Travel Guide of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy

Friuli Venezia Giulia is one of the 20 regions of Italy, occupies the north-east corner of Italy, just to the east of Venice-Veneto and bordering Slovenia and Austria with the Adriatic Sea along the southern coast. A natural opening to the sea for many Central European countries, the region is traversed by the major transport routes between the east and west of southern Europe. It encompasses the historical-geographical region of Friuli and a small portion of the historical region of Venezia Giulia, each with its own distinct history, traditions and identity.

From Trieste to Udine to Aquileia and Cividale del Friuli, the Friuli Venezia Giulia offers endless opportunities for fun and discover beautiful places.

From north to south there is a big difference in the appearance of the region, because of this mixed geography the region has both popular coastal destinations in the summer and mountain ski resorts in the winter, as well as year round opportunities to enjoy impressive scenery.

Heading north from the coast and cross large lagoons that are popular with nature lovers and an extensive area of flat agricultural terrain before reaching the hills and long-established vineyards of the central area of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the Carso plateau along the border with Slovenia.

As continue towards the north and east of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the high mountain scenery of the eastern Alps (here called the pre-alps) and Dolomites that often dominate the horizon in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

There are many cities to visit: from Aquileia, which with its splendid Roman ruins has become a World Heritage Site, to Trieste, the capital which, between Central European memory and major projects, has been renovated by recovering the historic center and opening galleries of contemporary art of the highest level.

Also not to be missed is Udine, elegant and a little reluctant, to be discovered calmly by stopping to enjoy a tajut, the local aperitif. Friuli, however, is also sea (with sandy coasts to the west, rocky and full of caves to the east) and mythical mountains such as the Karst.

Friuli Venezia Giulia offers a lot of culture, to be found in the territories on the border with Austria and Slovenia, where the Central European flavor is felt both in the spoken language and in the cuisine. Thanks not only to geography but also to the complex history of the region.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is an Italian region with special status of north-eastern Italy, with the capital Trieste, composed of two geographical regions with different historical-cultural characteristics: the historical-geographical region of Friuli, which includes the provincial areas of Pordenone, Udine and Gorizia, and Venezia Giulia, which includes those of Trieste and Gorizia; together with Veneto (Venice Euganea) and Trentino-Alto Adige (Venice Tridentina), it forms the historical-geographical region of the Tre Venezie, or Triveneto.

It is one of the three-word Italian regions, which recalls in the duplicity of the name the duplicity of its nature, as a union of two historical regions: Friuli and Venezia Giulia. United by a common past since the Roman era (Regio X), both then Venetian and after Austro-Hungarian, they belong with Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige to the geographical macro-area of Triveneto.

Historically the region has been part of Austria, then later part of Yugoslavia, being created as an autonomus Itailian region in 1963 – each of these historic powers has of course influenced the region that we see today.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is Italy’s north-easternmost region. The region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes from the mild Oceanic in the south to Alpine continental in the north. Morphologically the region can be subdivided into different areas.

The hilly area is located south of the mountain area and along the central part of the border with Slovenia. This part of the region includes Carnia and the ending section of the Alps (Carnic Alps and Julian Alps), of which the highest peaks exceed 2,700 m above sea level (Jôf di Montasio 2,754 m). Its landscapes are characterised by vast pine forests and pastures, mountain lakes (e.g. Sauris, Fusine and Barcis) and numerous streams and small rivers descending from the mountains.

The main product of agriculture in this area is the wine, the quality, especially the quality white, is known around the world (Friuli Verduzzo, ramandolo, Picolit, Teran, vitovska). The easternmost part of the hilly area is also known as Friulian Slavia, whose name recalls the lands where people of Slavic origin had settled since the 7th century AD.

Central Plains
The central plains are characterised by poor, arid and permeable soil. The soil has been made fertile with an extensive irrigation system and through the adoption of modern intensive farming techniques. In this part of the region most of the agricultural activities are concentrated. The coastal area can be further subdivided in two, western-eastern, subsections separated by the river Isonzo’s estuary.

The flat area that reaches from the hills to the Adriatic Sea is part of the so-called Friuli plain, belonging to the Veneto-Friuli plain, and is usually divided into upper and lower Friuli. The area is formed by a high plain, located to the north, with soils formed by coarse and permeable river deposits.

