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Italian Travel Guide: Friuli Venezia Giulia

With 20 unique regions in Italy, the number of sights and attractions here is endless. It would not be possible to take in all of the amazing things Italy has to offer on just one trip, so plan to fall in love more than once with Italy.

One of the smaller but incredibly charming and historic regions is in the Northeast of Italy: Friuli Venezia Giulia. This area borders on Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea, making it culturally diverse and a beautiful destination for seaside attractions.

Here are some places to keep in mind when visiting Friuli Venezia Giulia:

1)      Trieste

This city is the capital of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, this diverse city boasts a rich and diverse history having been part of the Roman republic, Slovenia, Austria and Italy. As a literary muse, Trieste was home to famous authors including James Joyce and Italo Svevo. Regarded as one of the safest cities in the world (2021) and one of the 25 best small towns in the world (2020), Trieste makes the perfect stop for any Italian tour.

2)      Castello di Miramare

Miramare Castle (Castello di Miramare) just outside of Trieste was built in the mid 1800s for Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian before he became Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. The castle sits on the shoreline of the Gulf of Trieste and is surrounded by a splendid park full of exotic tree species apparently collected by the Archduke himself during his travels. The interior furnishings are original to the 19th century castle and the park surroundings are perfect for a stroll or picnic.

3)      Udine

This city is the second largest in the region and showcases historical architecture such as the castle in the centre of the city which was built by the Venetians in 1517. Another impressive historical and artistic monument is the Cathedral of Udine, which features works of art by Tiepolo, Amalteo, and Dorigny with frescoes from Vitale de Bologna. Renaissance squares, Venetial villas and Tiepolo frescoes make this an amazing opportunity to visit art & history together.

4)      Aquileia

Once a large and prominent city, this historic Roman city is now considered quite small but archaeologically important. Founded in around 180-181BC by the Romans as a strategic fortress, it was one of the first cities in Italy to be attacked by Attila the Hun centuries later. The Basilica here dates to the 4th century and features some of the earliest Christian artwork in the mosaics. This location is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and a definite must-see for the history lover.

5)      Grado

Just outside of Aquileia is Grado, a historic seaside town turned working fishing port. This tourist resort town features beautiful expanses of sandy beaches and is based on a lagoon island accessed by a long causeway from the mainland. A small square here called Campo dei Patriarchi features the Duomo or Basilica di Sant’Eufemia cathedral which dates to the 6th century. Another early church, Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, is close by and dates to the 4th century, although it has lost some of its art and treasures over the years.

6)  Cividale del Friuli

Situated remarkably close to the border of Slovenia, Cividale del Friuli is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Friuli. It is said to have been founded by Julius Caesar with the original name Forum Iulii. This UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases extremely rare 8th century frescoes in the Tempietto Longobardo (Chapel), which is the part of the only surviving example of Lombard artwork and architecture.

7)      Lignano Sabbiadoro

Ernest Hemingway compared Lignano Sabbiadoro to Florida when vacationing here, which is likely attributed to the beautiful weather, sandy beaches and vacation feel. This location is a great place to spend some time relaxing in the sun or enjoying many water sport activities such as sailing, windsurfing and swimming. There are a variety of restaurants, shopping locations and open-air bars to entertain and delight guests.

8)      Pordenone

This city has an especially beautiful and unique landscape with valleys, hills and flat lands. The nearby mountains are host to resorts perfect for winter skiing. The spectacular springs of the Gorgazzo River, renowned for the rich blue color of the water, and River Livenza, provide the perfect backdrop to a picturesque vacation spot. Like other nearby cities and towns, Pordenone has a rich history dating back to the Roman empire. Some historic buildings of interest include Palazzo Mantica-Cattaneo and Palazzo Ricchieri, the latter of which houses the Civic Museum of Art. Duomo of St. Mark in Pordenone is a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral featuring a famous fresco of San Rocco and artwork by Renaissance painter Giovanni Antonio de’Sacchis.

9)      Gorizia

This delightful city, situated on the border of Italy and Slovenia, is a mostly unknown attraction. With its fascinating history, delightful culinary dishes and beautiful architecture, it is well worth venturing to for a short or longer stay. A vacation destination for the aristocracy during the Austrian reign, the original Gorizia lies within the walls of the Castle of Gorizia. Enjoy the view from the amazing architecture of this location. Palazzo Coronini Cronberg, a 16th century compound nearby, features an incredible five-hectare public park and artwork including paintings by Rubens and Bernardo Strozzi.

10)  Palmanova

The third UNESCO World Heritage Site in this region, Palmanova is a unique city created with nine points, like a star. This fortress city was a military marvel, created strategically by the Republic of Venice to defend the borders from threat. A worthwhile day trip from any of the nearby cities, it took nearly 200 years to fully complete. It is completely unique from other Italian and even European cities – considered a masterpiece of precision.