Located far in Italy’s northeast, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a unique region. Its proximity to the Austrian and Slovenian borders gives it a unique flavor respective of classic Italian cities like Rome or Florence. This is especially true of its capital city, Trieste, which I visited twice in this year alone. Similarly, Udine, FVG’s second largest city in terms of population, has its own style. Friuli, the area of which Udine is the historical capital, has its own distinct wine country and language (not dialect; language).
The Chiesa del Duomo, Udine’s main church, is a good starting point for exploring the city. From here, wander down Via Vittorio Veneto to the Piazza della Libertà, to the right of which one finds the Comune di Udine (city hall) and the Torre dell’Orologio (Tower of the Clock), and, to the left, the Loggia del Lionello, a nice loggia (a gallery/room with open sides) with a few historical items of interest within.
Up in the hills behind city hall is the Castello di Udine (Udine Castle), your one opportunity to see the city from up high. Inside the castle are the Civici Musei di Udine (Civic Museums of Udine), galleries hosted in the castle since 1906 that feature numerous artifacts and works of art related to the city. Outside, the Chiesa Santa Maria di Castello (chiesa means “church”) makes for some lovely photos.
Behind the castello and near the Giardin Grande, a park, is the Santuario della Beata Vergine delle Grazie. The grand façade of this church holds an interior with designs no less striking. I found this church to be very particular, almost dark in a beautiful way. Perhaps it was the figure of a snow white Madonna garbed in dark robes with rays shooting out like swords.
Around the corner from the Loggia del Lionello is Palazzo Cavazzini, in which one finds the Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Udine (Gallery of Modern Art of Udine). The museum’s current location is relatively new (it was previously located much farther away from the city center. PRO TIP: Be sure a museum is still there before you walk to it).
Piazza Matteotti is a vibrant square where you can find restaurants for al fresco dining and drinking. If I had to recommend a place to chill, it would be here. At its western end is the Chiesa San Giacomo with its splendid interior of sculptures and paintings.
Into shopping? The town center is loaded with shops, particularly around Galleria Bardelli, a collection of retailers that includes H&M, Zara, La Feltrinelli (a great Italian bookstore chain), Sephora, Tiger (a store that sells every sort of weird thing) and more.
When your thirst grows, check out Osteria alle Volte, a small craft cocktail lounge that makes excellent drinks. Osteria da Teresina is a cozy tavern with patio seating and a nice selection of cheap small plates (popular with students, I’m told). For craft beer and wine, visit Ars Bibendi, a spacious bar where you can try a vast selection of local offerings to pair with free Wi-Fi.
A local quick-bite eatery I liked was Piadina Mia, where you can get piadine (flatbread sandwiches) as good as you’ll find in Emilia-Romagna, the region from which they originate. Farther away from the town center is Bella Napoli, a family-friendly pizzeria with a fiery oven and low prices even for Italy. For dessert, both Gelateria Fiordilatte and OGGI Gelato were excellent in my book, and I’ve become somewhat critical of my gelato.
Friuli is known for great wines. A trip to Azienda Vitivinicola Specogna for my own private tour and tasting quickly converted me to the region’s offerings. Violetta at the vineyard answered all our questions and graciously took the time to show us around. If you’re ever in the area, definitely see if you can pay them a visit. If anything, just being on the premises is lovely.
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of visiting another town nearby called Cividale del Friuli. The small city has plenty of charm to experience, from relaxing at a cafe like Caffè del Corso in Piazza Paolo Diacono to strolling across the Ponte del Diavolo to view the Natisone River, a waterway that flows between Italy and Slovenia. At Panificio Pasticceria Catarossi, one can sample local baked delicacies like strucchi, sweet bite-sized dough filled with pine nuts, hazelnuts, and currants and raisins blessed by grappa…
Or, as others like to call it, “rocket fuel.”
Have you been to Udine? Share your favorite places in the comments. Hover over photos (desktop) or tap and hold (mobile) to get info on the photos…