To the west, the coast is shallow and sandy, with numerous tourist resorts and the lagoons of Grado and Marano Lagunare. To the east, the coastline rises into cliffs, where the Karst plateau meets the Adriatic, all the way to Trieste and Muggia on the border with Slovenia. The Carso has geological features and phenomena such as hollows, cave networks and underground rivers, which extend inland in the provinces of Trieste and Gorizia, with an altitude ranging between 300m and 600m.

Area that can be further divided into two sub-areas, the western and central (corresponding to Friuli) and the eastern one (Venezia Giulia), separated by the mouth of the Timavo river. To the west of this the coast is low and sandy with large lagoons (Grado lagoon, Marano lagoon and the Isonzo mouth nature reserve) as well as famous seaside resorts such as Grado and Lignano Sabbiadoro. To the east the coast is rocky where the karst plateau meets the Adriatic, up to the border with Slovenia. At the end of the province of Gorizia and all of Trieste there is in fact a portion of the Karst, characterized by remarkable geological phenomena such assinkholes, numerous caves (including the Grotta Gigante) and underground rivers such as the Timavo. The modest reliefs of the Italian Karst reach the maximum altitude in672 m asl of Monte Cocusso, which marks the national border.

Main destination:
An important element of the Friulian economy is made up of tourism, with the seaside resorts of Lignano Sabbiadoro and Grado and the historic center of Udine. In the winter season the alpine resorts (Forni di Sopra, Forni Avoltri, Ravascletto-Zoncolan, Paluzza and Sauris in Carnia, Tarvisio, Sella Nevea, Piancavallo, Pramollo and Claut) are popular for ski destinations.

Tourist destinations like the Lombard Cividale del Friuli, whose serial site “The Lombards in Italy. Places of power (568-774 AD) ”is registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the medieval center of Venzone and the Roman archaeological site of Aquileia, the historic centers of Gorizia and Pordenone. From an environmental and naturalistic point of view, the whole Alpine region of Carnia, the Regional Natural Park of the Friulian Dolomites, the Regional Natural Park of the Julian Prealps and the wildlife oasis of the Marano Lagoon are becoming increasingly important.

Other tourist resorts: in the province of Udine San Daniele del Friuli, Gemona del Friuli, Palmanova, Villa Manin, Villanova di Lusevera, Tarcento, Cervignano del Friuli, Tolmezzo and Sauris, in the province of Gorizia Cormons, Grado, Monfalcone, the Redipuglia shrine and Gradisca d’Isonzo, in the province of Pordenone Spilimbergo, Sacile, Porcia, Valvasone, San Vito al Tagliamento, Cordovado and Sesto al Réghena with its splendid 12th century Abbey.

Cities of Friuli
It is the northwestern area of the Region; it borders Veneto to the west and south, Slovenia and Venezia Giulia to the east, Austria to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the south. It extends from the Friulian Alpine Arch to the sea and the Grado and Marano lagoons, including between these two areas a large fertile plain area rich in water. Alongside Italian, the Friulian language is widespread, recognized as an idiom by national laws; Slovenian is widespread on the Slavic border; in Val Canale and in other small reduced areas, German is also spoken towards the border areas. Its main cities, after the capital Udine, are Pordenone, Latisana, Palmanova, Cividale del Friuli, Tolmezzo, Spilimbergo.

