If you are hankering for a European tourist destination, why not consider the Friuli-Venezia Giuli region of northeastern Italy, bordering on Austria and Slovenia? For simplicity’s sake we abbreviate the region’s full name to Friuli. Depending on your interests, Friuli may be an ideal vacation spot. You can get classic Italian food and other specialties, and wash it down with fine local wine. While Friuli is hardly undiscovered by tourists you usually won’t be fighting crowds to see what you want. Like most regions of Italy it has belonged to many nations over the years. Unlike most regions of Italy, it remains multicultural, an exceptional mixture of Italian, Austrian, and Slavic influences. This article explores Friuli except for its capital and largest city, Trieste, which is examined in a companion article.
Italy’s largest war memorial, the Mussolini-era Redipuglia Military Memorial lies inland from the Gulf of Trieste. Here repose thousands of Italian World War I soldiers. Further west repose fourteen thousand Austro-Hungarian World War I soldiers.
Gorizia is near the Slovenian border. The nearby Military Shrine of Oslavia, is another major burial site for World War I soldiers. The centerpiece of the old city, Borgo Castello, is a medieval castle surrounded by Sixth Century walls. Inside you’ll find a great Venetian art collection. This town is home to palaces, old churches, and a Sixteenth Century Cathedral.
Julius Caesar founded Cividale del Friuli over two thousand years ago. Its historic town center is dominated by the Cathedral Square with its National Archeological Museum. The Sixteenth Century Palazzo dei Provveditori Veneti lies nearby. Visit the Celtic Hypogeum, an ancient subterranean series of rock-carved halls.
Udine was founded about a thousand years ago. The Fifteenth Century Venetian-style Freedom Square includes a Palazzo del Commune (Town Hall) opposite the Clock Tower. The square boasts a lovely Sixteenth Century fountain, Seventeenth Century columns illustrating the Statue of Justice and the Venetian Lion. Several churches are worth visiting.
Udine’s major attraction is its castle, situated high on a hill. According to local legend Attila the Hun built it to watch the neighboring Roman city of Aquileia burn. Earthquakes destroyed the castle twice. It now contains a Renaissance palace housing museums and art galleries. From the walls near the castle entrance enjoy the view of the Italian mountains and Slovenian plains.
Prosciutto di San Daniele ham is the pride of Fruili. It ranks among Italy’s best. Ramandolo DOCG is a sweet white wine produced north of Udine from the local Verduzzo grape. The vineyards are high and the slopes are so steep that the grapes must be harvested and processed by hand. This wine is recommended with Prosciutto di San Daniele ham.