Friuli travel guide

This page is an overview of basic information for travel to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, including links to other resources and our Signature Tours to help you plan your trip to Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Contact me if you have trouble finding what you’re looking for.

The information is presented in the following categories:

  1. Why travel to Friuli Venezia Giulia
  2. What to do
  3. What to see
  4. What to eat
  5. Restaurant suggestions
  6. Accommodation suggestions
  7. General Tips

WHY VISIT FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

Map of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Map of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Are you looking for an alternative holiday in beautiful Italy and are you willing to deviate from the beaten paths by choosing a lesser known Italian region? You found it! This region has plenty to offer Italy fans that’ve seen many the country’s most famous sights and are seeking somewhere wonderful off the main tourist trail. Lonely Planet named this region one of the top 10 places to visit in 2018.

Driving east from Venice along the “autostrada”, it only takes half an hour to leave the tourists behind and cross into the very different world of Friuli. This autonomous and proudly independent region is officially known as Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a wild and still little-known corner of Italy that has its own language, a distinctive local cuisine, and a host of world-famous wines grown on rolling hillside vineyards. Strategically located at the crossroads of central Europe, Friuli stretches over Italy’s north-eastern border, from the lagoons and sandy beaches of the Adriatic coast to the grand maritime port of Trieste, along the frontier with Slovenia, then up into wild Alpine scenery and the border with Austria. The first visit here can come as a surprise, compared with Tuscany or Umbria. But it is so easy to fall under the charm of the unspoilt landscape and the warm welcome that many travellers find themselves returning.

This region lends itself very well if you wish to visit more than one country in your vacation. You can combine Friuli with visiting Austria, Bavaria, Slovenia or even Croatia (see sample itineraries for 7/10 nights). And it is close to Venice the beautiful capital of the neighbor region Veneto.  You can combine your stay in Friuli, the region that offers it all, to a city strip to Venice.

The provinces of the region are: Trieste (regional capital), Gorizia, Pordenone and Udine. The four cities marked by red stars are the provincial capitals: Pordenone, Udine, Gorizia, and Trieste. The region’s capital is Trieste.

WHAT TO DO

  • Friuli Venezia Giulia offers lots of opportunities for an unforgettable vacation. From the Dolomites to the Carnic and Julian Alps, the mountains of this region are a perfect place for those who love winter sports from skiing and snowboarding to climbing, ice skating and hiking. Nestled among the snow-capped mountains are a dozen or more luxury ski resorts that sit atop miles of ski slopes. One of the premiere destinations is Forni di Sopra. It is the highest ski destination in the region’s Carnia Alps. Other well-known ski resorts are Sappada, Zoncolan, Pramollo, Sella Nevea.
  • The Friulian Dolomites are considered the most unspoilt of the entire Dolomite group, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Less frequented than their Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige counterparts, the Friulian Dolomites are a paradise for hikers, climbers and nature lovers. There are well-maintained trails all across the many regional natural parks and mountain huts where to spend the night at high altitude. In the heart of the Canal Valley, Tarvisio is a getaway to the Alpine 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.
  • Hikers and bikers are specifically drawn to the rolling green hills of Isonzo Valley in Collio. The winding roads take them on a spectacular journey through charming little villages and acres of vineyards. You can also zip around on a yellow branded vespa!
  • If soaking up the sunshine on the coast is what you prefer, then head to the popular resort town of Lignano Sabbiadoro. Halfway between Venice and Trieste, it boasts eight kilometers of sandy beach, equipped with umbrellas, chairs, bars and restaurants, and has been awarded the coveted Blue Flag. On the opposite end of the cove is Grado, the lagoon city of Friuli Venezia Giulia, a town with an ancient history as well as clean beaches and the chance to go on boat excursions in the lagoon.
  • Special events run throughout every season: cultural events, such as the Barcolana in Trieste and countless exhibitions and food fairs, like Sapori di Carnia in Raveo, Friuli DOC in Udine or Aria di Festa in San Daniele.
  • Altopiano del montasio: You cannot come to Friuli without tasting a piece of Montasio cheese produced since 1200 (another PDO product of the region) if not in its place of birth. Visit the huts and enjoy the stunning mountain views, spot some ibex.
  • Taste the unique, gently smoked ham made by D’Osvaldo family in Cormons, still using old craft techniques and tools and only employing locally-bred swines.

