TRIESTE

Italy

Plea against ambition

Ambition—what a strange sentiment! This philosophical thought arises automatically when we reach the entrance gate of the park of Miramare. The October morning is splendid and sunny, with that yellow autumn light that intensifies all the colours, sensations, and emotions. The bay of Trieste spreads out before us in all its splendour, the countryside rising in soft and green curves sprinkled with white spots where the karstic rocks interrupt the harmonious mono-tints of the vegetation. The seagulls croak, the waves lick the shore, a nice, little sea breeze sweeps over us with its fresh and salty fragrances. We feel comfortably alive. Before us rises the white and unreal-looking entry gate of Miramare. To be honest, when we walk through it, our sole ambition would be to stay and never leave again.

On the low wall that follows the beach line, an upper-case "M". "M" as in "Maximilian. "M" as in "misery". Wait, there's also an "m" in "ambition" as well as in "emperor". After a lust bend, we discover Miramare Castle in all its white and somewhat kitsch beauty. It's nestled in its sea shrine and exhales a Riviera perfume, a certain smell of women wearing crinoline dresses, of old-fashioned carriages and outdated military uniforms. That's the castle constructed for archduke Maximilian of Austria, brother of emperor Francis-Joseph, and his wife Charlotte of Belgium more than 160 years ago, in that astonishing style mesh-up that comprises quotes and hints of the Roman, Gothic and Renaissance styles.

We step inside after having purchased our tickets. The same style mesh-up can be observed in the vast hall with its dark, wooden stairs as well as in the rooms downstairs. To some people the atmosphere would seem stuffy, heavy and stilted. Yet when compared to the vast chambers and salons, all over-gilded, that we've seen in other Hapsburg residences, we notice that everything here shows a taste for simpler, less ostentatious pleasures, far away from any unhealthy ambition. Once more, on discovering the views from the rooms, we ask ourselves why someone who owned such a gem would ever want to leave this castle in order to stumble into a badly prepared adventure.

On the first floor landing, a very beautiful fountain. The rooms up here, some of which have been refurnished after Maximilian's untimely death, were primarily used as reception and representation rooms. Little surprise, on one wall, we find the portrait of the man who knew how to awaken and exaggerate poor Maximilian's… sad ambition. The same man who, because of it, sent him to a nigh certain death. We're talking about Napoleon III, emperor of the French. We finish our visit with a stroll through the marvellous park. Without any other ambition than having a glass of Aperol Spritz in the sun…

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The Archduke Maximilian of Austria—his full name is Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph of Hapsburg-Lorraine—is born in Vienna, Austria, on July 6, 1832. He remains in the shadow of his elder brother Franz Joseph I, who reigns as as Emperor on the hereditary lands of the Hapsburgs. In 1857, Maximilian marries Charlotte of Belgium. A few weeks later, his brother names him viceroy of the kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. During this period Maximilian has Miramare built. In 1864, a group of Mexican conservatives supported by Napoleon III proposes him the throne of Mexico; unfortunately, he decides to to accept. He arrives in Mexico, which is under French occupation at the time, and reigns as emperor under the name of Maximilian I. But the French troops are withdrawn in 1867, and the Mexican liberals led by Benito Juárez openly oppose Maximilian and form an army. The emperor sends Charlotte back to Europe, where she tries in vain to rally other courts to her cause. In the meantime, the troops of the liberals are evolving, and only the capital of Mexico remains with the imperial troops, as well as Veracruz, Puebla and Queretaro. On March 4, 1867, the forces commanded by the liberal general Mariano Escobedo besiege Queretaro. The following May 15, the city is taken, and Emperor Maximilian is caught. He is tried by a court of justice, sentenced to death and executed by order of Juárez, on June 19, 1867. His wife becomes mad, and her brother, Leopold II of Belgium, interns her in the castle of Tervueren. She dies on January 19, 1927, at the castle of Bouchout. Read also the short biography on wikipedia; another one can be found here; read about Maximilian's deathly Mexican adventure over here – EN
  • Bus #6 of the Trieste Trasporti allows you to reach Miramare without any complications; the ticket costs 1,55 euros. Check out and download the stations and timetables hereEN, IT, SLOV
  • You can enter the park of Miramare for free. To visit the castle, the entrance fee is 8-12 euros (depending on the time of year of your visit). More information the Miramare website – EN, IT

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