Last year I went on my first real family holiday trip abroad. My mom has always wanted to go to Venice, so my sister and I decided it was about time that she got to see the city of her dreams which I have shared with you in this blogpost from 2016. On our way to Venice, we made a short stop so we could explore another city that is located right between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps: Udine.
Udine is located in the north-east of Italy, in the Firuli-Venezia Giulia region. With a bit over 99,000 inhabitants, the city is fairly small but the second largest in Friuli (after Trieste). The city’s main income derives from commerce (with various commercial centres in the hinterland), and the iron and mechanical industries.
The city was first mentioned in AD 983; however, it has been inhabited since the Neolithic age and was part of the Western Roman Empire. Udine became a more prominent city in the Middle Ages, as the patriarchs of Aquileia moved the seat of their government there, established a market, and transformed the city into a thriving and busy regional centre of trade and commerce. Udine was conquered by the Republic of Venice in the 15th century, and an almost 400 year reign of the Republic followed, which also lead to a decline in the city’s importance. Udine was annexed to the Austrian empire in 1797 and remained part of Austria until 1866 when it joined the Kingdom of Italy which became the Italy we know today.
After arriving in Udine one immediately spots the Castle of Udine which stands atop of a 136-metre-hill overlooking the city. The Chiesa Santa Maria di Castello, a church, and a bell tower with a bronze angel on top of it which turns according to the wind direction, are seen instantly. The castle used to be home to noblemen, patriarchs, and Venetian lieutnants, but has been hosting the Civic Museums and Art & History Galleries since 1906.
The ancient centre of the town with many elegant buildings, charming loggias and squares is evidence of the reign of the Republic of Venice over this region. The lion of St Mark, a symbol of Venice, can be seen carved prominently on some of the buildings on the Piazza della Libertà. This piazza is the oldest square of Udine, the heart of the town, and located right at the foot of Udine’s castle. The Loggia di San Giovanni is one of the prominent buildings on this square, built between 1533 and 1535, with its clock tower that dates back to 1527.
Udine is considered the city of Tiepolo, a venetian artist from the 18th century who reached his artistic maturity there, as many of his masterpieces are preserved in Udine. One example would be the fresco of the Duomo, the cathedral and the city’s most important church that was built in 1257. It is located on the Piazza Duomo, not far from the main streets of the city centre.
The Piazza San Giacomo is another big square in the centre of Udine. The city’s central market place was moved to this square in the 13th century, and a church was established as well.
The bottom line
One can clearly see that tourism is not the focus of the city, and it is definitely not the most fancy city of Italy. Many of the buildings that we encountered on our walk through the city centre were clearly ill-kept, especially some facades of some buildings. I was really surprised that on prominent squares there were many decayed facades on some of the buildings. Nevertheless, the city somehow gave us a true feeling of Italy, and the view over the city and the mountains in the north on top of the hill of the Udine Castle was great. I also liked the small streets in the city centre, with all the small shops and boutiques, great facades and beautiful window shutters.