Take a Walk in the Eclectic Miramare Gardens

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If you are looking for a short walk to round off your trip to Trieste that is not too long or too challenging, something that will not take more than a total of 3 hours out of your schedule – we recommend the eclectic Miramare Gardens.

These gardens were laid out in the north of Trieste around a villa built by Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand in the 1860s when Trieste was the Mediterranean outpost of the Habsburg Empire.

"Villa in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

The palace itself was built in a style that is generally called “eclectisicm”. This is best translated into plain English as “anything goes”.

"palace in the in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

Eclecticism merrily blends every style in the book – Gothic, Romanesque, Classicist – and influences from countries all over the world – Spain, Italy, Morocco – with elements from fashion and fancy. Purists hate it. I know of no greater recommendation. Purism in anything always reeks to me of neuroticism, misguided passion and pedantry.

The gardens are similarly inspired …

"eclectic gradens in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

… mixing the formality of the French style …

"French inspired in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

… with tropical landscapes, connecting the two areas by a narrow footbridge.

"tropical landscape in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

It is probably best to walk around the building first, enjoying the splendid views across the sea …

"views of the sea in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

… before exploring the eclectic Miramare gardens a little further inland.

This area is not vast, but there is enough space to escape the tourists who normally do not get this far …

"secret stairway in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

… and there is a lot to discover, including state-of-the-art 19th century greenhouses …

"luxury greenhouse in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

… and a more informal castelletto, intended perhaps as a place to accommodate “inofficial” guests or as a retreat during a garden party, a throwback to an older – baroque – tradition of landscaping when nature was not considered something worthwhile in itself (never mind “divine”) but only as a fine backdrop for human pleasure.

"Casteletto in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

The Miramare buildings and gardens freely borrow from history, but an amazing amount of European and even American history is tied up with the palace itself.

Archduke Maximilian Ferdinand, a younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph, had commissioned Miramare as his Mediterranean residence, mainly to escape the harsh Austro-Hungarian winters, but it soon became obvious that it was fairly unsuitable for this purpose: the cold Bora winds from the north ensure that Trieste is not significantly warmer in winter than Vienna or Budapest.

Archduke Maximilian’s tendency to listen to the wrong type of advice had worse, far worse consequences for his political career which ended in front of a Mexican firing squad after the French Emperor Napoleon III had volunteered poor Max for a hare-brained scheme of colonialism (aka the “Second Mexican Empire“).

Maximilian’s wife, Archduchess Charlotte, went crazy after that, which appears to be connected to the sightings and nightly stirrings that later inhabitants and guests of the castle have repeatedly reported. One officer of the British army, having been stirred in his sleep by Charlotte’s restless spirit, left the building in the middle of the night and preferred to sleep rough in the gardens.

"statue overlooking the sea in the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

What was a British officer doing at Miramare? That’s another interesting episode in the palace’s chequered history: between 1947 and 1954, Miramare served as the HQ of the Trieste United States Troops (TRUST) who were there to make sure that Trieste would not fall into the hands of Tito’s Yugoslavia. At the time, Miramare was considered a prime assignment for any US officer and described – in official literature – as the “ritziest” HQ of any unit in the entire US forces.

Yugoslavia, of course, no longer exists, and Slovenia – the new country on the other side of Italy’s eastern frontier – is a friendly state, a fellow member of the EU.

The long history of the mutual enmity between Trieste and its eastern neighbour, however, is the reason why the rail connections between the two are still so poor. A daytrip from Trieste to Ljubljana by public transport – a distance of less than 100 km – is only possible by (private) bus. You should count a travel time of roughly two hours (door-to-door) each way.

Miramare, conversely, can be easily reached from Trieste. Just take bus no. 44 from Piazza Oberdan. There is a designated Miramare stop along the way, but don’t worry if you miss it: the stop after that is equally okay if not better, because you walk down to the small marina on the far side of the Miramare which has a nice beach promenade and some fancy restaurants.

"lunch by the marina near the eclectic Miramare Gardens"

Don’t miss to join us on our next walk. Make sure to subscribe to our updates via email or follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  Include us in your G+ circles too. Why not read about our other easy hikes elsewhere in Italy, too?

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