to visit by our friend Clare and it is. It is a tiny Italian fishing village on the Adriatic Coast with a focus towards cozze (mussels) but it’s two castles which sit on the cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Trieste have long been the star attractions of the area. For a while, during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Duino became a fashionable seaside resort of the Austrian Riviera with the then owners of the newer of the two castles hosting Austrian Royalty (Franz Joseph I and Archduke Maximilian I) and such notable guests as Johann Strauss, Franz Liszt, Mark Twain and Victor Hugo. Those days ended at the conclusion of WW1 with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Duino being ceded to the Kingdom of Italy.

The hamlet has a small fishing harbour which on hot sunny days doubles as a sunbathing and swimming area. It was 34 degrees centigrade and getting hotter as we arrived and there were plenty of locals stretched out on the harbour walls or swimming in the water. It was almost noon and so we decided to stop for lunch at the prettiest of the two restaurants by the water. We had the best prawn salad.

As the afternoon went by it became increasingly hot; too much so for the dogs and Vanya took them back to the Van for some respite from the heat while I continued on to view the towns two castles.

Of the two castles, the older 11th century castle (the Rocca di Duino) was left deserted in the 15th century and is now little more than a spectacular ruin on a large rock beneath the newer 14th century castle. The new castle is still inhabited and was opened as a museum in 2003. It’s exterior and it’s gardens do not match Miramar Castle further down the coast towards Trieste but it’s inside and it’s views are every bit as majestic.

One unusual feature of the new castle is it’s bunker, added by the German occupiers during WWII. The entrance to the bunker is in the garden at the rear of the castle. The cool air in the bunker was well worth the hike up and down the stairs. However, I can’t help but think they could do more with the bunker. There was one glassed off room containing a few pieces of old WWII military equipment but the glass was covered in too much condensation to properly make all the items out.

I didn’t get to it but cut into the rocks just above Duino is a small 1st century BC temple to Mithras. This religion was a Persian religion championed by Roman soldiers.

That’s a rather abrupt ending to this post but I’m running behind time. Vanya is ready for wine….

Trieste (Friuli Venezia Giulia), Italy October 2020 (Tour 3)

My last visit to Trieste in the winter of 2017 entailed a great deal of walking, taking in the sites – Miramare Castle, the Grand Canal (and the James Joyce statue), the Trieste Waterfront and the Molo Audace, The Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia, the Castle and Cathedral of San Giusto and, of course, the Roman Theatre. This time the stay would simply be about relaxing and celebrating Vanya’s birthday.

We parked the Van up on the promenade almost opposite the Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia and walked the short distance to the Doubletree by Hilton on the Piazza della Republica – one of many impressive buildings in this city.

While Vanya and Beanie rested, I took Nala to check out three restaurants which were recommended by the hotel receptionist as possible places to celebrate Vanya’s birthday in the evening. That done I sat drinking wine outside a cafe on the Piazza della Borsa and simply watched the world go by. That’s always been a favourite pastime of mine.

That evening we dropped the dogs off in the Van (they are used to being in the Van and seem okay being left for a couple of hours) and went for pre-dinner drinks at a small cafe on the Via delle Beccherie Vecchie and then to the nearby L’Etrusco Restaurant for dinner. The service at L’Etrusco was excellent; the food was great and not too badly priced but; my wine, while a very good Chianti, was bloody expensive. Oh well. I enjoyed it.

By the end of the evening I’d had rather a lot to drink and our plans to see Trieste by night had to be curtailed. Sorry Vanya. We collected the dogs from the Van and ambled back across the Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia to our hotel.

Over breakfast the next morning we (i.e. Vanya) decided she would like to see something of Slovenia and so we set off for one of my favourite destinations in Slovenia – Bled.

While loading the Van I paused to watch a local man catch a large fish from the bay with the smallest of rods. I have no idea as to how he managed to land such a huge fish with his small fishing rod but it was exciting to watch and he was as pleased as punch..

And so to Bled…

Trieste, The City – Nov 2017

It is another warm, sunny day in the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region of Italy and I elected to stay for another 24 hours.

This morning I managed another early start and walked the 6 km to the city centre (it was all downhill) and then spent a few hours taking in the more obvious sites. Trieste is totally different to what I expected. Except for the crazy Italian driving style that seems to require speeding down narrow streets with one hand clenched fist-like out of the window and the other glued to the car horn  (don’t ask me how they steer – judging by the scratches down the sides of most cars I suspect it is bit like the luge in the Winter Olympics) Trieste doesn’t seem all that Italian. The buildings, monuments and abundance of coffee shops are more reminiscent of a “Vienna by the Sea”; which is not so implausible given that for a long time Trieste was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (that’ll be the Hapsburgs again).