Udine: Friuli’s main cityis in fact its capital. It took over from Aquileia and Cividale, which were the main cities of the region, when the seat of the Patriarchate of Aquileia was transferred to Udine. It was the capital of the homeland of Friuli until the conquest by Venice which left a considerable architectural mark on it. Monumental is the central Piazza della Libertà, with harmonious buildings. The Castle, built on the site of the castle of the patriarchs of Aquileia, is a massive sixteenth-century building.
Cividale del Friuli: The ancient Roman “Forum Iulii” gave its name to all of Friuli, of which it was the ancient Lombard capital before Udine. It is listedamong the UNESCO sitesamong the prominent cities of the Lombard civilization in Italy.
Palmanova: Fortress city planned by the Venetians in 1593 to defend its borders with the Austrian Empire, it is called the starry city for its polygonal star shape with 9 points. It has been a national monument since 1960.
Pordenone: The great industrial and economic development has given rise to a vast area of new districts next to the old city. It has a beautiful old town with mainly Gothic monuments. It is the home of the painter Giovanni Antonio de ‘Sacchis, known as Pordenone.
Spilimbergo: The city has an important historical center that derives from a past as a crossroads of trade and the main center of the possessions of the Spengenberg counts: in the sixteenth century it was a cultural and artistic center where painters and writers worked.
Tolmezzo: In a wide valley in the Friulian Alps, the city is the most important center of Carnia and is therefore considered its de facto capital.

Cities of Venezia Giulia
It is the eastern area of the Region; it borders to the south with the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia, to the west with Friuli, to the east with Slovenia which alsoborders it to thenorth. Its main cities are, with the capital Trieste (which is also the capital of the entire Friuli-Venezia Giulia region), Gorizia, Monfalcone, Gradisca d’Isonzo, Grado and Cormons.

Trieste: Capital of the FVG region, “capital” of Venezia Giulia. Although it was devoted to Italianity (it strongly pursued its belonging to Italy when in the post-war period it risked being annexed to the then Yugoslavia) it still maintains a Central European character which comes from its long history as a border town (now on one side, now on the other) and a hinge between the Germanic, Slavic and Latin worlds. Its port is one of the largest in the Adriatic and in Italy; its elegant urban planning, its embrace with the sea and with the mountains behind it make it a destination of great suggestion for artistic and natural beauties.
Gorizia: Provincial capital. Autonomous county with close relations with Venice, it was later included in the territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the Second World War, now Italian, it suffered the detachment of a large part of its territory in favor of the former Yugoslavia, finding itself with some neighborhoods separated by the border between the two states.
Gradisca d’Isonzo: It was a Venetian city fortified against the incursions of the Turks; passed under the Habsburgs, it lived its golden period during which it prospered becoming the seat of the County and greatly enriching its urban structure.
Grado: Formerly a Roman port for the trade of Aquileia, the ancient lagoon city has a very respectable historic center. In contemporary times it has developed an important seaside activity.
Monfalcone: An important port in the Upper Adriatic, it has an imposing medieval fortress that recalls its origins as a fortified city.
Muggia: On the extreme offshoot of the Italian territory on the Slovenian border, it has a remarkable Cathedral, an interesting historic center and a good tourist port

Main Attractions
Although slightly away from the more popular destinations in Italy, there is a great deal to discover in the region – and ideal for those wishing to avoid the tourist hordes and explore somewhere new.

Among the highlights in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, visit the architecturally interesting town at Udine and nearby Spilimbergo and San Daniele, the colourful town at Gorizia and the impressively located Lombardy style town at Cividale del Friuli.

Other suggested destinations worthy of exploration include Grado and Pordenone while the Carso valley and plateau is quite isolated and contains a numebr of attractive hill towns and villages.

Also in the region are some impressive Roman ruins at Aquileia, reminding is of the towns important role as a centre of Roman Italy and now a UNESCO protected heritage site. Near Trieste be sure to visit the Grotte Gigante – the largest (visitable) cave system in the world.

Miramare castleIt is the western part of the Adriatic coast with its sandy beaches and popular resorts such as Lignano Sabbiadoro and Grado that are most visited by tourists.

The section of coast to the east of Monfalcone has more dramatic scenery and cliffs as we head towards Slovenia, passing the castle at Miramare, Trieste and the harbour at Muggia along the Gulf of Trieste.

The most popular ski areas are towards the north and west of the region and include Forni di Sopra, Piancavallo, Ravascletto and Tarvisio.

Historical itinerary
Friuli Venezia Giulia is deep in the heart of Europe, but it is also open to the Adriatic. Its strategic position has often made it the centre of great conflicts and the site of some of the most significant moments in history.

