Just along the coastline from Trieste is the gorgeous Castello di Miramare
built mid-1800s to be the summer home of Habsburg Archduke Maximilian of Austria and his wife princess Charlotte of Belgium.
Charlotte's royal family relations were legion: daughter of king Leopold I of Belgium (her brother became Leopold II, infamous for his brutal exploitation of the Congo), she was grand-daughter of the Queen of France and first cousin of both Queen Victoria and Albert, as well as of King Ferdinand of Portugal. And completing a triumph of genetic inbreeding, her husband Maximilian (younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria) was her second cousin.
None of this (or being one of the richest women in 19th century Europe) helped avert a bad ending for these two.
Maximilian, eager for a more impressive title, sailed off to the new world with Charlotte to take up the crown of Emperor of Mexico, made a series of poorly judged political and life choices (the least of which was sending home a request for 2000 caged nightingales) and was summarily shot dead by a firing squad.
Charlotte sailed home to live alone here at Miramare castle where she went certifiably mad.
And only a little further along this coastline, the thin finger at the bottom of Slovenia created to secure Trieste within Italy's borders ...
is Duino castle - in different style but more dramatically located on a cliff-top overlooking the Gulf of Trieste
Called Castello, Schloss or Grad - reflecting the fluid national borders of the last century - Duino belongs to the von Thurn und Taxis family.
It was also built as a summer home in the 19th century and the gardens and chapel have a distinctly Italian Tuscan feel.
Rilke famously spent a lot of time here, having an affair with princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis and wandering along these cliff-top trails - both inspiring him to write his Duino Elegies, considered his best work and dedicated to princess Marie.
I liked the family dining room ...
with french doors opening to a balcony
with these views down the cliffs
where swimmers were just visible, lazily floating in the calm sea.
These were my last views of the blue Adriatic before heading back north to the Alps.
Castello di Miramare and Castello di Duino, Gulf of Trieste, July 2016