Visit one of Italy’s most interesting & unspoilt regions
Remarkable blend of Italian & Habsburg history
Marvellous selection of monuments across the centuries
Visit based in Udine, a charming Medieval & Renaissance town
Very good local food & wine
Relaxing unhurried pace
Your first question will undoubtedly be “Where on earth is Friuli Venezia Giulia?” Nestling underneath the Dolomite Alps and bordering both Austria and Slovenia, this largely rural area is a veritable cornucopia of artistic and architecural treasures.
Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Venetians and the inevitable Habsburgs have all left fine buildings, many in superlative condition. Wonderful late Roman mosaics at Aquileia, marvellous frescoes by the Tiepolo family in Udine, faded Habsburg villas garlanding idyllic Trieste – all these and more await the connoisseur traveller. The area is renowned for its white wines which, together with the marvellous regional cuisine, will amply complement the visual treats which we shall see.
“Friuli” is an ancient territory straddling Italy’s border with Austria and Slovenia, its people reflecting this varied cultural mix. “Venezia” proclaims Venice’s long established territorial ambitions towards Friuli, as it worked to exterminate any threat to its naval and trading power, while also protecting its own expansion from likely Habsburg interference. Finally, it is said that “Giulia” refers to the role played by Julius Caesar in the conquest of this part of the ancient Roman world.
Out of this complex military and political history, a strong visual culture emerged, energised by all the differing peoples who came to settle amidst the area’s mountain valleys and fertile plains. This will be the focus of our seven-day visit when we shall be based in the delightful town of Udine, within easy reach of all that we shall see. There are ancient Roman remains, fine medieval churches and monasteries full of sculptures, mosaics and frescoes. During the Renaissance, Giovanni da Udine made his name in Rome working with Raphael, returning home with a new and decorative approach to the arts. While the area was under Venetian influence, further artistic ideas found fertile ground and in the eighteenth century the famous Tiepolo family were much employed painting delightful frescos in churches and palaces. In short, there is no end to the lovely places to explore.
Guided by noted historian, writer and expert on Mediterranean culture, Charles Freeman, we shall be based at the 4* Hotel Astoria in Udine. It is ideally situated in the heart of this historic town and is surrounded by handsome piazzas full of bars, restaurants and stylish shops.
Day by day
- Day 1: Tuesday 7 September
- We fly from Gatwick to Venice, arriving in the afternoon and transfer by coach to Udine, staying for six nights at the 4* Hotel Astoria. There will be a group dinner in a local restaurant – wine, water and coffee are included with all group lunches and dinners.
- Day 2: Wednesday 8 September
- In antiquity Aquileia was a bustling Roman city, which in time became the seat of a Patriarch, a church official of great importance. This twin heritage of secular Roman and early Christian endeavour is reflected in a splendid array of sites. The most interesting include the marvellous Basilica which has the most important mosaic pavement of its type in Italy; a large early Baptistery and an Archaeological Museum with some very good contents reflecting the maritime origins of the site. We continue to nearby Grado, where we have a group lunch. Grado is a fishing town on the Adriatic but in antiquity it too played an important role in history, reflected in two fine early Churches. All in all, today’s visits will be a magical introduction to a mysterious world. We return to Udine and the evening will be free.
- Day 3: Thursday 9 September
- Pre-Roman in origin, Udine came to prominence in early medieval times - the hill at the centre of today’s city offered an ideal fortified site to control the old Roman road which ran by it. Udine grew prosperous, reflected in the many buildings of interest we shall see. Our day will include the Duomo which is medieval in origin, and the Castello, sitting on its hill and now home to an Art Gallery. In the afternoon, we visit two of Udine’s city palaces. Seventeenth and eighteenth century in date, they contain frescoes by the Tiepolo family, Giambattista and his son, Giandomenico, and their followers. The father was the last of the great Baroque decorative painters, while his son ushered in a lighter, Rococo style. The evening will be free.
- Day 4: Friday 10 September
- This morning we visit two delightful villages, beginning at San Daniele dei Friuli, famed for its cured ham and containing one of the loveliest frescoed churches in these hills. After coffee, we continue to Spilimbergo, a town much used as an Imperial “stop off” between Austria and Italy. Our walk will take us through the old quarter visiting the Cathedral, ending with a group lunch within the walls of the old Castello. We return to Udine where the remainder of the afternoon and evening will be free.
- Day 5: Saturday 11 September
- Trieste lies on the Adriatic coast and is a city of strong contrasts: though now in Italy, it is not Italian in either looks or culture. Indeed, it is more a place shaped by the Habsburgs – (more Vienna-on-Sea)? We begin at the Duomo of San Giusto and the nearby Citadel, both dominating the city from their lofty hill-side perch. Nearby, there is also the small, very interesting Archaeological Museum, where there is a memorial to the founder of art history, the eighteenth-century scholar J. J. Winckelmann, tragically murdered in Trieste in 1768. Down in the city centre, there will be some free time for lunch (not included) after which we drive along the coast to Castello di Miramare, the seaside villa home of the Habsburg couple who became the ill-fated Emperor and Empress of Mexico, Maximilian and Carlota. We return to Udine and the evening will be free.
- Day 6: Sunday 12 September
- We drive to Cividale di Friuli, a delightful town, for a morning visit, starting with the so-called Lombard Temple, in essence a rare, early medieval church decorated with marvellous sculptures in stucco. The nearby Duomo is also of interest and the town’s Museum is one of the best in the area. After time for lunch (not included) we might just be able to pop across the nearby border into Slovenia. We return to Udine where we shall have our final group dinner in one of Udine’s best restaurants.
- Day 7: Monday 13 September
- We have a leisurely departure from Udine and drive westwards towards Venice. En route, we shall visit the peaceful Benedictine Abbey of Sesto Reghena. We continue to Sacile, known locally as the ‘Garden of the Serenissima’ due to its waterways and handsome buildings. It is the most charming renaissance town and here we have our final group lunch. We continue to Venice for the return flight to Gatwick.
- Price: £TBC per person
- Single Supplement: £ (Single Room)
- Tour Manager: James Hill
6 nights with Breakfast at 4* Hotel Astoria. Single Superior Rooms have a French bed.
Outward: BA2584 Depart London Gatwick (South Terminal) 1335, arrive Venice 1650
Return: BA2585 Depart Venice 1750, arrive London Gatwick (South Terminal) 1905
2 dinners & 3 lunches with water, wine & coffee, all local transfers, entry fees & gratuities, services of Charles Freeman & our local tour manager, James Hill
Travel to/from Gatwick, 4 dinners & 3 lunches
Weather Conditions for Udine in September are:
Average Temperature between: 16oC - 24oC / 61oF - 75oF
Rainfall: 59mm / 2.3inches
We do expect a reasonable level of fitness. For full details see our frequently asked questions.