An introduction to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
In northeastern Italy, Friuli Venezia-Giulia overlooks the Gulf of Trieste, a shallow bay on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. Usually only referred to as “Friuli”, the region encompasses the historical-geographical areas of Friuli and Venezia-Giulia, which create two distinct cultures.
This captivating region bursts with cultural, natural, and culinary experiences. The Dolomite mountains are perfect for exploring the wilder side of Friuli with its many lakes and waterfalls, while the Adriatic sandy coast makes for a great beach getaway. In addition to breathtaking landscapes, the region offers urban areas of great artistic and historical value.
Things to See & Do in Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Trieste is the region’s capital city. Its grandiose seafront central square, Piazza Unità d’Italia, is lined with magnificent palazzi that reflect the importance of Trieste when it was the city port for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The town of Gorizia has a unique feature that makes it a must-visit! It shares its main square with the neighboring Slovenian city of Nova Gorica. There was once a wall separating the two towns, of which you can only see the outline today.
Often overlooked by tourists is the town of Udine, with a distinct ancient charm. Don’t miss the gorgeous Piazza Libertà, praised as the most beautiful Venetian square on the mainland.
The region also has UNESCO-listed ancient towns of Aquileia and Cividale del Friuli. What’s remarkable about these two towns are the still-visible relics of the early medieval Lombard Kingdom.
Friuli Venezia-Giulia also has impressive natural wonders! The great Southern Alps dominate the region’s northern half, making it home to some of the most dramatic hikes in Western Europe. To the east, the Julian Alps create a landscape with dozens of blue-water lakes surrounded by green pines and snow-capped peaks. The most beautiful are the two lakes of Fusine and the lake of Cavazzo.
The region has lovely waterfalls and canyons you can discover by hiking, canyoning, and climbing. Another must-do activity? Mountain biking! Friuli hosts parts of the mountain stages of the Giro d’Italia, an annual multiple-stage bicycle race.
Liguria is full of activities to do in the wintertime, with plenty of opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoe hiking, and even dog-sledding.
Do you prefer a beach vacation? Friuli has a 130 km stretch of coast dotted by many “Blue Flag” beaches that are fit for the whole family. Lignano Sabbiadoro is the most popular beach spot, famous for its beachfront resorts and lively nightlife. If you prefer a more relaxed environment, head to Grado, a small fishing town on a car-free island.
Are you looking for an extra special experience during your vacation in Friuli Venezia-Giulia? Go for a snorkeling tour in the Miramare Marine Nature Reserve, just off Trieste waters, to be surrounded by white sea bream and colorful damselfish while looking up at the Miramare castle!
Secret Gems of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
An incredible place that seems to have come out of a fairy tale is Cona Island, part of the Foce dell’Isonzo Nature Reserve. This is a unique environment with hundreds of different species of flora and fauna of great importance and rarity, but what’s striking about the island is that it is inhabited by Camargue semi-wild horses.
This ancient breed of horse is native to the Camargue area of southern France but had found on Cona Island a perfect habitat to thrive and rant free. Spotting these elegant white horses will make your vacation memorable!
Food & Drink of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friulian cuisine combines mountain dishes and Mediterranean flavors, and is highly influenced by neighboring Slovenian and Austrian culinary traditions.
Frico is a pancake-like appetizer made from potatoes, onions, and the local Montasio cheese. There are two versions of this dish: the “frico morbido”, which has a crispy outside with a soft and gooey interior, and the “frico friabile”, where the cheesy dough is fried in olive oil, making it super crunchy.
Among the pasta dishes, a must-try is the Cjarsons. Cjarsons is a stuffed pasta made from potatoes and filled with wild herbs, ricotta, raisins, potatoes, cocoa, and cinnamon, which give this pasta dish a uniquely sweet and savory flavor.
Among the main dishes, don’t miss the Bisato in Spèo, eel skewers slow cooked on coals. If you prefer meat dishes, try the Carniola Testina, a goulash of Austro-Hungarian origin made with veal.
Friuli’s white wines stand out from other Italian wines for being light-bodied and particularly refreshing. Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, and Prosecco are the undisputed kings of the region’s wine production.
End the meal with a slice (or two!) of Gubana, a traditional leavened dough cake filled with dried fruits and nuts.