Theme Week Friuli Venezia Giulia – Gorizia

Thursday, 23 December 2021 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, European Capital of Culture
Reading Time:  14 minutes

Gorizia and the castle © T137

Gorizia and the castle © T137

Gorizia is a town and comune in northeastern Italy, in the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is located at the foot of the Julian Alps, bordering Slovenia. It was the capital of the former Province of Gorizia and is a local center of tourism, industry, and commerce. Since 1947, a twin town of Nova Gorica has developed on the other side of the modern-day Italian–Slovenian border. The entire region was subject to territorial dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia after World War II: after the new boundaries were established in 1947 and the old town was left to Italy, Nova Gorica was built on the Yugoslav side. Taken together, the two towns constitute a conurbation, which also includes the Slovenian municipality of Šempeter-Vrtojba. Since May 2011, these three towns have been joined in a common trans-border metropolitan zone, administered by a joint administration board. The name of the town comes from the Slovene word gorica ‘little hill’, which is a very common toponym in Slovene-inhabited areas. In 2025 both cities will be the European Capital of Culture together as one.

In 1500, the dynasty of the Counts of Gorizia died out and their County passed to Austrian Habsburg rule, after a short occupation by the Republic of Venice in the years 1508 and 1509. Under Habsburg dominion, the town spread out at the foot of the castle. Many settlers from northern Italy moved there and started their commerce. Gorizia developed into a multi-ethnic town, in which Friulian, Venetian, German, and Slovene were spoken. In mid-16th century, Gorizia emerged as a center of Protestant Reformation, which was spreading from the neighboring northeastern regions of Carniola and Carinthia. The prominent Slovene Protestant preacher Primož Trubar also visited and preached in the town. By the end of the century, however, the Catholic Counter-Reformation had gained force in Gorizia, led by the local dean Johann Tautscher, who later became bishop of Ljubljana. Tautscher was also instrumental in bringing the Jesuit order to the town, which played a role in the education and cultural life in Gorizia thereafter. Gorizia was at first part of the County of Görz and since 1754, the capital of the Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca. In ecclesiastical matters, after the suppression of the Patriarchate of Aquileia in 1751, the Archdiocese of Gorizia was established as its legal successor on the territory of the Habsburg Monarchy. Gorizia thus emerged as a Roman Catholic religious center. The archdiocese of Gorizia covers a large territory, extending to the Drava River to the north and the Kolpa to the east, with the dioceses of Trieste, Trento, Como and Pedena subject to the authority of the archbishops of Gorizia. A new town quarter developed around the Cathedral where many treasures from the Basilica of Aquileia were transferred. Many new villas were built conveying to the town the typical late Baroque appearance, which characterized it up to World War I. A synagogue was built within the town walls, too, which was another example of Gorizia’s relatively tolerant multi-ethnic nature. During the Napoleonic Wars, Gorizia was incorporated to the French Illyrian Provinces between 1809 and 1813. After the restoration of the Austrian rule, the Gorizia and its county were incorporated in the administrative unit known as the Kingdom of Illyria. During this period, Gorizia emerged as a popular summer residence of the Austrian nobility, and became known as the “Austrian Nice“. Members of the former French ruling Bourbon family, deposed by the July Revolution of 1830, also settled in the town, including the last Bourbon monarch Charles X who spent his last years in Gorizia. Unlike in most neighboring areas, the revolutionary spring of nations of 1848 passed almost unnoticed in Gorizia, thus reaffirming its reputation of a calm and loyal provincial town. In 1849, the County of Gorizia was included in the Austrian Littoral, along with Trieste and Istria. In 1861, the territory was reorganized as the Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca and granted regional autonomy. At that time, Gorizia was a multiethnic town; Italian and Venetian, Slovene, Friulian, and German were all spoken in the town center, while in the suburbs Slovene and Friulian prevailed. Although some tensions between the Italian-Friulian and the Slovene population existed, the town continued to maintain a relatively tolerant climate in which both Slovene and Italian-Friulian cultures flourished. On the eve of World War I, Gorizia had around 31,000 inhabitants and was the third-largest city in the Austrian Littoral, following Trieste and Pula (Pola). Another 14,000 people lived in the suburbs, making it one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the Alpe-Adria area, ahead of Klagenfurt, Maribor, Salzburg, Bozen or Trento. Within the city limits, about 48% of the population spoke Italian or Friulian as their first language, while 35% were Slovene speakers. In the suburbs, the Slovene speaking population prevailed, with 77% versus 21% Italian/Friulian speakers (Inner Austria, Gorizia and Gradisca, Austrian Littoral, Austrian Riviera, and Italian irredentism).

Gorizia was not on the frontline during the first 10 months of World War I, but the first Gorizian victim of the war occurred as early as August 10, 1914, when Countess Lucy Christalnigg was shot by Landsturmer guards while driving her car on a mission for the Austrian Red Cross. Italy entered World War I on the Allied side and conflict with Austria-Hungary began on May 24, 1915. The hills west of Gorizia soon became the scene of fierce battles between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies. The town itself was seriously damaged and most of its inhabitants had been evacuated by early 1916. The Italian Army occupied Gorizia during the Sixth Battle of the Isonzo in August 1916, with the front line moving to the eastern outskirts of the town. With the Battle of Caporetto in October and November 1917, when the Central Powers pushed the Italians back to the Piave River, the town returned to Austro-Hungarian control. After the Battle of Caporetto, Gorizia became the focus of three competing political camps: the unified Slovene nationalist parties that demanded a semi-independent Yugoslav state under the House of Habsburg, the Friulian conservatives and Christian Socialists who demanded a separate and autonomous Eastern Friuli within an Austrian confederation, and the underground Italian irredentist movement working for unification with Italy. At the end of World War I, in late October 1918, the Slovenes unilaterally declared an independent State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, while the Friulians continued to demand an autonomous region under Habsburg rule. Gorizia became a contested town. In early November 1918, it was occupied by Italian troops again, who immediately dissolved the two competing authorities and introduced their own civil administration (Italian Front (World War I) and Battles of the Isonzo).

