At the point where the Latin and Balkan worlds meet, close to Italy's borders with Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, Trieste is a city with a fascinating history. Not only did it belong to Austria, but was its principal port until 1918, and although its importance has faded, it still bears the architectural legacy of its years as part of the Hapsburg Empire. The old town boasts a clutch of gracious palazzi; one dating from 1873 is now home to the aptly named Grand Hotel Duchi d'Aosta. Behind a splendid pale porticoed façade, a series of large, lavishly furnished salons and a fleet of polite, attentive staff recall the grandeur of a bygone era. Bedrooms share the traditional elegance of the public rooms, but with modern amenities and bathrooms. And the restaurant, specializing in local seafood, has an excellent reputation.
Most of the sights are within walking distance of the hotel, conveniently located at the heart of the old town, although there is one that must not be missed on a promontory 5 km to the west. It is the glorious white Castello di Miramare, where the Hapsburg Archduke Maximilian lived and which is now the setting for a son et lumière between June and September.