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Sitting on a rocky outcrop 7km from town, Castello di Miramare is Trieste's elegiac bookend, the fanciful neo-Gothic home of the hapless Archduke Maximilian of Austria. 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.

The castle's decor reflects Maximilian's wanderlust and the various obsessions of the imperial age: a bedroom modelled to look like a frigate's cabin, ornate orientalist salons and a red silk-lined throne room. Upstairs, a suite of rooms used by the military hero Duke Amadeo of Aosta in the 1930s is also intact, furnished in the Italian Rationalist style.

Maximilian was a keen botanist and the castle boasts 22 hectares of 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 Grignano, a 15-minute walk away.