For us Apulian people water is that of the sea. And already Orazio defined our region “siticulosa Apulia”, so in the presence of a land like Friuli Venezia-Giulia, so rich in courses and pools of water, we feel a strange wonder.
Mountains, hills, plains and coasts:
here is Friuli Venezia-Giulia
And we look at the mighty rivers like the Tagliamento or the smaller and impetuous streams up to the springs with intense reflections of sapphire and emeralds and the changing and still surfaces of the lakes, with the wide eyes of children who see something new for the first time. Then, closing them, we listen to that unusual for us melody that creates the gush of water on the rocks. And we are transported to another world!
After this premise, two observations. First: your furry friends will be welcome everywhere! Pampered in accommodation facilities and restaurants, they are also allowed in museums as long as they can carry them in their arms. We, our Otto, weighing 36 kilos, left him by car in the shade of the lush green that is everywhere.
Second: it is not clear why a region with such an enviable geographic variety, between mountains, hills, plains and coasts, is “snubbed” by most. It may be that at the origin of this there is the conviction that the Friulian people, among others very varied, have a rude, severe and often anything but amiable character. So regarding our experience immediately deny this “legend”: if it is true that the Friulian in general does not do anything to please or gratify, is also true that he is a sincere and solid person, with whom it is difficult not to establish a good relationship right away.
At the first impact Friuli gives the idea of a world apart, of an Italy mixed with Slavic and German, but going deeper through the knowledge of territories and people comes to the belief that, despite coming from the two extremes of Italy or perhaps for this reason, there are many affinities between Friuli and Puglia. It will be because both regions have always been lands of passage of peoples and cultures, or, as already said Bindo Chiurlo, because the people of Friuli is the southernmost of the northern peoples.
And it is no coincidence that with our story we started from these observations and the words of Chiurlo, a remarkable scholar of Friulian language and literature, born in Cassacco in the province of Udine. Because it is precisely from here that our journey began to discover this region so undervalued and misunderstood especially at the tourist level, modest and at the same time intriguing.
These are places where, as we have already pointed out, nature has been generous but also man has put his own among villages and castles. Of this and much more we talked with the Count Luigi Deciani, owner of Villa Gallici Deciani, one of the most beautiful Venetian villas immersed in the green and with a spectacular view of the Alps at the back.
Starting from Aquileia, one of the most fascinating cities of Roman origins that we reserve to visit on our next tour in Friuli.
Originally inhabited by the Celts, the region was later conquered by the Huns of Attila.
Aquileia was razed completely to the ground by the barbarians, but then as the arab phoenix rose from its ashes becoming a Patriarchate among the most influential States of the italian Peninsula.
But its true end was decreed by Venice, which remained a lady of the western part until the Treaty of Campoformio, when Napoleon ceded it to the Habsburg Empire that had already conquered eastern Friuli in 1516.
With the Congress of Vienna, the region was annexed to the Lombard-Veneto Kingdom, Udine and Pordenone became Italian during the Third War of Independence, Gorizia at the end of the First World War, while Trieste only in 1954 after nine years of Allied military administration.
This brief historical excursus clarifies how one of the most fascinating sides of the territory is the cultural one, especially in the countries bordering Austria and Slovenia, a mix with a Middle European flavor that is felt both in the language and in the kitchen. But we will talk about this later.
The first two towns we visited were Udine and Cividale del Friuli.
The first is elegant and haughty: its calling card is Piazza Libertà, called “the most beautiful Venetian square on the mainland”, while to dominate the historic center from a hill of 138 meters of the city is the Castle that stands in a large green park from which you can admire the panorama of the Friuli plains and the Carnic Alps. Inside are the civic museums of the city with numismatic collections, archaeological, paintings, memorabilia of the Risorgimento, photographs, drawings and prints.
At the foot of the Castle opens Piazza Libertà with the white Loggia del Lionello and in front of the Loggia with the Tempietto di San Giovanni, which houses the War Memorial and is surmounted by the beautiful Clock Tower.
Accompanied by Marco Velliscig, with whom we met online and taking advantage of our tour in Friuli also in person, we visited the city starting from the Duomo built in 1236 by the Patriarch of Aquileia and remodeled several times, and then continuing to Piazza Matteotti, also known as Piazza San Giacomo, which has always been a meeting place for the inhabitants of Udine.
Do not miss the visit to the Patriarchal Palace that behind its austere façade hides precious treasures: stuccos, paintings, the patriarchal library and the Diocesan Museum with a collection of beautiful wooden works ranging from 1200 to 1800.
But its gem are the Galleries by Tiepolo with the frescoes of the great Venetian painter from whom one is literally rapt, starting with “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” on the ceiling of the Scalone d’Onore.
Cividale del Friuli was founded by Julius Caesar and later became the Lombard capital of Friuli. Clinging to the banks of the Natisone rises on the road that joins the Friulian plain to the Isonzo valley.
After the walk on the Ponte del Diavolo with the picturesque views of the river, it is worth visiting the Oratory of Santa Maria in Valle which jealously guards the Lombard Temple, a unique structure for the large arch decorated with tracery in the shape of vine shoots and the great statues of the martyrs. Both the Tempietto and the Monastero are World Heritage Sites since 2011.
Returning to the suspension bridge over the emerald waters of Natisone, it dates back to 1442 and is one of the symbols of the city. It looks like a massive stone bridge with two large arches and rests with its central pillar on a natural rock.
But why is it called Ponte del Diavolo? Legend has it that the bridge was built by the devil himself, who asked for the soul of the first passenger who, depending on the version, was a dog, a cat, a sheep.
Do not leave without tasting the strucchi and gubana: stop by the Cattarossi pastry shop on the Corso Paolino d’Aquileia 10 and before tasting these specialties ask for their origins. The gubana is prepared in all the villages of the Valle del Natisone, but it is in Cividale that there are the first testimonies of the recipe, dating back to 1409, when it was served in a banquet set up for Pope Gregory XII. It is a sweet leavened dough, stuffed with chopped walnuts, pine nuts, raisins and lemon peel. A delight that owes its name to the term guba which means “fold” in Slovenian, referring to the characteristic snail shape. The strucchi have the shape of bundles and the same stuffing of the gubana: attention one pulls the other! No doubt for the pairing: the Ramandolo, a gold-colored wine with a pleasantly sweet taste, produced by a native variety of Friulian Verduzzo harvested late and then dried in suitable rooms.