It was here that the ancient Romans built the fourth town of Europe, Aquileia. The Lombards, who were at one and the same time warriors and craftsmen, horsemen and goldsmiths, shaped the land and built a metropolis called Forum lulii – now Cividale – from which the name Friuli is derived. Later, the area became the favourite playground of the Hapsburg Empire. In more recent times, some of the most crucial episodes of the First World War took place in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Immerse yourself in a legionary on watch among the pillars of the Roman forum, brandish a doubleedged sword left behind on the battlefield by the Lombards, discover traces of the Cold War’s Iron Curtain. Or walk along paths trodden by a young German officer called Rommel, crawl among the trenches that inspired the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti and search for the dungeons of a fortress in the midst of powder magazines, gun batteries and tunnels. In a region peppered with battlefields and places where history was made, the past is truly in the air.

The bloody battles of the Great War branded this region with fire. It was not only a frontier, but also the deciding factor in Italy’s victory or defeat. From Carnia to Isontino, from the Natisone valleys to Trieste’s Karst area, Friuli Venezia Giulia is an enormous open-air war museum. It is no chance that Udine was the military capital of Italy from 1915 to 1918.

There are many historic sites that will stir your emotions, like the Memorial in Redipuglia, where the remains of 100,000 soldiers who fell in the war are laid to rest, or the First World War Museum in Gorizia. Then, too, there is a full series of events and thematic programmes, ranging from historic reconstructions to tours exploring places of interest.

Thanks to its encounters with the races and cultures that have crossed its territory, Friuli Venezia Giulia offers a tapestry of places and historic remains of immeasurable value. For example, the Lombard temple in Cividale, or the art treasures of Aquileia – a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site – including the mosaic floor in the basilica, the largest in Europe, and Venzone, a fortified town, which has been declared a national monument.

Cultural itinerary
Elegant and decorous, proud of their beauty but never exhibitionist, the cities of Friuli Venezia Giulia travelled the globe, listened to foreign languages and met distant cultures and religions. For centuries Celts, Romans, Huns, Lombards, Venetians and Austro-Hungarians passed through these places and all left an indelible mark that mingled with local traditions.

Thus Trieste “dressed in Hapsburg clothes”, Udine became home of Tiepolo, Gorizia was called the “Austrian Nice” and Pordenone alternates between Roman, Baroque and Gothic influences and hosts in its province Sacile, the “Garden of the Serenissima Republic of Venice”. Discovering Friuli Venezia Giulia’s art and cultural treasures has never been easier and better value with the FVG Card, the destination card which allows holders to enter the museums in the cities of art free of charge, as well as to take part in the TurismoFVG guided tours.

To see this, you just need to stand in Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia and look at the Audace pier in Trieste, where the first Italian ship docked on 3rd November 1918, symbolising the annexation of Trieste to the Kingdom of Italy, although the city had to wait until 1954 to finally become Italian; or you might choose to walk in the colourful square outside the Transalpine Railway Station in Gorizia, with one foot in Italy and the other in Slovenia.

Set in an unrivalled corner of the world, between the white of the Karst landscape and the dazzling blue of the northernmost edge of the Adriatic Sea, Trieste has always been a vital meeting point between the East and the West. The city that for centuries belonged to everyone and to no one still has the cosmopolitan, cross-border soul of a place where different cultures, languages and traditions can get together

Udine, the elegant and convivial city, where the refinement of the architecture is linked to the rustic charm of the osterias, is the jewel-box- city of Tiepolo, the last great painter of the Venetian school. The artist, who spent the most productive period of his career in the capital city of Friuli, left in Udine a number of masterpieces, many of which are on view in the Archiepiscopal Palace and others can be seen in the Cathedral and in the Gallery of Historic Art in the castle that overlooks the old town centre. Thanks to the visits organized by TurismoFVG, bicycles will be the most suitable means of transport to discover the artistic highlights of the town.

If Trieste reflects its ancient role as the region’s trade emporium, Gorizia has always been the real “melting pot” of Central Europe. It was here, at the crossroad of three European cultures – Latin, Slav and German – that the last fence of the Cold War between Eastern and Western Europe was torn down in 2004.

