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Duino - Planted firmly on the last rock spur of the Carso high above the Gulf of Trieste, hard by the clifftop path named after the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Castle is not just another austere stately home. An unusual case in Italy, and far more interesting, it is the living - even vibrant - residence of the princely family of von Thurn und Taxis. The Castle itself is a solid composite construction dominated by a 16th-century tower which holds intact a structure whose origins go back 2,000 years. It was around this tower, on the ruins of a Roman military outpost, that building started on the present Castle in the 14th century. Its location was not far from that of its ancient forerunner, which is traditionally thought to have been dedicated to the worship of the Sun god and has been given The romantic name "The White Lady". Under the Counts Torre-Hofer Valsassina, in the 17th century the Castle began to acquire its status as a cultural and humanistic centre, one that it maintains to this day. In the late 19th century two women of remarkable learning and sensitivity, Teresa Thurn-Hofer Valvassina and her daughter Maria von Thurn und Taxis, opened their salons to the finest names in international art, literature and culture. Teresa Thurn-Hofer Valsassina's guests included: Johann Strauss, Franz Liszt, Mark Twain, Paul ValÚry, Gabriele D'Annunzio and poets such as Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Rainer Maria Rilke (it was in Duino that the poet conceived and composed his famous Elegies). From its clifftop location it overlooks a small fishing village which has now become a tourist centre and holiday village, and is surrounded by extensive gardens. In its interior, the furnishings, pictures, valuables, books and mementoes collected over centuries bestow a warm, elegant atmosphere on the Castle, while its gardens - with their centuries-old trees, manicured lawns, cascades of flowers and architectural features - are an invitation to relax and enjoy quiet walks. A path running through the gardens leads directly to a private beach below.
Miramare - In a prominent position overlooking the Gulf of Trieste stands the Castle of Miramare, the royal residence built at the behest of Habsburg Archduke Maximilian. The castle was built between 1856 and 1860 (Trieste was subject to Austrian empire) on engineer Carl Junker's project, owes its charm to its variety of stylistic features recalling faraway ages, a little neo-gothic, a little medieval, a little Scottish, as well as to the white Istrian stone it is built with. The castle has become a State Museum in 1955. It lodges Maximilian's original furnishings, including what he could not enjoy personally because he was already living in Mexico. All the rooms have been carefully decorated by means of true works of art, according to Maximilian's taste He had chosen some symbols, reappearing from room to room, such as the Pineapple, meaning love for the exotic, the Anchor, love for the sea and the Eagle seizing the snake, an imperial symbol he adopted only after having accepted the crown of Mexico. Every room has its own name: the Cabin - his bedroom; the Novara, reproducing the after wardroom of the frigate on which, as a young admiral, he sailed to Mexico; the Library, supplied with precious volumes and rare herbariums. The climax of the visit is represented by the impressive Throne room, enriched with portraits of the Habsburg dynasty. Recently public has been admitted to the part of the castle transformed by the Duke of Aosta, who lived here together with his family from 1931 to 1937. The park counts more than 2.000 species of plants, trees and shrubs, some of which very rare, interspersed with artificial lakes, flower-beds and woods in order to create the romantic atmosphere of early XIXth century parks. The park is enriched by several monuments, such as the bust of Maximilian and the bust representing the Duke of Aosta, placed along the main path. Along the stretch of coast occupied by the Miramare Castle gardens, the WWF has established a marine nature reserve comprising an aquatic environment of about 30 hectares in which the fauna and flora are protected. The gardens are also home to the Aquarium Museum, the Environmental Education Centre and the Protected Species Sighting and Rescue Centre, founded alongside the nature reserve.