5 Reasons to Visit FriuIi Venezia Giulia, Italy

FriuIi Venezia Giulia is a northeastern region in Italy which borders Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea and is home to the Dolomite Mountains.  It’s the most charming region in Italy and where I was born (so I might not be objective). I love my region and by the end of this article I hope you will too. Every place I will tell you about, I have biked to. Every food item, I have tasted, mainly in my mother’s kitchen. The history is my history, filled with both dark and glorious moments. The people are my people with all their dialects – even the ones I still don’t understand. Here’s a local’s guide to Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy and 5 Reasons You Should Visit the Region:

Friuli Venezia Giulia

1. The Alps & The Mediterranean Sea

In one hour and a half, you can drive from the Alps to the Adriatic, from the peaks surrounding Tarvisio to the beaches of Grado.

In the heart of the Canal Valley, Tarvisio is a getaway to the Alpine’s beauty. The touristic trail of the Fusine Lakes is an easy walk that connects chalets and pristine waters. Surrounded by woods and high peaks, you will want to linger and perhaps hike to the Zacchi refuge which offers a Finnish sauna. Or maybe you’d rather go back downtown to do some shopping in the Mercato, inaugurated in 1957.

After the Alps, drive to the Adriatic Sea in Grado, with its delightful old town and the Nature Reserve of the Foci dell’Isonzo. Pedestrian streets will take you through the Venetian charm of Grado just a few steps from the beach. To relax, the baths are your jam. For some fresh air, bike to the mouth of the River Isonzo in only 6 km (3.7 miles) and enjoy the 640 different species of plants at the Reserve.

Friuli Venezia Giulia

2. Centuries of History in 3,033 Square Miles

In Friuli Venezia Giulia, vestiges of the Paleolithic era (such as in Palù di Livenza) stand next to Roman cathedrals in the town of Aquileia, which stand above the remindings of the horror of World War II in the Foibe of Basovizza in Trieste.

Aquileia has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998 for its architectural beauty. Founded by the Romans, the city’s excavations brought to light ruins that stand right next to the Cathedral, a Gothic marvel from the Middle Ages.

Cividale del Friuli joined the UNESCO list in 2011 thanks to its Lombard treasures. Take a stroll across Devil’s Bridge, associated with European legends such as the one about an older woman who made a pact with the Devil. In exchange for his help building the bridge, the Devil would receive the first soul to cross it. Don’t worry, you’re safe: built in the 15th century, many souls have already crossed.

Moving through the centuries, the city of Valvasone takes you back to the Middle Ages. During the historical evocation in September, the streets fill with Guillare Sbandieratori, kings,and queens, archers, and knights that battle, laugh and braid the girls’ hair.

Other historical destinations include: Palmanova, built in the shape of a star and recent candidate for UNESCO recognition, Gorizia and its controversial past after the WWII, and Venzone which was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1976 in the scent of lavender.

Friuli Venezia Giulia

3. Sports

Friuli Venezia Giulia offers more than hiking trails in the Alps and aquatic activities in the Mediterranean Sea. For those who like walking but not hiking, the Natisone Valley leads through woods and zigzags across the Slovenian border.

Cyclists have several options. One is the Ciclovia Alpe Adria, which runs from Salzburg to Grado. You can easily do the 410 km (255 miles) hopping on and off the Trenitalia train when your legs hurt. A lesser known (almost secret) bike route follows the River Tagliamento until it reaches the maritime city of Lignano. Weaving along the riverside, you will be able to take a swim in the chilly water and to stop in the small villages to drink an aperitivo.

Skiers can also have quite a bit of fun on the runs. One of the most scenic routes is the one that starts  on Mount Lussari and ends with 4 km of downhill madness. On top of the mount stands a sanctuary built in the 16th century and rebuilt after a bombing in 1915. The church is a pilgrimage destination, with people coming to worship from Italy, Austria and Slovenia.

Friuli Venezia Giulia

4. Food and wine, of course.

Where to start?  Perhaps with the frico, a wafer of cheeses and potatoes baked or fried – the perfect choice for vegetarians. If you prefer meat, San Daniele del Friuli is the city of the ham, while Sauris is the city of delicious speck. The muset and brovada is cotechino on a plate of turnip slowly cooked in marc. If you like desserts, you can’t miss the gubana, a roll filled with nuts and dried fruit.

Wineries create the landscape of this region with the white grapes of the Friulano and the red grapes of the Merlot, just to mention a couple. To digest the meal, sip some grappa, the most famous one being Nonino.

Friuli Venezia Giulia

5. The Sagre

Sagre are town festivals, but without the roller coasters and the suggested donations at the door. They don’t engage one street, but the entire village in a community effort. Every town you will drive through in Friuli Venezia Giulia has its own themed sagra, from those hosted in a courtyard to those by the River Tagliamento. The most popular ones (such as the Sagra del Frico of Carpacco or the Luglio Varianese) are always crowded, so make sure you arrive early. Local bands will make you dance while your kids draw numbers at the pesca, hoping to win toys.

Ready to book your trip?  You can find a great deal on your Friuli Venezia Giulia hotel here.

Have you packed your suitcase yet? Why would you like to visit FriuIi Venezia Giulia, Italy?

Gaia Zol is an Italian reporter who lives in the United States, from the rain of Venice to the ice of Chicago. She is a traveler and a wannabe ballet dancer. As every typical Italian, Gaia loves pasta (especially carbonara) and complains about everything… but she can’t sing opera nor cook decently.  You can follow her at Gaia Travels.

Are you a blogger interested in participating in my A Local’s Guide series?  Shoot me an email.

The hotel link in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to book through the link I earn a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support to keep this site up and running!  CC header photo from flickr: Trieste by Luca Candini.

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