Gorizia is a border city located in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It sits in a wide valley flanked by the pre-Alpine reliefs. Despite the beauty of the region, the municipality witnessed fierce scenes during World War I and World War II.

The settlement of Gorizia lies at the foot of an isolated limestone relief crowned by medieval castles and is bordered by the left bank of the Isonzo River to the west.

The current urban arrangement dates back to the nineteenth century, and the city evolved rapidly after the end of World War II when the layout of the new political border with Yugoslavia determined the fate of the city.

An archiepiscopal seat, Gorizia’s territory has been inhabited since the earliest times and its name is given by the Slovenian word Gorica, meaning hill or mountain.


The area where Gorizia would emerge in 1001 was inhabited since prehistoric times. The first traces of human settlements date back to the Paleolithic, and the region was inhabited throughout all prehistoric eras. Nonetheless, the actual territory of Gorizia only became inhabited during the Roman times when the capital settled the colony of Castrum Silicanum here.

However, there is no official evidence of the existence of a settlement until the eleventh century AD.


Although the area was inhabited since prehistoric times and was the site of Roman settlements, Gorizia was officially mentioned for the first time on April 28, 1001 in a document in which Emperor Otto III donated the Castle of Salcano and the villa that in the Slavic language is called Gorica to the Patriarch of Aquileia and to the Count of Friuli. The possession of the Gorizia area remained in the hands of the Eppenstein family until this dynasty was called to govern the Duchy of Carinthia, and then became extinct in 1125.

Across an intricate line of succession, the domain of the county was received by a dynasty that had already acquired numerous possessions in Austria, around Millstatt.

The new Counts of Gorizia were direct descendants of the Counts of Val Pusteria and Lurngau, although they were also related to the Bavarian family of the Ariboni.

The history of the Counts of Gorizia is strongly linked to the Patriarchate of Aquileia, of which they were the lawyers. Yet, the patriarchs, dominating Friuli, represented an obstacle to the expansionist aims of the Counts towards the Po Valley.

Hence an uninterrupted series of events dotted the history of the Friulian Middle Ages. In the context of these conflicts, on January 21, 1202, in a church near Cormons (whose ruins are still visible), the Treaty of San Quirino was signed, which officially sanctioned recognition by the Gorizia Counts of the full ownership of the Gorizia area. The Counts worked to complete their scattered possessions, unifying and consolidating them into well-defined domains.

The importance of the Counts of Gorizia began to grow exponentially in the Empire. In 1210 the city obtained the imperial concession to hold the market once a year on the feast of St. John the Baptist, and later it was conceded the privilege to issue its own currency.

In the same decades, the Counts began their expansion towards Istria, while a convergence of interests was consolidated between Tyrol and Gorizia, which materialized with the marriage of Mainardo III and Adelaide.

In 1253, the merger between the counties of Gorizia and Tyrol took place. Mainardo III thus became Mainardo I of Tyrol. Meanwhile, the Counts also consolidated their hegemony in Friuli and managed to become the real lords of the region, occupying Tolmezzo, Sacile, Caneva, Tricesimo and other lands, besides Tolmino, in the upper valley of the Isonzo River.

With the succession of Henry II, Gorizia entered a flourishing period; the expansionist projects of the new Count were never completed, but under his rule, the County of Gorizia reached a truly remarkable extension, with domains ranging from Istria to Tyrol and from Veneto to present-day Slovenia.

Among the successors of Henry II, the action of Mainardo VII succeeded at ensuring the survival of the dynasty, although in 1363 he was forced to cede Tyrol to the Habsburgs. In 1394 Henry IV, son of Mainardo VII, began a very long reign which lasted until 1454.

In 1415 Count Henry received the solemn investiture of his imperial fiefdoms from king Sigismund of Hungary: the county of Gorizia with all its outbuildings, the county of Palatina in Carinthia, the court of Flambro in Friuli and the county of Heunburg. In 1420, Venice definitively demolished the almost millennial Patriarchate of Aquileia, extending its possessions in Belluno and near the Isonzo River.

In 1424, Henry IV and his brother had to present themselves in Venice as heirs of the Friulian feuds of Gorizia, and therefore obedient to the Serenissima. This act became the reason that Venice laid claim on the possessions of Gorizia.

This conspicuous and strategic legacy opens a dispute of European scope between Venice and the Habsburgs. Emperor Maximilian, according to ancient treaties, immediately took possession of Gorizia and its territories. But a few years later, an army led by Bartolomeo D’Alviano conquered lorizia, the fortress that enclosed Castello. The fights were violent, and the flag of San Marco was hoisted on the castle of Gorizia on April 22, 1508.

The Venetian rule lasted for a few months, which allowed time to start the adaptation of the medieval castle to the criteria of modern warfare. In the following year, the Habsburgs came into possession of Gorizia, which would remain under Austrian rule, apart from the Napoleonic period, until World War I.

Although Maximilian drastically reduced the territory of the county, limiting it to the territories around Gorizia, a powerful and organized state entity brought noticeable economic benefits, including the development of viticulture.

