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One of Friuli's greatest assets is what it doesn't have - many other tourists. Just 120 kilometres from tourist-filled Venice, the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (the northeastern corner of Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia) offers beautiful sandy beaches, mountains for climbing and skiing, vineyards to tour, historical sites and attractive shopping.

The area has been influenced by its many invaders of the past. They contributed to the language, the cuisine and the people's cautious natures. They’re wary yet welcoming, as Friulian hospitality is a point of pride among the people.

You can travel from the golden sand beaches of Lignano on the Adriatic coast to the snow-topped mountains of the Carnic Alps in under two hours. That same length of time takes you from the border city of Gorizia in the east to the next region of Veneto in the west. In between are the verdant plains and gentle slopes that produce some of the finest wines of Italy.

Friuli’s many towns and small cities each offer their own history, style and specialty. Tourists might want to base themselves in Udine, capital of its province.

Its “old town” today is a smart shopping area with the city's best stores and bookshops and sidewalk cafes. Its tradition is to enjoy a cappuccino in the afternoon here, but in Friuli, as in all Italy, stopping in un caffé or bar is very much a way of life, throughout the day. They may be big or small, but most are handsomely decorated and welcoming, in that “there are a lot of people, but still room for me” feeling.

Udine's centre is its castle, estimated to be just over 1,000 years old. It sits in Piazza Libertá, the square surrounded by many historic buildings, including the Church of Santa Maria, the oldest in the city. This square leads on to the fashionable piazza of San Giacomo, with its outdoor café, daily fruit and vegetable market and church of San Giacomo.

From Udine as a base, you can take day trips and visit one or two smaller cities or towns a day. and snowy tops. Cividale is a great place to begin. Just 17km to the east of Udine, it's situated with a clear view of the Carnic Alps, with their gentle slopes and snowy tops. Cividale was the region's link to the Roman Republic. Its former name was Forum Julii after Julius Caesar, whose statue graces the main square, in front of the beautiful church of Santa Maria Assunta. Also on the square is Cividale’s archaeological museum, with items of pottery, armaments and jewellery that date back to 586 BC. Cividale’s ponte dal diavolo, (the devil's bridge) is an oft-photographed point for the gracious structure of the bridge, the winding Natisone River running beneath it, and the historic church and buildings (now apartments) that line its banks.


About 20km southeast of Udine is the nine-pointed walled city of Palmanova. Built in Venetian style in 1593, it has a large square in its centre, with streets radiating out to the still intact walls. Today tourists sit in outdoor cafés in the square and shop in the elegant boutiques that line the streets.

Roman ruins can be found in Aquileia, 37km south of Udine. It was founded by the Romans in 181 BC, taking over as the main link to the Republic from Cividale. Columns remain of the forum, the circus and basilica; walking around the town one can see evidence of the baths, monastery and city gates. A key site is the Church of San Giusto, for its fabulous floor mosaics.


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 Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Plains, lagoons, coasts and mountains comprise Italy's northeastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.