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The fortress of Monfalcone, built in A.D. 490, sits above the once-walled city of Monfalcone, Italy, and is a symbol of the town.
The fortress of Monfalcone, built in A.D. 490, sits above the once-walled city of Monfalcone, Italy, and is a symbol of the town. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
The fortress of Monfalcone, built in A.D. 490, sits above the once-walled city of Monfalcone, Italy, and is a symbol of the town.
The fortress of Monfalcone, built in A.D. 490, sits above the once-walled city of Monfalcone, Italy, and is a symbol of the town. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A walking platform with rails at the Fortress of Monfalcone, Italy, offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
A walking platform with rails at the Fortress of Monfalcone, Italy, offers stunning views of the surrounding area. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A test tube at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Monfalcone, Italy, holds a white salamander. White salamanders were once believed to have been the offspring of dragons.
A test tube at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Monfalcone, Italy, holds a white salamander. White salamanders were once believed to have been the offspring of dragons. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A 3-D display of the landscape and caves at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Italy.
A 3-D display of the landscape and caves at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Displays show the landscape of the region around the Fortress of Monfalcone in its museum.
Displays show the landscape of the region around the Fortress of Monfalcone in its museum. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Stalagmites and stalactites decorate a room at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Italy.
Stalagmites and stalactites decorate a room at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Clothing and equipment used by those exploring the caves around Monfalcone, Italy, are displayed at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Italy.
Clothing and equipment used by those exploring the caves around Monfalcone, Italy, are displayed at the Fortress of Monfalcone, in Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Equipment and clothing used for exploration of the area's numerous caves are displayed at the Fortress of Monfalcone in Italy.
Equipment and clothing used for exploration of the area's numerous caves are displayed at the Fortress of Monfalcone in Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
The teeth of saber-toothed tigers, which roamed the earth for almost 1.5 million years, are on display at the Fortress of Monfalcone, located on a hill above Monfalcone, Italy.
The teeth of saber-toothed tigers, which roamed the earth for almost 1.5 million years, are on display at the Fortress of Monfalcone, located on a hill above Monfalcone, Italy. ()
The teeth of saber-toothed tigers are displayed at the Fortress of Monfalcone in Italy.
The teeth of saber-toothed tigers are displayed at the Fortress of Monfalcone in Italy. ()
Castello di Duino sits above the Gulf of Treiste in northeastern Italy.
Castello di Duino sits above the Gulf of Treiste in northeastern Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
During the summer months, the courtyard of Castello di Duino is surrounded by beautiful flowers.
During the summer months, the courtyard of Castello di Duino is surrounded by beautiful flowers. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
A view of the inner courtyard of Castello di Duino, which boasts a tower that has spectacular views of the Gulf of Trieste in northeastern Italy.
A view of the inner courtyard of Castello di Duino, which boasts a tower that has spectacular views of the Gulf of Trieste in northeastern Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
From atop a tower in Castello di Duino in the small town of Duino, Italy, a visitor can enjoy a sweeping view of the Gulf of Trieste and the old fortress known to locals as Rocca.
From atop a tower in Castello di Duino in the small town of Duino, Italy, a visitor can enjoy a sweeping view of the Gulf of Trieste and the old fortress known to locals as Rocca. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
Below Castello di Duino lies a World War II bunker constructed in 1942, which contains items from the era.
Below Castello di Duino lies a World War II bunker constructed in 1942, which contains items from the era. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)
During the summer months, the courtyard of Castello di Duino is surrounded by lush green plants and beautiful flowers, but a view from the tower is just as intense, as you peer across the Gulf of Trieste in northeastern Italy.
During the summer months, the courtyard of Castello di Duino is surrounded by lush green plants and beautiful flowers, but a view from the tower is just as intense, as you peer across the Gulf of Trieste in northeastern Italy. (Jason Duhr/Stars and Stripes)

Atop a small hill overlooking a harbor on the Adriatic Sea sits a piece of history from A.D. 490.

Surrounded by lush green views even as winter sets in, a fortress known to the locals as Rocca was once considered an important defensive structure that outlasted wars documented as early as 1289.

Breathtaking views of the harbor and magnificent sunsets are among the sights awaiting visitors to the fortress, which was once named “Verruca Montis Falconis” or “top of Mount Falcone.”

The fortress, which sits above the once-walled city of Monfalcone, is now home to a museum. Displays chronicle the exploration of the area’s caves, or speleology to those who love spelunking.

The displays, with explanations in Italian, are accompanied by numerous photographs that document the fascinating discoveries and rich underground environment of the area. Other displays show the equipment used and clothes worn by the caves’ explorers.

Among the fascinating finds showcased within the fortress walls are the teeth of saber-toothed tigers. A white salamander is displayed in a test tube. White salamanders were once believed to have been the offspring of dragons.

Upon entering the second-floor room, visitors have the opportunity to get an up-close look at stalagmites and stalactites, which were taken from their subterranean dwelling.

Monfalcone is located in Gorizia, a region next to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, home to more than 7,000 caves. Monfalcone has two caves of its own, the Virgin Cave and Bats Cave. These are often referred to as karsts, underground caverns created by streams, some surrounded by limestone. They are open to the public and entry is free.

The Rocca, which has endured harsh weather and many wars, is surrounded by World War I history. An open-air museum, which boasts deep trenches, well-maintained and intact, dates to 1915. The trenches at times served as a front line for the Italian military or as an Austrian stronghold.

The caves can be reached from the rock fortress — if you’re willing to put on your hiking boots and make your way through the wooded brush. Three pamphlets at the entrance offer information in English. It would be wise to grab the Great War Open Museum pamphlet, which highlights four routes to walk, which vary in the time they take to complete, from one to two hours. Incorporating parts of all four paths would take nearly 3½ hours to complete.

The trenches offer inscriptions carved into concrete and rock by some of the soldiers who traveled through them.

Monfalcone is home to nearly 14,000 families and has a lot of history, but if you make this city only a quick stop, I suggest you see the fortress and trenches.

A short drive from the fortress, Duino Castle, or Castello di Duino, sits on the other side of the harbor. This castle boasts a robust history and is well worth a visit.

The castle, which rests on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea, is a private residence, but 18 rooms are open to the public.

Discover what lies beneath the castle as you venture to the World War II bunker or climb the tower to see a different view of the harbor — and maybe the fortress of Monfalcone.

Duhr.jason@stripes.com

Directions The address of the fortress is: Via Valentinis, 134, I - 34074 Monfalcone (GO); leave your vehicle at the small community park and walk up to the fortress. Google Maps coordinates for the park are: N45º48.715’ E013º32.019’. The address for Castello di Duino is: Frazione Duino, 32, Duino-aurisina, Trieste, Italy.

Times The old fortress (Rocca) is open from 10 a.m. until noon and 2-5 p.m. daily.

Castello di Duino is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends only during the winter.

The Virgin Cave and Bats Cave are always open.

Costs The fortress and caves are free to enter.

Entry to Castello di Duino costs 8 euros for adults; ages 6 and younger get in free. There is limited free parking at the castle.

Food Monfalcone has an array of restaurants, including German, Chinese and, of course, Italian. The castle has a food bar that serves panini and pasta, each for about 5 euros.

Information For the fortress and the town of Monfalcone, go to turismofvg.it/Locality/ Monfalcone; for Castello di Duino, go to: www.castellodiduino.it, which has an English link.

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