Piazza della Vittoria © Limonadis Piazza Sant'Antonio © T137 Gorizia and the castle © T137 Gorizia Castle © T137/cc-by-sa-3.0 Gorizia Duomo © Sailko/cc-by-3.0 © Viator slovenicus/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Viator slovenicus/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Gorizia Castle © T137/cc-by-sa-3.0
In the first years of Italian administration, Gorizia was included in the Governorate of the Julian March (1918–1919). In 1920, the town and the whole region became officially part of Italy. The autonomous County of Gorizia and Gradisca was dissolved in 1922, and in 1924 it was annexed to the Province of Udine (then called the Province of Friuli). In 1927 Gorizia became a provincial capital within the Julian March administrative region. During the fascist regime, all Slovene organizations were dissolved and the public use of Slovene was prohibited. Underground Slovene organizations, with an anti-Fascist and often irredentist agenda, such as the militant insurrectionist organization TIGR, were established as a result. Many Slovenes fled to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and to South America, especially to Argentina. Many of these emigrants became prominent in their new environments. Very few Slovene-speaking intellectuals and public figures decided to stay in the town, and those few who did, like the writer France Bevk, were subject to persecution. The town, heavily damaged during World War I, was rebuilt in the 1920s according to the plans laid out by the local architect Max Fabiani. Several rationalist buildings were built during this period, including some fine examples of Fascist architecture. The borders of the town were expanded, absorbing the suburbs of Salcano (Solkan), Podgora, Lucinico, and San Pietro di Gorizia (Šempeter pri Gorici), as well as the predominantly rural settlements of Vertoiba (Vrtojba), Boccavizza (Bukovica) and Sant’Andrea (Štandrež). According to the Italian census of 1921, the expanded town had around 47,000 inhabitants, among whom 45.5% were native Slovene, 33% Italian (mostly Venetian), and 20.5% Friulian speakers. Benito Mussolini visited the town twice: in 1938 and in 1942. After the Italian armistice in September 1943, the town was shortly occupied by the Slovene partisan resistance, but soon fell under Nazi German administration. Between 1943 and 1945 it was incorporated into the Operational Zone Adriatic Littoral. The town was briefly occupied by the Yugoslav Partisans in May and June 1945. With the arrival of the Yugoslav partisans in Gorizia in May 1945 a fierce repression began against the opponents, or potential opponents of the regime. At least 1,048 Italian civilians and military disappeared. According to some historians, many of the killings and violence suffered by the Italian ethnic group in Gorizia (and the rest of Friuli and Venezia Giulia) by the Yugoslav army were perpetrated as part of an ethnic cleansing practiced by Tito. Soon the administration was transferred to the Allies, who ruled the town for more than two years, amidst fierce ethnic and political turmoil.

On September 15, 1947, the town came back to Italy. Several peripherical districts of the Gorizia municipality (Solkan, Pristava, Rožna Dolina, Kromberk, Šempeter pri Gorici, Vrtojba, Stara Gora, Ajševica, Volčja Draga, Bukovica, Vogrsko) were handed over to the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, together with the vast majority of the former Province of Gorizia. Around a half of the pre-war area of the municipality of Gorizia, with an approximate 20% of the population, were annexed to Yugoslavia. The national border was drawn just off the town center, putting Gorizia into a peripheral zone. Several landmarks of the town, such as the Kostanjevica Monastery/Convento di Castagnevizza, Kromberk Castle/Castello Coronini, the Sveta Gora/Monte Santo pilgrimage site, the old Jewish cemetery, and the northern railway station, remained on the other side of the border. In 1948, the authorities of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (with president Josip Broz Tito‘s special support) started building a new town called “Nova Gorica” (“New Gorizia”) on their side of the border (Morgan Line, Treaty of Osimo). From the late 1940s onward, Gorizia gave refuge to thousands of Istrian Italians that had to flee the regions annexed to Yugoslavia. Many of those settled in the town, and had a role in shaping its post-war national and political identity. Though a border city, Gorizia was only in part crossed by the border with Yugoslavia. Some important old buildings once belonging to Gorizia were included in the Yugoslav territory: these include the old railway station of the Transalpina line that connected Trieste to Villach, as well as to the town landmarks. Although the situation in Gorizia was often compared with that of Berlin during the Cold War, Italy and Yugoslavia had good relations regarding Gorizia. These included cultural and sporting events that favoured the spirit of harmonious coexistence that remained in place after Yugoslavia broke up in 1991. With the breakup of Yugoslavia, the frontier remained as the division between Italy and Slovenia until the implementation of the Schengen Agreement by Slovenia on December 21, 2007.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Gorizia, Wikivoyage Gorizia and Wikipedia Gorizia. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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