The territory around Gorizia specialized in the production of white wines that were exported to Austria; the cultivation of hemp also started to develop, and consequently, the region witnessed the emergence of many textile factories. Finally, the roads connecting Gorizia with Carinthia through the Isonzo valley became accessible, as well as those connecting it with present-day Slovenia. In the sixteenth century, Gorizia grew from just over a thousand inhabitants to almost four thousand.

The hostilities between the Hapsburgs and Venice continued, growing stronger in the seventeenth century. This led to the bloody conflict that has gone down in history as the Gradiscan Wars. From 1616 to 1618, the armies clashed in the territories around Gorizia, with Gradisca d’Isonzo as the epicenter.

Gorizia was not directly involved in the clashes, and in 1615, the Jesuits opened one of the first public schools and seminaries while building the church dedicated to St. Ignatius, an original example of the local Baroque style. The arrival of the Jesuits and numerous other religious orders decisively strengthened the cultural condition of the city.

The eighteenth century is considered to be the golden age of Gorizia. During this period, the population increased up to eight thousand inhabitants under Empress Maria Theresa’s reign.

Nicolò Pacassi, a famous architect from Gorizia, designed two of the most beautiful buildings in the city: Palazzo Attems-Santacroce, now the Town Hall, and the splendid Attems-Petzenstein palace, the seat of the Provincial Museums.

The Age of Enlightenment represented a fruitful season for the arts and letters. The social conditions improved, and the first cultural circles arose.

The first typographies and crafts shops were born, which were used to print artworks. In this period, Gorizia acted as a link between the Viennese influences and the overpowering Venetian artistic influence, with Giovanni Michele Lichtenreiter and Antonio Paroli as the main representatives of a local pictorial school that asserted itself in the eighteenth century. In this century Gorizia assumed the characteristics of a rich and attractive city.

In the twentieth century, the spiritual labor that preceded and followed the first world conflict took on particular connotations, especially in the field of figurative art. Thus, Italico Brass, Edoardo Delneri, Vittorio Bolaffio, Gino De Finetti, Veno Pilon, Sofronio Pocarini, Luigi Spazzapan, Tullio Crali, Raoul Cenisi, and Zoran Music wrote vivid and peculiar pages of art history.

The war events marked the life of the city in a peculiar way. Gorizia, during World War I, was placed on the main front between Austria and Italy and became the scene of bloody clashes during the famous “12 Battles of the Isonzo,” being a battlefield for more than two years. In fact, after 14 months of strenuous fighting, on August 8, 1916 the Italian troops entered Gorizia.

The retreat of Caporetto was the occasion for the return of the Austrian troops to the city in October 1917. The collapse of Austria-Hungary, the victory of Italy, and the end of the war in November 1918, including the treaties of Saint-Germain and Rapallo, led to the unification of Gorizia to Italy.

During the Fascist period, Gorizia saw the construction of some valuable buildings such as the Palazzo delle Poste and the Chamber of Commerce, while the Castle, partly destroyed during World War I, was rebuilt. Fascism proceeded to a forced Italianization of the vast province of Gorizia, inhabited by Slavic populations, especially in the eastern part.

The city was not spared by World War II. After the Battle of Gorizia in September 1943, the annexation of the city followed and the entire Venezia Giulia area up to the Adriatic Coast was under direct Nazi control.

This brought further losses, among which the deportation and elimination in the extermination camps of the very active Jewish community in Gorizia. After the defeat of the German army and its consequent withdrawal, the city was occupied by Tito’s Yugoslav partisans from May 2 to June 12, 1945, events that concluded with the deportation and disappearance of hundreds of unarmed citizens.

The pertinent attempt of Tito’s Yugoslav communist government to annex Gorizia was thwarted by the decisive reaction of the majority of the population who protested in the square, thus avoiding the Yugoslav communist dictatorship and decisively choosing membership in the democratic West.

The historical and political events immediately following the end of World War II had heavy and lasting repercussions on Gorizia.

In September 1947, the city was divided into two parts, separating it from its immediate suburbs to the North and East. Under the Treaty of Paris, the boundary became official, dividing houses, streets, and families between Italy and Yugoslavia.

On November 10, 1975 the Treaty of Osimo was signed, which ratified the one of 1947, making the border definitive.

Following this, the Military Geographical Institute of Florence and the corresponding Yugoslavian institution eliminated the iron curtain, replacing it with a wall surmounted by a net. On October 25, 1977, the military signed the report of the stone marked by the code 57/15 on the borderline between the two states in front of the Transalpina railway station, today in the Republic of Slovenia.

In December 2007, with the application of the Schengen agreements between Italy and Slovenia, the border was definitively abolished. Gorizia has become whole again, as it has always been since its birth in the middle of a vast and interesting area, from a cultural, tourist and economic point of view.


Gorizia is not rich in archaeological evidence, but a noteworthy museum is the Provincial Museum of Gorizia that houses important archaeological collections. The oldest artifacts date back to the Paleolithic era and the chronological collections show the cultural evolution of the territory up to present day.

Apart from the museum, the scarce archaeological evidence is scattered throughout the territory. Remains of various Roman villas can still be admired in parts of the city.

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