Mountains and sea, hills and plains, forests and lagoons then towns, cities, art and memory. There is something for everyone in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a borderland in the far northeast of Italy. Among the smallest but richest regions in terms of historical and cultural content, it is a succession of landscapes that mingle with the multitude of population centers, from lively capital-cities to numerous small towns and villages. Veined by a dense network of rivers and streams, the Friulian lands offer unexpected surprises in a mosaic of historical testimonies, palaces, castles and elegant mansions: a succession of lively and industrious centers where history is always the protagonist. A discreet land, moved by the industriousness of its people, often brought to its knees by events and always able to raise its head again by returning, without fear, to look ahead. A unique, extraordinary land, built over the centuries, with time being told in the streets and squares and through castles, fortresses, palaces, churches but also mills, furnaces, spinning mills, quarry lakes and that industrial archaeology that holds treasures and past memories (www.turismofvg.it/Slow-Tour).
It is washed by the Livenza River, the ancient village of Polcenigo. The area's abundance of water, often marshy, explains the traditional local processing of reed, to which the village's Sagra dei Thest is dedicated each year in September. Of very ancient origins, Polcenigo offers a historic center with noble residences from the 16th and 17th centuries, including the noble Scolari Salice palace and Fullini Zaia palace, the parish church of San Giacomo, the church of Santa Maria della Salute, and the oratory of San Rocco, a center dominated by the ruins of a castle that the local counts transformed into an 18th-century Venetian palace. An ancient village of farmers, stonecutters and basket makers, Polcenigo was, between the 18th and 19th centuries, the age of spinning mills, also home to a renowned silk sock factory. The spectacle of the waters distinguishes the entire area and provides enchanting scenery at the Gorgazzo springs, where the crystal-clear waters flowing from a karst cavity are framed by the colors of the lush vegetation.
Rises where the plains give way to the heights. Maniago, a Touring Orange Flag town, has been known since medieval times for its cutlery and has ancient origins. The heart of the town is Piazza Italia, the largest square in the province of Pordenone, around which the town spreads. At the heart of the square stands a 19th-century fountain, and along its perimeter are ancient historic buildings including the D'Attimis palace, embellished by a fresco on its façade of a lion of St. Mark attributed to Pomponio Amalteo, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the Municipal Loggia. From the square one ascends to the ruins of the castle, probably built in the 11th century. The pearl of Maniago is the Romanesque-Gothic-style cathedral of San Mauro, with a gabled façade and an elegant rose window. The interior features 17th- and 18th-century frescoes and paintings, wooden altars from Auregne, holy water fonts, and a baptismal font from the Meduno school of stonecutters. A celebration of Maniago's manufactory art is the Museum of Manufactory Art and Cutlery located in the old CORICAMA (Coltellerie Riunite di Caslino e Maniago) industrial plant, a fascinating journey through the history of local production of cutting objects.
Around here people speak western Friulian. Here one stops even if only to satisfy the palate in one of the restaurants, to appreciate a good plate of polenta with muset, the typical Friulian cotechino, for a taste of Dolce del Priore or Voleson, a homemade cake made during the Middle Ages in Valvasone, and for the important historical re-enactment held the second weekend in September. A land of water and countryside, Valvasone offers its delightful urban center on the right bank of the Tagliamento River, near an ancient ford: the village is built around the imposing castle, documented as early as the early 13th century, which dominates the square of the same name and houses late Gothic and Renaissance frescoes and a precious 18th-century wooden theater. Other treasures in the village include the cathedral of the Ss.mo Corpo di Cristo, which houses a monumental organ, the only Italian example of 16th-century Venetian organ art; the church of Ss. Peter, Paul and Anthony Abbot, embellished with valuable frescoes from the 1500s, once a place of refuge for pilgrims and wayfarers, the 15th-century cloister of the former Servite Convent, and the old mill with its Irma wheel, which harnessed the motive power of the water that flowed in the defense trench of the first castle wall.
Fortified initially by the bishops of Concordia, then a dominion of the Venetian Republic since the early fifteenth century, after centuries of violence and bloody civil wars, Cordovado knew, in its history, the tragedy of drought, hunger, cold, locust invasions, floods, earthquakes and raids. It is mentioned several times by Ippolito Nievo in "The Confessions of an Italian" and entered by right among the "Most Beautiful Villages in Italy" in 2004, among the first in the region. Today it is the peace of the Friulian countryside that dominates this village-beauty of the plain, surrounded by the almost completely intact and still clearly visible walls. Defending the hamlet is the scenic Scudata tower, while its religious treasures include the ancient 15th-century Pieve di Sant'Andrea, the 14th-century Oratory of St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the 17th-century Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, a gem of Venetian Baroque art, with an octagonal plan, the only one of its kind in Friuli, rich in stucco, frescoes, bas-reliefs and statues. Notable civic buildings include the Freschi-Piccolomini Palace, built on medieval remains, the 16th-century Beccaris-Nonis Palace, Palazzo del Capitano, the Municipal Palace, an ancient hospice for nobles, the 18th-century Villa Segalotti, and Cecchini Palace, which houses the Library. Just a stone's throw from Cordovado is Morsano al Tagliamento, a land of furnaces that numbered twenty-two between the 1800s and 1900s. Today only one remains and it is the 1902 San Paolo one, a symbol and monument to the history of these lands.