A VINEYARD CALLED FRIULI (White wine heaven)

Private guided tour of Venica & Venica in the Collio wine area of Friuli

Venica & Venica in the Collio wine area of Friuli/Photo Audrey De Monte

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Italy’s third most important quality wine region, after Piedmont and Tuscany, and has long been acclaimed for its fragrant, elegant whites. The two premium regions are the Collio and the Colli Orientali del Friuli, hilly zones sharing a border with Slovenia. Tocai (now known as Friulano) or Sauvignon Vert is the most widely planted grape variety – pale in colour, it is usually drunk young and makes a perfect aperitif. Top reds include Cabernet Franc, Refosco or Terrano as it called around Trieste, and best of all, the obscure Schioppettino.

Wines are made using traditional grapes such as Pinot Grigio, which, grown here, takes on unique flavors,  Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco; and using indigenous grapes, such as Friulano, Ribolla gialla, Malvasia istriana, Vitovska. Wines tend to be fresh and fruity.

Prestigious sweet wines (dessert wines) like Picolit (produced in very small quantities and commanding high prices) and Ramandolo, and excellent reds, among them Pignolo, Terrano and Refosco, are also produced.

As with the rest of Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia abides by the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC/DOCG) system.There are 12 DOC and 4 DOCG (Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit, Lison, Ramandolo, and Rosazzo) and 3 IGTs (Alto Livenza, delle Venezie, and Venezia Giulia. While the region is known primarily for its white wines, producing 18 million cases of wine annually, more than thirty different grapes are grown in the region. They are used in the production of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Refosco, Terrano, Tocai, Rebula, Merlot, Ribolla gialla, Friulano, Schioppettino, and Verduzzo.

While locals and visitors alike enjoy the vast wine offerings, Friulano wine is often preferred because of its taste and local roots. To dine in Friuli Venezia Giulia is to taste the land, the traditions, and the heart of northeastern Italy. Do you want to immerse yourself in the Friulian life? Then you cannot skip the visit in some historic inn and farm to eat or drink a “taj” (as we call the glass of wine) at the aperitif.

Wine lovers should make a point to visit Friuli Venezia Giulia around the last Sunday in May if only for Italy’s Cantine Aperte. During this time, most Italian vineyards are open to the public. Visitors will have the opportunity to take in spectacular vineyards at the bottom of the alpine foothills, visiting small quaint villages, cozy eateries and taste white wine from some of the premier producers in the area, including Zidarich, Schiopetto, and Radikon.

There are several wonderful wineries to visit, but our favorite is Venica & Venica. Giampaolo Venica, whose wines can be found in some of the best restaurants in the world, is one of the region’s most enthusiastic ambassadors. His family’s winery is known for its fragrant whites, Friulano, Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards’ unique location in the picturesque Collio DOC gives the wines impressive depth. Book ahead for a tour and tasting.

The ‘Strada del Vino e Sapori FVG’ is an itinerary that touches on several farms and wineries in the region to discover Friuli Venezia Giulia’s bounty directly from local producers.

CITIES & TOWNS NOT TO MISS IN FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA

  1. TRIESTE – The little Vienna by the sea

    Piazza Unità d'Italia in Trieste

    Piazza Unità d’Italia in Trieste/Photo Audrey De Monte

Trieste, the capital of Friuli Venezia Giulia, is quite unique in the panorama of Italian cities, as it mixes Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Slovenian influences. Located on a thin strip of land between the Adriatic sea and Slovenia’s border, it has for a long time been at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic, and Germanic cultures, and this is reflected in the city’s feel and architecture. You can see this in the architectural influences of the Viennese Neoclassical style that was so popular in the 18th century in Austria. This is because Trieste from the late 14th century until the end of the First World War belonged to the Habsburg Empire. A stop at the Piazza Unità d’Italia, the symbol of the city, a beautiful, sea-facing square in the city’s center, is the perfect example of this fusion of cultures. Visit the medieval Castle and the Cathedral of San Giusto which hosts stunning Byzantine mosaics and medieval frescoes and the best view of the Adriatic.

Its coffee-house culture is second-to-none and is the coffee capital of the country with Illy Coffee reigning supreme here. Antico Caffè Torinese, Eppinger Caffè and Caffè San Marco are three of the city’s best coffee houses, where historical literary figures including James Joyce once gathered to discuss their art.