Pordenone is an elegant town that enchants with its charming old historical centre, a real mosaic of 16th century palazzos, Romanesque churches, porticoes, frescoed façades, Gothic and Baroque buildings. A scroll under the prestigious arcades of the Corso or a visit to the museums or to the temporary exhibitions will let you discover the local history and culture.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is the ideal destination for gourmets and wine tourists, it is a land rich in tasting tours from the mountains to the seaside. Land, cuisine and history have combined to add a unique touch to the regional food and wines. The cuisine of Trieste and Gorizia falls midway between the Hapsburg and Slav traditions; that of the Carnia area is based on herbs, fruit and mushrooms, while in Friuli you can enjoy genuine and tasteful products. Nor must one forget fish and seafood, which is so abundant in this area. The coast roads are dotted with bars and small restaurants offering local dishes based on freshly caught fish and shellfish.

From boreto a la graisana to frico friulano, by way of cjarsòns carnici. Three great culinary trends, Central European, Venetian and Slav, meet in a cuisine that is “made in Friuli Venezia Giulia”, the typical regional flavours come to the fore in a wealth of recipes guaranteed to whet any appetite. Thousands of tasty morsels from an incredible variety of terrains, environments and climactic conditions, because here the ingredients are so pure, natural and local that every dish is unique.

As the Friuli Venezia Giulia’s wine production, Land of top white wines with eight DOC (Registered Designation of Origin) zones, two DOCG (Controlled origin denomination) zones and two interregional DOC zone, 1,500 vineyards producing 80 million bottles a year, with names renowned worldwide, including the two true gems, Ramandolo and Picolit. Not to forget is also the Friulano, the wine symbol of the regional territory.

Agri-food products – DOP: Montasio cheese, San Daniele raw ham, Tergeste extra-virgin olive oil, Salamini Italiani alla Cacciatora, Julia Apple and brovada; Sauris ham (IGP), smoked trout from San Daniele, grappas, honey, the Asìno cheese. 8 regional Slow Food Presidia: the formadi frant, the garlic from Resia or Strok, the radic di mont, the pestât, the patina, the pan di sorc, the red onion of Cavasso and the rose of Gorizia. DOC Areas: Carso, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Collio, Friuli Annia, Friuli Aquileia, Friuli Grave, Friuli Isonzo, Friuli Latisana; interregional DOC: Lison Maggiore and Prosecco. DOCG: COF Picolit and Ramandolo.

Natural space
Totally immersed in nature, Friuli Venezia Giulia will show you what it’s really like to be in protected, unpolluted surroundings. There’s not just one, but many places where time seems to have stood still: parks, lagoons, nature reserves, mountains where silence reigns supreme.

The perfect peaks reaching skyward from the Friulian Dolomites, which have recently been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Julian and Carnic Alps form the ideal frame for the lush green valleys in between. Acting as the region’s natural frontiers, the Alpine chains preserve pearls of rare beauty, such as Sauris, a symbol of the excellent food and wines of Friuli, or the Resia Valley, where the language and traditions of an ancient Slavic race have survived in an unspoilt environment since the 7th century. Or the Tarvisio area, where three natural and cultural borders meet and enclose startling summits that climbers from all over Europe long to conquer.

Descend from the mountains to the sea you will discover the Grado and Marano Lagoons, a splendid landscape teeming with biodiversity, a stretch of 16,000 hectares, where it is possible to find the casoni: simple shelters that in the past were used by the lagoon fishermen. For those who love all forms of nature, Friuli Venezia Giulia offers 3 Natural parks, as well as about twenty types of habitats and 13 nature reserves

From a rushing, tumbling mountain stream to the unhurried thrill of a climb, there’s always a new emotion to stir you. In Friuli Venezia Giulia nature and sport are two inseparable words. If you’re someone who’s always on the go, Friuli Venezia Giulia is your launch pad to rock climbing, trekking, mountain climbing, paragliding, gliding, mountain biking, horse riding. In fact, there are many facilities equipped with manège from which one can leave for a ride along itineraries conceived to discover the most charming places of the region riding one’s horse. For two-wheel lovers, Friuli Venezia Giulia offers a rich carnet of itineraries both for road bike and MTB.

