Miramare castle, Trieste, Italy.

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Castello di Miramare

Top choice in La Costiera Triestina

Sitting on a rocky outcrop 7km from Trieste, Castello di Miramare is the city's elegiac bookend, the fanciful neo-Gothic home of the hapless Archduke Maximilian of Austria. The castle's decor reflects Maximilian's wanderlust and various obsessions of the imperial age: a bedroom modelled like a frigate's cabin, ornate orientalist salons and a red silk-lined throne room. Upstairs, a suite of rooms used by military hero Duke Amadeo of Aosta in the 1930s is also intact, furnished in the Italian Rationalist style.

Maximilian originally came to Trieste in the 1850s as the commander-in-chief of Austria's imperial navy, an ambitious young aristocrat known for his liberal ideas. But in 1867 he was shot by a republican firing squad in Mexico, after briefly, and rather foolishly, taking up the obsolete crown.

Maximilian was also a keen botanist and the castle boasts 22 hectares of landscaped gardens, which burst with the colour and scent of rare and exotic trees. To get to the castle from the city centre, take bus 6 to Miramare (just past Grignano). Walk through the underpass to reach the seaside path. It's a 15-minute walk to the castle.

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