Not only famous for its Hapsburg past and coffee culture, the origins of Trieste date back to 100 b.C, when the Romans founded a small trading establishment called Tergeste. Visit the Roman Theatre, the Forum and the Augustan Roman arch “Arco Riccardo”.

Don’t miss the Miramare Castle, built on the waterfront in the 19th century by the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian of Austria with a wonderful park and enchanting views of Trieste and the gulf.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is home to the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the largest tourist cave on Earth, the Grotta Gigante. It is a single cavern that is estimated to be around 10 million years old and with dimensions of 351 feet high, 213 feet wide, and an astounding 918 feet long. The steps are divided into comfortable ramps, but this particular cave is not best suited for people with difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Visits are only possible with Grotta Gigante’s specialized guides.

  1. UDINE – Historical capital of Friuli

    Udine and Piazza della Libertà

    Udine and Piazza della Libertà/Photo Audrey De Monte

This is my husband’s birthplace and where our family lives. Often considered the home of Friulian culture, and the birthplace of the “Friulano” language, Udine is found right in the heart of the region and is a real gem.  More than 350 years Udine was part of the Venetian Republic and this is clearly visible in the architecture of the historic center. With its Renaissance squares, Venetian villas and Tiepolo frescos, the city has an impressive artistic heritage, along with a vibrant contemporary edge thanks to its large student population. In contrast to many Italian cities, which can often feel like theme parks for tourists, Udine is refreshingly workaday, and offers the rare thrill of feeling like you’ve truly discovered somewhere in Italy which is completely off the tourist trail. Udine, offers the visitor its Piazza Libertà, considered “the most beautiful Venetian square on the mainland”.

The city center is based around Piazza San Giacomo, a pretty square lined with colorful bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect spot for lunch, or for your evening aperitivo. Visit the 14th century Romanesque Duomo where you can admire the fresco “Assunta” from the famous artist Giambattista Tiepolo. Walk up to the palazzo from the 1500’s on the hill, passing under Palladio’s Arco Bollani for views over the city and the Alps.

If you’re lucky enough to pass through in September, you may be able to experience the renowned Friuli DOC festival, celebrating all things Friuli-Venezia Giulia, but mainly the food and wine.

For your foodie experience, find the logo “osteria storica” and you can have lunch in a piece of the city’s history. The best known are the Osteria all Ghiacciaia, Osteria Al Vecchio Stallo, Trattoria agli Amici in business since 1887 and Osteria alla tavernetta

Osteria al vecchio stallo, housed in a 17th century building is one of the oldest in the city. Once a stable and rest stop, 3 brothers preserve traditional cuisine of Friuli.

  1. CIVIDALE DEL FRIULI – The Longobard City

    Cobblestone streets and colorful houses in Cividale del Friuli

    Cividale del Friuli/Photo Audrey De Monte

Cividale del Friuli, a UNESCO world heritage site, founded by Julius Caesar in 50 b.C (called Forum Julii), is one of the most beautiful villages of Friuli Venezia Giulia and was the capital of the Longobards. After the destruction of Aquileia and Iulium Carnicum (Zuglio) in 452 AD, Forum Julii became the chief town of the district of Friuli and gave its name to it. In 568 the city was the first major center occupied by Alboin’s Lombard invasion of Italy, then part of the Byzantine Empire. The city was chosen as first capital of the newly formed Lombard Kingdom, then granted by Alboin to his nephew Gisulf as the capital of a Lombard Duchy of Friuli. After the Lombards were defeated by the Franks, (774),  following the last Lombard resistance under Hrodgaud of Friuli (776) Forum Julii changed its name to Civitas Austriae, Charlemagne’s Italian “City of the East”. When the Patriarchal State of Friuli was founded in 1077, Cividale was chosen as the capital. In 1420 Cividale was annexed to the Republic of Venice. After the Napoleonic Wars Cividale became part of the Lombard-Venetian Kingdom. It was ceded to Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

 

del Friuli, with its historic devil’s bridge which stradels the Natisone river and signs that greet you in the town’s four historic languages (Italian, Friulian, Slovenian and German) the city is a treasure of narrow cobblestone streets, characteristic medieval homes, the Lombard temple, the Celtic Hypogeum, Palu di Livenza one of the oldest Palaeolithic sites in northern Italy and convent of Santa Maria in Valle, the various museums, make it a delightful town to stroll around in search of the many traces of its glorious past.  Cividale is also well known for its top wines, great food (Gubana is a delicious specialty – a type of strudel with apples, pine seeds and raisins – that you should not miss!) and close position to the finest wine cellars of the region!

