Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day Trip from Longarone to Trieste

The next day Leo and I took a day trip up to Trieste. I love visiting these places and Leo always gives me some historical background.

Trieste was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy from 1382 until 1918. It was a prosperous seaport under control of Austria. It was considered Austria's "Riveria." After WWI, Trieste was occupied by the Italian army and Slavic and German names were "Italianized" by the end of 1930. At the same time, Slovic residents were persecuted and many immigrated to Yugoslavia or South American. During WWII, again Trieste was involved. In 1947, Trieste was protected by the United Nations and it was divided into two zones, A and B. In 1954, Zone B was ceded to Italy and Zone B became part of Yugoslavia. Other parts were divided among the Socialist Republic of Slovenia and Croatia.

The Adriatic Sea was on our right side, as we drove down the Italian coast to Trieste. Our first stop was at the Museo Storico del Castello di Miramare  (Miramare Castle Museum), home of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium. Maximillian had supervised the construction of the castle, along with the 22 acre park (Parco di Miramare) surrounding it.

In 1864, Maximilian sailed to Mexico, where he was appointed Emperor. In 1967, in Queretaro, Mexico, he was shot and killed. His wife Charlotte suffered a nervous breakdown and returned to Miramare. She later returned to her native Belgium.

In 1955 the castle was designated a museum and grounds opened to the public. We parked outside the grounds and walked in. A local man offered to let give me food and have some of the wild birds land on my hand to eat. I was sure there was a small fee involved so I declined his offer.

A circular driveway was surrounded by porticos draped with blooming wisteria, in various shades of violet and purple.

We paid an entry fee to enter the castle, which is furnished with its original paintings and furniture. We toured the gardens and encountered some very aggressive swans! The patio of the castle ends right at the cliffs edge, with a spectacular view of the Adriatic.

We planned to spent the night in Trieste but had no reservations. Leo found an adorable hotel which was very beachy. It was off-season and the rates were reasonable. As usual, I needed to give my passport to the hotel desk clerk. I tried not to stare at her. She was young, blond and extremely tall with very Slavic features. I held my comments until we were alone in the room. Leo told me we were just a few blocks from the border to Slovania. There was a bit of unrest in Croatia at that time and Leo felt it best if we just stayed in Italy. We had a wonderful fresh seafood dinner, seated near a warm fire in the restaurant's firepit.

In our room we found an advertisement for the largest underground cavern in the world: "Grotta Gigante." We went there the next day.

One must descend wet stairs, down down down. A brochure showed that St. Peter's Basilica in Rome would fit inside the main cavern. It was cold (11 C) and dark down there! Little lanterns lighted the way. I had a great time.


We were starving after our underground adventure. Leo has such a good instinct on good places to eat. We had fish at a trattoria in downtown Trieste. Leo had a plate of French fried baby fishes...sardines? We splurged that day and tried every kind of fish appetizer on the menu.  We spent a lot more than usual on our meal, but we split the cost.

We walked around the pier area of Trieste. Leo told me this used to be a popular port for cruise ships.

I noticed here,  just as in other cities on the Italian sea, there were no barriers between people and water. In Italy, one is expected to see the obvious danger and not tumble into the water.

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