The jewel villages of Friuli Venezia Giulia admitted to the exclusive club of the I Borghi più belli d’Italia are ten. We, in this tour, we have visited two, Polcenigo and Venzone, but in our personal list of countries rich in history, art and culture of this region that Ippolito Nievo described as “small compendium of the universe”, we also included Sacile and Spilimbergo.
Polcenigo, Sacile, Venzone and Spilimbergo
In Polcenigo the water reigns supreme, from the crystalline and cold springs of the Santissima and the Gorgazzo, to the liquid course of the Livenza that runs between the palaces and on which graze the wheels of ancient mills, which were used to grind the fruit of the work of the peasants.
On the village, once home to the best silk of Friuli between 1700 and 1800, dominates the ruins of the majestic Palace built in 1760 by Matteo Lucchesi on the ruins of the ancient medieval castle of Polcenigo, once connected to the Borc through an imposing staircase of 365 steps. Of this staircase there is very little left while there are so many legends that hover around its walls. These include a secret passage linking the castle to square in the event of an enemy attack: but no one has ever found it.
Along the road that goes up to the castle is the church of San Giacomo Maggiore inserted in the former monastic complex dedicated to the saint, while in the center of the village stands the Palazzo Fullini now Zuia, very impressive, with a high portico and two triple windows.
Across the road Palazzo Scolari Salice in which the caring owner Anna Salice welcomed us and Otto during our stay in Polcenigo.
Among the walks we recommend to do in the surroundings the sources of the Santissima and Gorgazzo, sources of inspiration for poets and artists, as well as fascinating for the mystery that surrounds their underground journey explored by the spleleosub up to an impressive share of less than 212 meters.
Do not miss the site of the end of the Neolithic Palù di Livenza, one of the oldest settlements in the humid area of northern Italy, included in 2011 in the UNESCO list along with 18 other Italian locations of the “Prehistoric pile-dwelling sites of the Alpine arc” . Otto has been able to wander in these inhabited places since the dawn of time between rivulets of water, mud and well visible piles driven into the marshy ground that even after so long allow us to understand the lives of our ancestors.
Here the spoken word is decidedly Venetian and the inhabitants of the province of Pordenone, born in 1968 and separating themselves from that of Udine, feel more Venetian that Friulian. And it is not infrequent to hear, between the serious and the facetious, “by the Furlans, three steps away”.
A small Venice is also Sacile, called the Garden of the Serenissima, the westernmost municipality of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region. Also here, the Livenza is the protagonist that insinuates between churches and palaces, creating a perfect balance between art, history and nature and even more than a déjà vu compared to Venice, when you look at the course looking out from one of the bridges linking the islet on which there is the main square of the village bounded by a series of buildings-foundations dating back to the seventeenth century.
But also looking back at the bell tower of the Cathedral of San Nicolò that refers to that of San Marco and overlooks a small square that looks like a Venetian campiello.
The coffee break takes place at Grosmi (Via Aquileia, 5 – +39 0434 70038) to Sacile since 1958, a family business that exports its high quality blends all over the world.
Recommended towards sunset, which gives the landscape a rosy light and a fairytale atmosphere, the detour towards the castle of Caneva.
In reality it is the ruins of the old manor on the top of a steep and rocky slope: bases of defense walls and remains of some towers. Inside the walls there is the church of Santa Lucia built at the end of the XVI century and the bell tower built on an ancient tower.
If all this wander around you made you hungry stop at Caneva at Trota Blu (via Santissima 2 – +39 0434 77027 – firstname.lastname@example.org) where you can taste this river fish bred a few meters from the restaurant in pure water just gushed from the natural “Livenzetta spring” proposed in various ways all delicious: from fried meatballs served with sour sauce to tartare, from delicate carpaccio to the most intense smoked trout up to the mixed fried sea and river.
And both inside and outside on the wooden pier you can enjoy the magnificent and restful panorama all around that looks like an ancient painting with bright colors between the dense vegetation and the pond where ducks, coots and swans swim.
Returning to the I Borghi più belli d’Italia, Venzone, the only example of medieval walled citadel preserved in the region and National Monument, was declared Borgo dei Borghi last year.
Symbol of the rebirth of the country after the catastrophic earthquake of 1976 is the Cathedral of Sant’Andrea. Inside there are fourteenth century frescoes, miraculously intact, some valuable altarpieces and the evocative Pietà from the 15th century Salzburg school.
Next to the Cathedral is the cemetery chapel of San Michele in whose crypt there are some mummified bodies according to a natural process due to a parasitic mold. In the main square, in addition to the nineteenth-century fountain, you can admire the elegant façade of Palazzo Radiussi with the three-light window of the fifteenth century and the Palazzo Comunale, a beautiful example of Venetian-Gothic civil architecture that was destroyed by a bombing in 1945, it was rebuilt from a wooden model between 1952 and 1959.
And from the square you can see the remains of the Church of St. John the Baptist in the first half of the ‘300 and destroyed by the earthquake of 1976: only the main facade remains almost opposite the Porta di San Genesio, the only door to remain standing.
As already said Spilimbergo does not fall into the ten villages of Friuli but we found it splendid. Known all over the world as the city of mosaics due to the presence of the only school in the world dedicated to this technique since 1922, it presents itself as a fascinating medieval center with porticoed streets, alleys and squares.
Walking the gaze is captured by beautiful frescoed buildings. As well as the Palace Painting in the Castle called Spengenberg, “castle of the falcon”, from which the name of the city Spilimbergo. On the façade are frescoed images representing the pleasures of nobility, the virtues of feudal lords and ancestors. In the internal courtyard there is also Palazzo Tadea characterized by its white color and an elegant three-mullioned window: its municipal property hosts cultural events.
The main church of the city is Santa Maria Maggiore which has the distinction of having seven eyes on the main facade. These recall the seven seals of the book on the Apocalypse that tells the end of the world. On the north side, however, there is a large stone portal surmounted by the coats of arms of the Walterpertoldo family who had the cathedral built.
Inside there are fourteenth-century frescoes, altarpieces and sculptures made by the major artists of the time.
During the visit, do not forget the crypt and a to take a look at the sixteenth century organ with the doors painted by Pordenone.
Behind the cathedral is the church of Santa Cecilia with frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries.
Before leaving the village take a slow walk under the arcades and take a peek at the “macia”, the unit of measure for the fabrics that is still carved on a pillar of the Loggia del Comune to testify that in Spilimbergo the engine it has always been commerce.