To sample Cividale’s well-known, cinnamon-infused winter dessert called gubana, pop into a pasticceria and grab a slice or two. The Panificio Pasticceria Cattarossi is only a stone’s throw from the cathedral, with a large range of pastries, cakes and desserts.

Two restaurant recommendations would be Ristorante Antico Leon d’Oro and the other Al Monastero.

  1. AQUILEIA – Without Aquileia there would be no Venice

    Mosaic floor of Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia

    4th Century Mosaic floor of Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta in Aquileia/Photo Audrey De Monte

Friuli Venezia Giulia was not just part of the Roman Empire: Founded in 181 b.C., Aquileia was the capital of the area and held strategic importance, especially during the Augustan period. One of the most glimmering jewels of the region, Aquileia, one of the most important towns of the Roman Empire, was a launching point for expeditions and military conquests and a large commercial hub. The ruins of its Roman river port are amazing, and include a quay that is 1,312 ft long, with two docking levels and landing stages paved with stairs (1st century A.D.). The Patriarchal Basilica is not quite in the town center, but rather parallel Via Sacra, overlooking Piazza del Capitolo together with its baptistery and majestic bell tower. The oldest nucleus is formed by the Aule Paleocristiane (the Paleochristian Room), built in the 4th Century A.D. by the Bishop Teodoro, with support from the Emperor Constantine. They are lasting proof of the decisive role the city played in spreading Christianity in the early Middle Ages. The floor mosaics both inside and outside the basilica are magnificent. The basilica also provides access to the Crypt of Frescoes, decorated with rare Byzantine frescoes.

The town has three museums worth visiting: the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (with many documents dating back to the Roman Era, artisan productions and finds from the ancient city), the Museo Paleocristiano (where the ruins of a large ecclesiastical building are preserved) and the Museo Civico del Patriarcato (protecting sacred wooden and metal reliquaries). Finally, any visit should include a tour of the Cemetery of the Soldiers who fell in WWI, located just behind the Basilica.

Other places to include in your visit of Friuli Venezia Giulia:

