Trieste (IT): Napoleonica and Miramare Castle
The Napoleonica and Miramare Castle are the best places to go in Trieste, if you want to escape the Italian Siesta-shutdown. The Napoleonica is a walking trail above the Adriatic with stunning views over Trieste and the Gulf of Trieste; situated directly on the Adriatic coast, however, are Miramare Castle and its botanical garden, which are open to visitors all year round, throughout the day.
Typically, when my family and I take a daytrip to Italy, we arrive around noon, shortly before bustling city centers turn into ghost-cities, when shops close, churches close and only bars and restaurants remain open. This is the moment, when again and again, we ask ourselves how to bypass this three-hours-long forced break to all public life. In Trieste this question can be answered easily: By walking the Napoleonica or by visiting Miramare Castle.
Both destinations are within easy reach by public transport, starting from Trieste’s downtown, from Piazza Oberdan. Buy tickets before you head off and before the start of the siesta (!), for example at one of the kiosks which are indicated by a “T” (Sali e Tabacchi), because they are not sold on the buses and trams. If you want to go to Miramare, take the bus #36 in direction of Grignano (every 20 minutes) to the final stop and walk another 15 minutes along the Lungomare to the entrance of the castle. If you want to go to the Napoleonica, take the tram #2 in direction of Opicina (every 20 minutes) and get off at the obelisk of Opicina/ Piazzola dell’ Obelisco.
The Napoleonica, also known as Strada Vicentina (named after the engineer who measured this trail), is a street that was built during the Napoleonic era to enhance troop transportation between Venice and Trieste. Nowadays this is where the residents of Trieste take their Sunday walk: the level street huddles 250 meters above sea level against the limestone rock and thus follows a good 4 km the coastal line of the Adriatic. Not only is it sheltered from the wind and sunny, the street also allows gorgeous views over Trieste, its old harbor and the Gulf of Trieste. As for the way back, take again the historic tram; it has been in operation since 1902 and it overcomes its steepest section (26% gradient) with the help of a buffer train; I admit I have a nostalgia for tramways and in my very own list of Trieste’s highlights, the ride with the #2 ranks very highly.
Miramare Castle rises picturesquely from a rock above the sea. The residence of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, brother of the Austrian Emperor, and his wife Charlotte of Belgium, was built in the historicism style between 1856 and 1860, shortly after Ferdinand Maximilian’s appointment as the supreme commander of the Austrian navy, which was based in Trieste. The architect in charge was Carl Junker, who is better known for his water engineering projects. The interior decoration, carried out by Franz Hofmann and his son in accordance with detailed instructions by the Archduke himself, was completed around 1870.
The castle opens to a spacious garden in the Italian style with symmetrical plantings and bed-framings in the castle’s vicinity. The largest part of the garden, however, is designed as an English park, with indigenous plants as well as exotic plants, which Ferdinand Maximilian collected while traveling with the Austrian navy.
During his lifetime, Ferdinand Maximilian never enjoyed the completion of Miramare Castle; he was appointed Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1863 and set out for a country that hadn’t wished for a European solution to inner American problems. By 1867 he was dethroned and sentenced to death. Éduard Manet’s painting “The Execution of Emperor Maximilian” depicts his last moment alive.
‘Marina di Miramare’, the bay off the coast of Miramare Castle, has been a nature reserve for several years now; pools in the Castelletto of Miramare’s gardens give insights into the rich diversity of species in the ‘Marina di Miramare’.
It’s good to know:
About the Napoleonica (English):
About the tram to Opicina:
Castello di Miramare – Parco di Miramare
Viale Miramare, 34151 Trieste (IT)
Information about Miramare Castle, the entrance hours and entrance fees (Italian, English, French, German):