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The Rilke Path

On a fine afternoon or perhaps at sunset, a walk along the path between Duino and the high ground above Sistiana Bay may seem to be no more than a chance to view the gulf, from the Isonzo estuary to the opposite bank at Punta Salvare and beyond.

As a matter of fact, the area has many exceptional features. It is an important natural rock environment which forms a boundary between the warm Mediterranean environment of the steep cliffs and that of the gentler pinewoods just 90 metres above sea level.

The cliff faces, protected from the north-east bora winds, are home to the Common Hornbeam and the Holm Oak, a tree combination that also exists on the Dalmatian coast as far as the Lim Channel. To the north it is absent at first, but reappears between Miramare and Duino, and Holm oak is unexpectedly present in the Cernizza woods, not far away.

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The environment on the flat contours of the pine woods contrasts with the warm Mediterranean environment immediately below. The pine forest, which was artificially planted, is now mature and has an undergrowth of oak and ash struggling for light among the dense evergreens.

The path’s name commemorates poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who stayed in the nearby castle, where he wrote the Duino Elegies, in 1912.

The route passes by small military emplacements that recall a different past, when this area formed part of the 600 km front between Italy and Austria-Hungary between 1915 and 1917; Sistiana Bay was later used as a mini-submarine base between 1943 and 1945, when the German army was present.

The animal life of both land and sea is noteworthy here, from reptiles and fish to the spectacular peregrine falcon, which nests on the cliffs, and whose presence was a key factor in the awarding of protected status to this truly splendid area.


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Curiosity - A Legend

Two sisters who were walking along the path were washed into the sea by an enormous wave and disappeared. During stormy weather fishermen peering through the reflections of lightning and the sprays of water seem to see the two sisters in the form of two rocks, like the nearby Dama Bianca, (the lady transformed into a white rock) under the old castle of Duino. At one time fishermen used to raise their oars to salute the memory of the two girls.