  • Palmanova: A well preserved fortress-city, built in 1593 by Venetian Republic, is A UNESCO World heritage site. With its 9 pointed star shape, monumental entrance gates and the 3 circles of fortifications from the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries, Palmanova is a great place to visit as well as an opportunity to go shopping the Outlet mall (Italian brands for good prices). This is also the town we come to for our yearly pizza pilgrimage to “Al Gambero” as the owners are from Naples.
  • San Daniele del Friuli: The hilltop town of San Daniele, is world-famous for its prized ham and rivals Parma in the Emilia Romagna. Perhaps I’m a little biased but I prefer the less salty and sweeter prosciutto di San Daniele. Take a guided tour to an historic ham factory Bagatto (3 generations). Get there the last weekend in June for the Aria di Festa, when prosciutto is celebrated, with tours to meet culinary artisans, feasting, music, and activities for the kids. Highlights of the historical center are the awe-inspiring Renaissance chapel inside the Chiesa di San Antonio Abate, (aka The Sistine Chapel of Friuli), and the Cathedral of San Michele Arcangelo. You can visit one of the town’s many prosciuttifici for a tour round the processing plant and to sample some ham, or enjoy delicious cold cuts at one of the many prosciutterie in town; the Osteria Ai Bintars, at Via Trento Trieste 6, is one of the best.
  • Spilimbergo: Situated on the banks of the Tagliamento River, Spilimbergo is the home of the world-famous School of Mosaic/“Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli” the only professional school of mosaic art in the world. As you enter the hall and the classrooms, you immediately experience a special atmosphere: multi-colored mosaic tiles and masterpieces testify that everything here is created from embedded materials, light and movement. You can visit the Spilimbergo mosaic school also as an individual visitor.
  • Gemona and Venzone: These 2 medieval towns that have been completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1976 and are really worth a visit, where you can imagine yourself going back in time. Do not forget to check out the mummies in the museum! In Venzone the 1957 movie ‘A farewell to the arms’ featuring Rock Hudson and written by Ernest Hemingway was filmed.
  • Sauris: resembles a fairytale kingdom, one of the most beautiful and characteristic mountain villages of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The typical wooden houses always full of flowers, the beautiful blue lake of Sauris, the tour of the mountain huts immersed in nature, Zahre beer, the smoked ham, speck and the famous local pickled vegetables in the territory such as the sclopit, the wild garlic and wild asparagus.
  • Pesariis: Alice in Wonderland hamlet, one of the world’s clock making capitals, with an enchanting museum and 14 monumental clocks displayed throughout the village.
  • Sappada: a mountain resort, surrounded by imposing and impressive Dolomite massifs (UNESCO World Heritage site), which still retains its ancient traditions: from the characteristic wooden houses, to the Sappadino dialect which has remained unchanged for centuries; from local crafts to the production of typical cheeses and cold cuts. The village of Sappada (Plodn in german dialect sappadino, Bladen in German, Sapade Ploden or in Friulano, Sapada in Ladin language) is a linguistic island German-speaking, as well as a summer and winter resort. Located between the historical regions of the Cadore and of Carnia, the northern offshoots of the Dolomites, at the border between the regions of Veneto and Friuli and Carinthia (Austria). A landscape still uncontaminated area in which the variety of animal and plant species live undisturbed.
  • Pordenone: City near Veneto border, home to 12th-13th century churches and palaces as well as the remains of a Roman villa
  • Grado: Named Austrian Riviera, connected to the mainland by a bridge that leads you over the lagoon, Grado is known for its fresh fish dishes, quaint cobbled streets and endless sandy beaches. Head to Trattoria de Toni and sample some of the best fish in the region; while it’s one of the most costly evenings out in town, the seafood platter is worth it. A stay in the Boutique Hotel Oche Selvatiche is a truly unique experience. A sustainable lodge nestled right into the lagoon, it makes guests feel as if million miles from the hustle and bustle of city life. Enjoy the views across the water from the hotel’s rooftop pool and spa, and admire the flocks of nesting pink flamingos.
  • Tarvisio: At crossroads on the border of Austria and Slovenia, it is a gateway for skiing and hiking, teeming with hotels and lodges. Nearby are the beautiful lakes of Fusine (Laghi di Fusine), which you can take a nice walk around. Do you enjoy a hefty brisk walk and you want more than a little walk around the lake? No problem, there are several mountain paths that run up. One of them leads to the refuge ‘Rifugio Zacchi’ where you can eat something.
  • Villa Manin: Set amid cornfields and vineyards, the 17th century villa was originally the summer residence of Ludovico Manin, the last doge of Venice. During the 1797 signing of the Treaty of Campoformido, which ceded much of northern Italy to Austria, this palace was briefly home to Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Gorizia: City straddles the Italian-Slovenian border. Much of the city was heavily damaged during World War I but has been rebuilt; sights include a castle, cathedral, and 17th century church. Within the castle lies the Museo della Grande Guerra. Between 1915 and 1917, the hills around Gorizia saw some of the most brutal fighting of WW1. Gorizia itself was mostly evacuated in 1916 and suffered large scale destruction. Despite casualties of around 1.7 million, the Isonzo Front (named for the river that runs just west of Gorizia) remains relatively unknown outside of the countries involved.
  • Sacrario militare di Redipuglia: The ‘Sacrario di Redipuglia’ is a tremendous sight and the largest war memorial in Europe. It occupies one side of the Monte Sei Busi and the huge stepped stairway is the resting place for 100,000 soldiers killed on the eastern front in the First World War. What is interesting is that those who fought here came from every corner of Italy and it was one of the first great cultural and linguistic exchanges in modern Italian history. Perhaps the First World War only really finished on the May 1, 2004 with the entry of Slovenia into the European Union. What remained as a symbolic border was removed completely and the horrors of the 20th century finally put to rest.

WHAT TO EAT

Tour and tasting of Prosciutto di San Daniele in Friuli

Proscuitto di San Daniele in Friuli/Photo Audrey De Monte

Delicious seafood fare comes from the region’s southern border with the blue expanse of the Adriatic Sea. Typical Italian fare is very much a product of the area’s shared border with the Veneto region. The northern border of Austria and eastern border of Slovenia infuse local dishes with strong flavors native to those countries.  No matter where in Friuli Venezia Giulia you dine, a little slice of culinary heaven is what you will find.

