As with other towns in this region, the tranquillity of present-day GORIZIA – virtually midway along the Trieste–Udine rail line – belies its turbulent past. The castle that dominates the old centre was the power base of the dukes of Gorizia, who ruled the area for four centuries. After their eclipse, Venice briefly ruled the town at the start of the sixteenth century, before the Habsburgs took over. It was controlled from Vienna until August 8, 1916, when the Italian army occupied it. The border settlement after World War II literally split houses in Gorizia down the middle. Italy kept the town proper, but lost its eastern perimeter to what was then Yugoslavia, where the new regime resolved to build its own Gorizia: Nova Gorica – New Gorizia – is the result.
The town’s appearance is distinctly Central European, stamped with the authority of Empress Maria Theresa. Numerous parks and gardens – thriving in the area’s mild climate – further enhance the fin-de-siècle atmosphere. It’s a major shopping town for Slovenes, which explains the large number of electrical, clothes and food shops, and the cafés and restaurants.