"MANY A BOOK IS LIKE A KEY TO UNKNOWN CHAMBERS WITHIN THE CASTLE OF ONE'S OWN SELF."
SPREAD THROUGHOUT FRIULI THERE ARE MANY CASTLES. HERE YOU CAN FIND THE MOST FAMOUS AND BEAUTIFUL ONES.
Once upon a time....
The region of Friuli Venezia Giulia was known in the past as 'the gateway to Europe'.
In the North, the region is protected by a natural barrier in the form of the mountains - the Alps. The same isn’t true for the southern coastline and the flatter countryside in the east, bordered by Slovenia.
Throughout the centuries Friuli Venezia Giulia was often plagued by invaders who did not always invade the country with friendly intentions. Celts, Huns, Goths, and Lombards all invaded Italy crossing through this region of Italy.
Especially in the Middle Ages, private landlords tried to defend their territories from the Hungarians and Turks by building castles on top of hills. These 'roccaforti ' were so important that often entire villages grew around them. The population was able to take refuge behind its walls when one of the malicious invaders once again decided to make things unsafe in the area.
You will find numerous fortress ruins spread across the rolling hills.
Once there were more than 300, but earthquakes and wars have unfortunately destroyed most of them. Fortunately, a dozen still exist. One older than the other, but they are all worth a visit.
Twice a year, in spring and autumn, these castles open their doors to visitors during 'the open - castles days'. They also open their gates on demand for group tours. For information please contact me.
The following castles are open all year long and are definitely worth a visit: Castello Miramare, Villa Manin and Castello di Duino.
........and, before I forget, they lived happily ever after!
CASTELLO MIRAMARE - TRIESTE
The white fairytale castle gets its name from its location. Miramare - overlooking the sea.
The castle was built in the mid-19th century by the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian of Austria, brother of Emperor Franz Joseph. He enjoyed some happy years here in the early years of his marriage to the Belgian Princess Charlotte. He was then sent to Mexico to become emperor and was sadly killed by Republican supporters.
His sister-in-law, the Empress Sissi and wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, came here regularly to visit them.
During World War II it served as a headquarters for US officers but luckily in the fifties, it was turned into a museum which is among the ten most visited places in Italy.
The popularity of the site is partly due to its imaginative architectural style and also thanks to all the original 19th-century furniture which is still present. It is also located in a beautiful spot, on top of a rocky cliff in the Grignano fishing village, near the capital Trieste overlooking the Adriatic Sea. In the distance, you can see, on a clear day, the hills of the nearby Slovenian coastline.
The castle is surrounded by a large multiple botanical garden in different styles. The trees and plants growing here are from seeds from all around the world. Some of which were personally planted by Archduke Maximilian.
Would you like to look at a beautiful large villa that Napoleon himself said was "too small for an emperor but too big and too fancy for a Doge"? If so, come to the hamlet Passariano near Codroipo where you can see with your own eyes what he meant.
The huge beautiful villa was, in the beginning, a part-time residence for the important Venetian noble family 'Manin'. Little by little it became bigger and bigger and by the end of the 18th century, it was completely renowned and became the residence of its last Manin owner - no one other than Ludovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice. Napoleon Bonaparte stayed here in 1797 for two months along with his generals when he occupied the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. You can still see the bedroom where he slept.
It was here that in October of that year the "Treaty of Campoformido" between Napoleon and Austria was signed which officially dissolved the Republic of Venice and handed Friuli over to the hands of the Austrians. The treaty is called this because the meeting should have occurred in the village of Campoformido, located a little further away.
The villa is now a museum and regularly hosts beautiful exhibitions. Behind the villa is a large park where you can take a stroll in the botanical garden. Here and there are statues of mythological figures. In the old stables, you can see a variety of antique carriages.
VILLA MANIN - CODROIPO - UDINE
CASTELLO DI DUINO - DUINO - TRIESTE
Actually you can find two castles in the village of Duino, both built on the seaside on top of a cliff, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Here though the similarity ends. The "youngest" dates back to the 15th century, while his older brother was built about 800 years earlier!
For the latter, only the ruins remain and the legend of "la dama bianca" - the white lady. The story goes that a jealous castle lord didn't want other men to see his beautiful wife and therefore he kept her locked in the castle tower. The poor woman couldn't stand her reclusion any longer and decided to jump out of the window and throw herself into the sea. She ended up however on the rocks and to this day you can still see, coming from the sea, her veiled figure in the form of a white rock.
The history of the youngest castle is less dramatic but no less interesting. For the last 350 years, it has been inhabited by the noble family von Thurn und Taxis. Its spectacular location together with the stunning views over the Bay of Trieste and its beautiful terraced gardens make a visit worthwhile.
In the early 19th century famous artists and people from the literary world were often invited here. The most famous one was the writer Rainer Rilke whose work was inspired by the castle. The 'Sentiero Rilke', an exquisitely beautiful trail of 2 km., which runs right along the coastline, is named after him. While walking over it, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea and the diverse flora and fauna that grows on the rocky landscape, rich in limestone.
CASTELLO DI GORIZIA - GORIZIA
The castle of Gorizia is located at the top of a hill in the center of the city of Gorizia where the city was built around it. It is a true attraction and absolutely can't be skipped when visiting Gorizia.
The first writings about the castle’s existence were in the 11th century. The castle was owned by Austrian earls who already ruled in this part of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The look of the castle today is due to the reconstruction and restoration efforts after the First World War. There was a lot of fighting in this Gorizia neighborhood during this terrible war. The city itself was bombed several times. The reconstruction shows us how this castle must have looked during its heydays in the 16th century.
It is now a museum and several rooms are furnished with original medieval pieces coming from other parts of Italy. Inside are two permanent exhibitions - one with antique musical instruments and the other with ancient weapons.
There is a beautiful view of the city of Gorizia from the castle and also of nearby Slovenia.
Please click on the following link for more information on the days and hours they are open.