It is the most significant example of a walled city in Friuli and among the most extraordinary examples of restoration in the architectural and artistic fields. Affected by the catastrophic earthquake of 1976, it was resurrected thanks to the work of man who restored it to what it was in its original urban layout. Venzone is situated at the confluence of two important valleys, the Tagliamento and the Canal di Ferro, in the far eastern edge of Italy, in the province of Udine. On the edge of the Julian Pre-Alps Natural Park, amid forests and mountains rich in wildlife, Venzone offers special medieval charm, walls and appreciable historical monuments. Declared a national monument and elected "Village of Villages 2017," it has among its treasures the Town Hall, a fine example of a Gothic-Venetian palace, the Cathedral of St. Andrew and the mysterious and ancient Chapel of St. Michael, home of the historic mummies whose history dates back to 1647, when the mummy of the "hunchback"-the first of about 40 others-was extracted from the tombs of the Cathedral. Venzon's golden age, the Middle Ages, comes alive again every fourth weekend in October with the Pumpkin Festival: history and culture, food and wine and fun in a mix capable of pleasing all palates.
Sesto al Reghena
It is identified with the majestic Benedictine abbey of S. Maria in Sylvis, dating back to the 8th century, and developed around it later. Sesto al Reghena belongs to the "Most Beautiful Villages in Italy" and stands in an area of mills and spinning mills. The splendid abbey complex, consisting of the basilica, the sturdy entrance tower - the only survivor of the seven defense towers erected in the second half of the 10th century - the bell tower, the chancery, the abbey residence and the rectory house, is joined, in the areas that frame the village, by the area of the Stalis mills. A local cross-section, linked to the history of the Abbey of Sesto and the rural settlements that grew up in its domains. Medieval in origin, the ensemble of buildings was used over the long period to the present day and is an architectural example, still quite intact, of the art of milling and its importance over the centuries, both for the farming communities and for the lordships that exercised power over them. On the plains towards Pordenone, in the municipality of Prata, stands another jewel of industrial archaeology: the Centazzo Spinning Mill, one of the first spinning mills to use the steam boiler to heat stoves and to provide motive power.
A fortress-city with a nine-pointed star plan, it has the hexagonal and very large Piazza Grande at its center and is one of the jewels of the Udine lands. Erected in 1593 by the Republic of Venice, the town has been a National Monument since 1960 and in 2017 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the transnational site "Venetian Defense Works between the 16th and 17th Centuries: State from Land - State from Western Sea." On the turn of the city's ramparts are the monumental gates Cividale, Udine and Aquileia built by Scamozzi. Palmanova is to be enjoyed on foot, being guided by its streets and the beautiful square overlooked by the cathedral, with its snow-white facade of white stone from Vrsar and gray stone from Aurisina. Also worth seeing are some typical Venetian palaces that open onto the city's wide streets, for example the Loggia dedicated to the fallen soldiers and the Palazzo dei Provveditori Generali. Not to be missed, on the first weekend of September, is the grand historical re-enactment "A.D. 1615. Palmanova at Arms" in which more than eight hundred reenactors in seventeenth-century costumes recall the beginning of the War of the Uskoks between Habsburg Austria and the Republic of Venice, to which Palmanova belonged until the fall of the Serenissima at the hands of Napoleon in 1797.
The spectacle of the Dolomites is on stage in Sappada. A famous destination for winter and summer tourism, it traces its origins back to the early Middle Ages, when the Patriarch of Aquileia reportedly called a group of families from Bavaria to this then uninhabited area. Even today, in fact, an ancient German dialect is still spoken in Sappada. In addition to its extraordinary natural heritage, Sappada also boasts a distinctive rural architecture represented by characteristic wooden houses built with the ancient technique of blockbau. Among local traditions, the best known is the Plodar Vosenòcht, the Sappada carnival, which engages the entire town for three Sundays and features the typical Rollate mask. An Orange Flag of the Italian Touring Club, Sappada is an area of nature itineraries. Don't miss, among the many destinations, the Mühlbach Waterfalls, which can be reached through a path carved into the rock that goes up the Rio dei Mulini stream, the Olbe Lakes, the Acquatona Gorge and the Sorgenti del Piave springs.
Among the most beautiful villages in Italy, the tiny center of Toppo, in the municipality of Travesio, preserves the remains of the medieval castle that dominated the plain and the village below. The complex is a fine example of Friuli's fortified architecture. In 1220 there were eight masi (rural family houses) that made up the village of Toppo, to become twenty-five by the 16th century. It is from Palazzo Toppo Wasserman, originally a farmstead that later developed into a stately country residence in the 16th century, that the tour of discovery of the hamlet's original buildings, very well-preserved stone farmsteads, begins. In the square in front of the palace, on the other hand, a seventeenth-century palace with an entrance arch can be seen, a beautiful summer residence of the counts of Spilimbergo. From Toppo starts a beautiful bicycle path leading to the main town of Travesio, which holds one of the most significant testimonies to Friulian Renaissance painting, the ancient Pieve di San Pietro, where two works by the Lombard lapicida Giovanni Antonio Pilacorte are housed: the internal portal of the sacristy, dated 1484, Pilacorte's first known work in Friuli, and a baptismal font. On the walls and in the choir vault, however, are the splendid frescoes by Giovanni Antonio de Sacchis.
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