Empress Sissi of Austria in Merano
Empress Sissi spent two of her four Merano health sojourns at Trauttmansdorff Castle. After her arrival “in the strictest incognito” (yet with a retinue of 102 people!) via the newly commissioned Brenner Railway, Sissi moved into her rooms – sumptuously furnished and renovated especially for her – at Merano’s Trauttmansdorff Castle for the first time on 16 October 1870. She had brought her ailing two-year-old daughter, Marie Valerie, with her. A new court telegraph office, with direct connection to Vienna, was even set up expressly for Sissi. The monarch only used a few rooms of the castle, which was unusual for an empress. There were, however, the most beautiful rooms in the entire castle: they offered spectacular views of the Adige (Etsch) Valley and were graced with lavish tiled ovens, frescoes and elaborately ornamented wooden ceilings. During her eight-month sojourn at Trauttmansdorff, the empress lived quite a reclusive life; she loved taking long strolls and hikes.
It was thanks to Empress Sissi’s stay at Trauttmansdorff and the speedy recovery of her ailing daughter, Marie Valerie, that the town of Merano achieved world fame as a health resort. Trauttmansdorff Castle became a fashionable destination for aristocrats and the well heeled – and was always fully booked.
It was not until 1889 – 18 years after her first stay at Merano’s Trauttmansdorff Castle and half a year after the death of her son, Rudolf – that Sissi issued the order to rent the castle for another stay. Her return to Merano was most likely due to “memories of earlier, happier times,” as the empress later wrote about her stay at Trauttmansdorff. The empress lived in the same rooms as she had all those years earlier; she was now, however, a deeply sad woman wearing the traditional black of mourning. After just six weeks, Sissi had to leave because of an impending storm.
Sissi or Sisi?
Differing interpretations have a preference for differing forms: Historians opt for Sisi or Lisi while, to guests from non-German speaking regions and film buffs the world over, the Empress is known only as Sissi. For this reason, the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle decided to settle upon the double-‘s’ form.