The cuisine relies on simple recipes and genuine ingredients: meat, dairy, sausages and legumes, used to create tasty specialties. Some of the more popular dishes on the menu here include:  a polenta based dish called zuf; a pork and vegetable soup named jota; bread dumplings known as gnocchi de pan, and a specialty of prune dumplings called gnocchi de susini; cjalzons a stuffed ravioli; frico which is the signature dish of Friuli, a type of potato cake with Montasio cheese fried golden brown. Another specialty is musèt con la brovada (cotechino pork sausage served with turnips soured with marc). The range of vinegars, vegetables and honeys shows the extent of the bountiful food culture in this region.

The most important typical product of the region is Prosciutto of San Daniele, well-known and exported worldwide, followed by Montasio cheese and Sauris smoked ham. Among the salame and pork meats produced in Friuli, we can find varying salamessoppressasausages and the most famous regional dessert is called gubana, a shell of pastry stuffed with dried fruit. Strudels and fruit cakes are delicious as well. Friuli Venezia Giulia is also renowned for its distillates, including traditional and flavored grappas.

RESTAURANT SUGGESTIONS

gnocchi di zucca with ricotta affumicata in friuli

Gnocchi di Zucca with Ricotta Affumicata/Photo Audrey De Monte

As my husband was born and raised in this region, I am very lucky to have his family here. My sister in law is a wonderful cook and my brother in law just loves his region and knows where to go for the best wine and food experiences. When we are here, we often go out with friends to check out new places or go back to some of our old favorites. Here are just some of my recommendations:

Ai caciattori in Cerneglons: this is the kind of place that would never appear in a tourist guidebook but I commend it heartily. It is a very family oriented restaurant and there is no menu and you can choose from a small number of offerings. The frico with its crunchy exterior and runny cheese center is what we come here for, but it is also for the very local atmosphere.

Osteria and Agriturismo, Ca Marian:  typical 17th century farmhouse, around the corner from where my sister in law lives, expertly restored, is the Ca ‘Marian farmhouse. Their mission is to make you savor the best dishes of the Friulan culinary tradition. They are known for their risottos made with fresh seasonal ingredients and the meat cooked on sight on the grill.

Agriturismo La Cucagne, in Faedis is my favorite place to go to again for the local atmosphere. There is no menu. They come around for each course with big plates or pots, and you can choose to have some or pass. My favorite is their gnocchi di zucca with ricotta affumicata (butternut squash gnocchi) served in the fall and one of the delightful flavors of this region.

Trattoria Al Plan di Paluz in Tarcento:  The local cuisine is rich in flavors accompanied by excellent wines from Friuli. The specialty of the restaurant is the “STONE” (soapstone), a grill consisting of a preheated stone that is brought to the table and allows you to cook meats, cheeses and vegetables according to your tastes while sitting in your seat.

Albergo Morgenleit in Sauris has innovative cuisine worthy of a Michelin star for dishes such as wild herb tagliatelle with pear and honey.

La Subida’s Josko and Loredana Sirk, together with their family, created a true paradise among the Collio’s woods. Guests can eat at the elegant restaurant Al Cacciatore where chef Alessandro Gavagna prepares excellent dishes or at the rustic tavern, and they can also sleep in the uniquely decorated rooms.

WHERE TO STAY

staying in an agriturismo with a beautiful view over the countryside

Agriturismo in Friuli/Photo Audrey De Monte

As we have family here, we rarely stay in hotels, but we have enjoyed on some occasions staying in properties around the region. The larger cities like Trieste, Udine, Gorizia, and Pordenone have the most options when it comes to where to stay, and although there’s certainly a high season there are people visiting year-round. On the coast of the region, the accommodation is much more seasonal – during the summers, the hotels along the Adriatic are likely to be full of Italians on holiday as well as tourists.

If you’re sticking to the cities and larger towns that you can access via trains and buses, you’ll find charming boutique hotels. If you want to get out into the countryside, you’ll find agriturismi and B&Bs. Just remember that if you’re hoping to get out of the cities and towns, you’re going to need a car.

In Udine, the Ambassador Palace Hotel is located only a short walk from the city’s cathedral and the stunning Piazza Libertà and offers a bit of Belle Epoque glamour. Astoria Hotel a beautiful 4 star property is another hotel we like because of its location.

