Melancholy Miramare

The next day dawned bright and warm.  We had a somewhat awkward breakfast with David, who is quite kind but very hard to understand, and things like what to do with one bowl of cereal for the two of us were confusing.  Nevertheless, we parted with smiles and good cheer, and off we went for our walking tour of Trieste.

Our leader accommodated a group of German, Italian and English speakers with a bilingual Italian-English tour. We were surprised to learn (though perhaps Jan Morris had told me this) that the Piazza had been sea until a few hundred years ago, when the Hapsburgs, i.e. the clever Maria Theresa, decided the city needed to expand and filled it in with whatever debris they could find. From here we retraced most of our steps from yesterday but with more information and a bit more energy.

After the view of the Roman Theater, we proceeded through a pedestrian zone to the remains of the Grand Canal, another of the Empress’s ideas, and this wonderful statue of James Joyce.  We bid farewell to the group and proceeded down the street to lunch at Cafe Tommaseo, a hangout of Joyce’s.  Today it was filled with Asian tour groups, and us, sitting outside for the most delicous fish soup (me) and carpaccio, along with a glass of Prosecco.

From here we took the bus to the train station and then another to Miramare, having a nice conversation at the bus stop with a doctor from Chicago and his two boys, here for his wife’s conference on breast milk.  (He assured Alison that breast milk was still considered best of all.) We compared notes on our travels, in the way of tourists, and he made us think that Rome might be a good destination after all. Someday…

The bus stopped about fifteen minutes away from Miramare, which was a treat as we were able to enjoy the Adriatic strand. Some people were fishing, others were sunbathing on a very uncomfortable-looking concrete pad. Here’s a little clip of the Adriatic beating against the shore.

We came to Miramare, paid our entrance fee (first buying the ticket, then exchanging the ticket just a moment later with a second person, who knows why) and walked through to this perfectly sited yet melancholy place.

Perfectly sited because it sits on a rocky promontory jutting out into the sea and with its white stone walls can be spied from Trieste, eight kilometers away.  It’s surrounded by balconies and walkways, baking in the sun, with a good breeze and the constant splash of waves on stone to mitigate the heat.  Nearby are formal gardens (somewhat neglected, most of the boxwood though perfectly clipped seemed to be dead) and statuary with a little bar where you can get a coffee, a glass of wine, or a Fanta served in a curvy Coca-Cola glass.

But melancholy because the poor Archduke Maximilian, whose idea this was, lived there only four years with his wife Charlotte of Belgium (whose father was the evil Leopold of Belgian Congo infamy). He was made Emperor of Mexico and sent off to a country that was embroiled in civil war and, despite what he had been told, not at all sure they wanted to be part of the Hapsburg Empire.  He was shot by Juarez’s troops in 1867.  After this, Charlotte returned to Miramare, where she slowly went mad.  Morris makes a good story of it all.

The interior is hot, stuffy, and stuffed with furniture and paintings, many of the ill-favored family of Maximilian and Charlotte.  She is actually quite attractive, but the rest are nothing to write home about, especially in the mutton chop whiskers of the period.  There’s a beautiful indoor fountain and great views of the Adriatic, but I would just toss out all the stuff and start fresh.  That’s sort of what the Duc d’Aosta did when he lived here in the thirties.  He was a dashing flying ace who reluctantly (I think) served under Mussolini and died of tuberculosis, although before he was done he became the Viceroy of Ethiopia.

Dinner tonight was another of David’s recommendations, the Siora Rosa down near the Piazza.  Very friendly service.  We shared a meltingly tender eggplant parmesan followed by sardines with onions and polenta for me.  Then we walked through the Piazza to see it lit up, very pleasant, and up the hill to the Gens Julia.

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