From the golden Adriatic beaches of Lignano and Grado, with their shallow and sandy seabed, to the rocky inlets of the Duino nature reserve, where vertical cliffs drop sheer into the waves. Relaxation, safety and fun, but also the charm to gain new experiences, to get close to nature and to live life to the full. Friuli Venezia Giulia’s sea contains many offers in one. It is ideal as tourist destination for families thanks to its certified facilities and a welcome programme which has been specially created to meet the needs of children and of their parents.

The summer in Friuli Venezia Giulia throbs to the exciting beat of the glamorous Lignano Sabbiadoro; or it relaxes in the silence and serenity of Grado’s lagoon and sandbanks; or it breathes the rhythms of the fishermen in Marano Lagunare. This curve in the coastline takes in 130 km of land lapped by the Adriatic Sea, providing visitors with a wide range of seaside resorts.

Lignano Sabbiadoro, which Ernest Hemingway called “Italy’s little Florida”, is the summer entertainment capital of North-East of Italy. The combination of traditional sparkling nightlife with fashionable shops and boutiques makes Lignano a favourite tourist destination for young people and shopaholics. Synonymous with 24/7 joie de vivre, Sabbiadoro, together with Lignano Pineta and Lignano Riviera creates a vibrant world of sports and health-giving activities.

Together with a well-planned, a lively entertainment programme and Wi-Fi internet access, the beaches are home to swimming, windsurfing and canoeing schools, water gym and lessons in gentle gymnastics. The offer of accommodation facilities, which include special services for families, the wide range of entertainment opportunities, which comprise six different theme parks, and a Health Spa as well as the coast itself, 8 kilometres of golden sand and a calm shallow sea, make Lignano the perfect holiday destination for the whole family.

A spa town favoured as the summer resort of Austro-Hungarian Emperors: along with the natural beauty of its lagoon and an exceptional microclimate ensuring a permanently sun-drenched coast, Grado can be proud of the considerable beneficial effects of its sands and iodine-rich air, as well as of the Italian record of Blue Flags awarded.

There is no chance that the town’s image is often associated with its spas and its thermal water park, a true jewel open to display an 85-metre ergonomic swimming pool, equipped with whirlpool, waterfalls, thermal tubs, springboards and water games. Take a stroll in the elegant streets of the town centre, a real gem of Venetian architecture, a maze of narrow and charming alleys and calli, where you will find the best of the local food and wine tradition

There is something for nature lovers and more adventurous visitors too: the steep rugged cliffs of the Karst coast. Enjoy the splendid panorama as you perch high on the twisting coastal road that leads to Trieste? In summer, the whole shoreline teems with life in a swarm of small bathing establishments. The one that stands out in the city centre is the Pedocin: the only beach in Europe with a wall that separates women from men, a legacy of the Austro-Hungarian era.

Friuli Venezia Giulia offer a destination to grant your wishes, offering an all-round holiday with much more than simply skiing. Friuli Venezia Giulia means totally safe skiing without overcrowding in the five regional ski areas with about 140 kilometres of slopes. An enormous range of choices with something for everyone, no matter how well you can ski, and with guaranteed snow thanks to artificial snow-making. Another 100 kilometres of cross-country ski circuits through magical scenery provide even more variety. You can ski in Italy and Austria with a single ski pass, and have the same charming experience between Italy and Slovenia as well, thanks to the cross-border link between the Friulian ski area of Sella Nevea and the Slovenian ski area of Bovec.

The wealth of different landscapes and microclimates captured between the mountains and the sea is complemented by a full programme of events and endless opportunities to satisfy your taste for exploration. There is a whole world to discover that will tempt your fancy: food and wine tours, crafts that have never been lost, archaeological remains, rural and mediaeval villages, hidden castles, waterside tracks and ancient mills, historical reenactments, timeless rituals, even witches’ paths.

Friuli Venezia Giulia has its own special kind of hospitality, too. A wide range of alternative accommodation facilities enables to plunge into authentic rural life. For instance, you might choose to stay in one of the Alpine shepherds’ huts, with the chance to lend a hand with cheese-making; or you might like to stay on one of the holiday farms. Visitors stay in ancient houses in small towns or villages, which have been perfectly restored, decorated and equipped in the typical mountain tradition, but with access to all the services of a hotel, all this at extremely competitive prices.