My route into Trieste brought me in by the Grand Canal which is not a canal in the conventional sense but a small waterway which allowed cargo ships easier access into the city in days of yore. It is pretty notwithstanding the renovations currently taking place and it enabled me to quickly find my bearings.

The Grand Canal together with a statue of James Joyce (Irish author & poet who lived in Trieste for a while and amongst other things wrote Ulysses – never read it myself but I do recall one of his quotes “Ireland sober is Ireland stiff”)

From the Canal, it is a very short walk down to the Molo Audace which is a large stone paved promenade (a bit like a flat pier without an arcade or amusements) which stretches 300 metres out to sea such that the locals and people like me can get a good view back towards the city. Unfortunately, I reached the far end of the Molo just as the sun came over the rooftops and, while the views were tremendous, my photos weren’t. From the Molo it is only a hundred metres or so to the Piazza dell’ Unita Italia which is, I read, “the largest square situated next to the sea in Europe”. Whatever, it is impressive with it’s six white palaces that now serve a considerably more mundane function.

I’m beginning to sound too much like a tour guide so, I will desist and leave you with a few photos but, I should tell you before I go that I have purchased a bus ticket (1.25 euros) to get me back to the Van. I couldn’t hack going up that bloody hill again so soon after yesterday.

One view from the Molo before the sun almost took my eyes out

A couple of the palaces on the Piazza dell Unita d’Italia (the first is now the Town Hall). Both photos include the Fountain of the Four Continents – There were only four recognised continents at the time the fountain was crafted (about 1800)

Some photos of the Cathedral of Saint Giusto (Saint Justus); this is up by the Garden of Remembrance and despite it’s city centre location it was very quiet and peaceful up there (and look at the weather). The dome above the main altar is stunning.

(a) Monument in the Garden of Remembrance & (b) remains of the Roman Amphitheatre built at the behest of the Emperor Traiano.

One place I didn’t get to see despite it being just 2 km from where the Van has been parked the last days is the Grotta Gigante but after the Postojnska Caves in Slovenia, no matter. There was also of course the town of Prosecco but I don’t think that is the place where Prosecco comes from. The Prosecco Hills are much further west.

Trieste, Italy (Castelo Miramare) – Nov 2017

A relatively early start saw me complete the eight mile hike to Castelo di Miramare by 10am, at least an hour before the first tourist coach disgorged it’s hordes. I had the castle and grounds almost to myself and what a nice place too.

Completed in 1860 by the Archduke Maximilian of Hapsburg (younger brother to Franz Joseph mentioned in my Vienna blog) as a love nest for himsef and his young bride, Charlotte of Belgium, this very pretty castle (I’m not altogether convinced the word ‘castle’ suits this type of building – it’s more of a palace) sits right on the coast almost equidistant from Trieste and Prosecco. It’s 22 hectares of subtropical trees, sculptures and fountains almost match those at Versailles.

The castle is pretty but rumour has it, it is cursed – it is said that anyone who lives there will die a premature violent death in a foreign land. That is certainly true of the Archduke Maximilian. Within a relatively short period of leaving the castle to accept the throne of Mexico (as Emperor Maximilian I), he was overthrown and executed by the Juaristas at the age of just 34. Subsequently, the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo after visiting the castle and; the Duke Amadeo d’Aosta (who lived there after the Hapsburgs gave up the property) died a prisoner of the English in Kenya during WW2 and; the German General Friedrich Rainer who lived in the castle during WW2 was shot dead by partisans. I am sceptical of such things but the American General stationed there after WW2 thought differently because he chose to live in a tent in the castle grounds. As for Maximilian’s young wife, Charlotte, her husband’s execution brought on a complete emotional collapse and she was consequently certified insane and lived out the rest of her days first in Miramare and then back in Belgium. Bit of a sad place perhaps but you would not think that to look at it.

Once I reached the coast road (it was a seriously steep trek down from the Van) the walk to Miramare was along a fine promenade that stretches all the way from Trieste to Miramare and beyond.

The promenade stretching back to Trieste…and on to Miramare. That’s the castle at the promontory in the background

As I passed through Barcola on the way to Miramare, fishing boats were landing their catch and selling them to locals out for an early morning walk 

That’s a pretty castle. More of a palace than a castle, really.

… and pretty gardens too (even in winter).

It was getting warm on the way back and I chose to walk under the trees which protect much of the promenade and, of course, going back up those steep hills to the Van I just had to stop at a local restaurant for a glass of wine or four…

Well, there’s no driving today (or tomorrow at this rate).

I secured the last table in this small family owned restaurant

By the way, in case you didn’t see my Facebook Post last night, yesterday’s dinner at my local bar was seriously good.

The fish starter on the left was complementary. The pizza I had intended as a main course was changed for the lobster. The red wine was 1 Euro per glass.