Hotel Suite Inn in the north of the city is a small boutique property with arty designer rooms, the right balance between rustic and sleek. The women who run it are super friendly and can help you rent bikes and plan cycling tours in the region.

If looking for a unique luxury option, then I recommend Castello di Spessa in Capriva. Castello di Spessa is an historical residence in the heart of Collio in Friuli Venezia Giulia, one of the most famous Italian wine regions. It was built in 1200, and for centuries it was the residence of the aristocracy and a destination of illustrious personalities as Giacomo Casanova and Lorenzo Da Ponte; the castle offers 15 romantic rooms decorated in Venetian ‘700 and ‘800 style, and is part of a resort consisting of Castello di Spessa winery, Wine Shop, 18 holes golf course, Bistrot Il Gusto di Casanova, Hotel and gourmand Restaurant La Tavernetta al Castello, bar and restaurant Hosteria del Castello, and country hospitality at La Boatina in Cormons not far from the castle. It is also possible to visit the medieval wine ageing cellars, the most ancient in the area, and taste our wines by appointment.

Locanda al Castello offers 16 atmospheric rooms in a vine covered brick castle originally a Jesuit monastery. Its dining room made famous in the US by chef, author and TV personality Lidia Bastianich.

Up in Carnia, visitors are spoilt for choice in the lovely village of Sauris. Riglarhaus is a traditional Alpine pensione, with a spa and an outstanding restaurant, but the unbeatable address is Albergo Diffuso Sauris, an abandoned hamlet whose ancient wooden houses have been transformed into 40 cozy guest apartments.

TIPS:

  1. HOW LONG DO I NEED TO VISIT THIS REGION:

Well firstly it would be a shame not to see Trieste or Venice while you are in the Vicinity. Trieste is a delight and Venice well she is unique and deserves to be one of the most visited cities of Italy. Aside from these two cities we think a 5 or 7 night stay to be ideal. We have run several tours of this length and it works perfectly. Groups of 2 to 10 are ideal, larger than that we find we cannot have the superior lodging that makes for this immersion into the wines of East Friuli and Slovenia so good.

Here is the link to view itineraries we have created for clients in Italy to give you an idea as to what you can experience booking your vacation with us at Travels with Audrey. Do not hesitate to contact me  or book a 30 minute complimentary phone consultation if you would like to talk travel or thinking of working with a local expert on your vacation to Italy.

  1. BEST TIMES TO VISIT FRIULI:

March/April for White asparagus season

Late June for the San Daniele prosciutto festival

September/October for wine harvest

November/December for Christmas Markets

  1. HOW TO SAY HELLO IN FRIULAN

If you have traveled in Italy before, you would know that the common hello greeting is buongiorno. The Venetian word Ciao is used for friends and people you know well. In Friuli they also use a version of the Ciao but it is Mandi, which means God be with you.

  1. GETTING THERE AND AROUND FRIULI

You can fly to the Marco Polo Airport in Venice or the Airport of Treviso (Aeroporto di Treviso A. Canova) which both are about 120 km (about 75 miles) from Udine. Also Friuli Venezia Giulia has its own Trieste Airport which is about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital Trieste but also from Udine.

Trieste Airport is the only airport within the region itself, and offers a range of domestic flights, along with flights to and from London, Munich, Frankfurt and Valencia. Venice’s two airports, Venice Marco Polo Airport and Treviso Airport are only an hour by car from the center of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and offer a much wider range of international flights.

The airport shown on the map is Aeroporto FVG (Friuli Venezia Giulia) or Trieste Airport. In the past has been called Ronchi dei Legionari. It is located 40 km from Trieste and Udine, 15 km from Gorizia, 50 km from Pordenone. The closest lodging to the airport is at Ronchi dei Legionari (3 km from the airport) or in Monfalcone (5 km from the airport).

While the Italian train system is fast and the cities of the region are well-connected, hiring a car is the best way to explore the region. Car hire is available from all three airports, perfect for a road trip around the region.

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Audrey De Monte

About Audrey De Monte

Born in New York City, raised in Western Africa, I have studied, lived and worked on three continents (Africa, Europe and North America), and have traveled extensively throughout the world. Travel has shaped my life, who I am, how I look at the world and continues to be my biggest teacher. Together with my native Italian husband, we speak 5 languages. Western Europe is my backyard, in particular Spain, France, Germany, and Italy—countries where I have spent my life, since early childhood, visiting family, friends, studying, living and working.