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 is the capital of the Province of Gorizia and 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 during the period of early development, by the time the boundaries were marked and agreed by both parties, Nova Gorica came to stand on the Yugoslav side. Taken together the towns constitute a conurbation, which also includes the Slovenian municipality of Šempeter-Vrtojba. Since May 2011, these three towns are joined in a common trans-border metropolitan zone, administered by a joint administration board.
Gorizia is located at the confluence of the Isonzo and Vipava Valleys. It lies on a plain overlooked by the Collio hills, which are renowned for the production of outstanding wines. Sheltered from the north by a mountain ridge, Gorizia is protected from the cold Bora wind that affects most of the neighbouring areas. The town thus enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate throughout the year, making it a popular resort.
Originating as a watchtower or a prehistoric castle controlling the fords of the river Isonzo, Gorizia first emerged as a small village not far from the former Via Gemina, the Roman road linking Aquileia and Emona (the modern Ljubljana). The name of Gorizia was recorded for the first time in a document dated April 28, 1001, in which the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III donated the castle and the village of Goriza to the Patriarch of Aquileia John II and to Count Verihen Eppenstein of Friuli. The document referred to Gorizia as "the village known as Goriza in the language of the Slavs" ("Villa quae Sclavorum lingua vocatur Goriza").
From the 11th century, the town had two different layers of development: the upper castle district and the village beneath it. The first played a political-administrative role and the second a rural-commercial role.
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 language was spoken. In mid-16th century, Gorizia emerged as a centre of Protestant Reformation, which was spreading from the neighbouring north-eastern 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, Catholic Counter Reformation had gained force in Gorizia, led by the local dean Janez Tavčar, who later became bishop of Ljubljana. Tavčar was also instrumental in bringing the Jesuit order to the town, which played an important 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. Regarding 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 an important Roman Catholic religious centre: the archdiocese of Gorizia extended over 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 neighbouring areas, the revolutionary spring of nations of 1848 passed almost unnoticed in Gorizia, thus reaffirming its reputation of a calm and loyal provincial town.
World War I
Italy entered World War I on the Allied side and conflict with Austria-Hungary began on 24 May 1915. The hills west of Gorizia soon became a scenery of fierce battles between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Army. The town itself was seriously damaged and most of its inhabitants were evacuated by early 1916. The Italian Army conquered 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 came under Austro-Hungarian control again.
After the Battle of Caporetto, the political life in Austria-Hungary resumed and 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 who demanded a separate and autonomous Eastern Friuli within an Austrian confederation, and the underground Italian irredentist movement working for the 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, which immediately dissolved the two competing authorities and introduced their own civil administration.
First annexation to Italy
In the first years of Italian administration, Gorizia was included in the Governorate of Julian March (1918–1919). In 1920, the town and the whole region became officially part of Italy. The autnomous 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 adiministrative region. During the fascist regime, all Slovene organizations were dissolved and the public use of Slovene language 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 emigrated to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and to South America, especially to Argentina. Many of these emigrants became prominent in their new environments.
After the Italian armistice in September 1943, the town was shortly liberated 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. After a brief liberation by the Yugoslav partisans in May and June 1945, the administration was transferred to the Allies.
Partition and second annexation to Italy
On September 15, 1947, the town was incorporated into Italy again. 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 Socialist Federal 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 centre, putting Gorizia into a peripheral zone. Several important landmarks of the town, such as the Kostanjevica Monastery, the Kromberk Castle, the Sveta Gora 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 Tito's special support) started building a new town called Nova Gorica ("New Gorizia") on their side of the border.
Though a border city, Gorizia was not crossed by the border with Yugoslavia as often erroneously claimed. This image stems mainly from the presence in Yugoslav territory of old buildings once belonging to Gorizia: these include the old railway station of the line that connected the town of Gorizia to the Austro-Hungarian capital Vienna. 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 21 December 2007.