Italian Adventure: Udine.

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.

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The city

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.

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The sights

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Italian Adventure: Venice.

Ever since I can remember my Mom wanted to travel to Venice with my dad. But years went by, my parents never really had time for travelling. My Mom had already given up on going there with my dad but instead she wanted to go with her daughters. So she said but never actually did. This year I took matters into my own hands, booked a guesthouse via Airbnb and made travel arrangements so she could finally see Venice with her daughters (and my boyfriend. we had to take a male buffer with us.).

Venice is with around 270,000 people (of whom around 60,000 live in the historic city of Venice) the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated in the Northeast of Italy across a group of over a hundred small islands. With its many canals, bridges, beautiful architecture and artwork, the city is listed as a World Heritage Site.

In the early hours of a Friday morning at the end of July we took our car and went on our little journey to the South. With a quick stop in Udine to explore the city and another stop in Caorle so my Mom could see the sea (for the first time in her life) we arrived in Mestre – the center and most populated urban area of the mainland of Venice – where we had booked our guesthouse.

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After a quick refreshment we hopped on the train to have dinner in Venice and already explored the city a bit. We were able to find a cute little restaurant in a not so touristy area (is this even possible in Venice?!) and had huge pizzas with an obligatory glass of wine (or more). Then we strolled around for a bit, crossed the Rialto Bridge, which is unfortunately currently under renovation, reaching the Piazza San Marco and having a look at the Bridge of Sighs. So we even saw Venice ‘in the dark’ (with slightly less tourists around) without sleeping on the island.

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Canal Grande
On our ‘real’ Venice day we got up early-ish, headed over to the ‘City of Canals’ with the train, and had a breakfast with a view at the Canal Grande. The Grand Canal is the major water-traffic corridor of the city and you have the option of taking water buses, taxis or gondolas. The Canal Grande is lined with buildings that date back from the 13th to the 18th century with beautiful facades, representing the former Republic of Venice. However, we decided to just walk around in the beautiful streets, explore some (non)touristy corners of the city by foot. We also got our own private little boat ride across the canal for free due to a little misunderstanding with a local who was unable to explain the taxi system due to his lack of english communication skills so he just took us with his boat across the canal.

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Piazza San Marco
You cannot visit Venice without visiting the overcrowded Piazza San Marco. It was quite hot that day so at the centre of the Piazza there were hardly any people – perfect for taking pictures!. Only under the archways and right next to the St Mark’s Basilica were loads of people, as those were the places where it was bearable to stand (as sitting was strictly forbidden. ts.) on such a hot day.

On the East side of the square is the St Mark’s Basilica, which is adjoined by the Piazzetta dei Leoncini (named after two marble lions, now officially Piazzetta San Giovanni XXIII). Further along the square (counterclockwise) is the Clock Tower (completed in 1499), followed by a long arcade that is known as Procuratie Vecchie (built in the 16th century), former home of the procurators of St.Mark in the former Republic of Venice. The arcades continue at the west side of the Palazzo, which is the part that is known as the Ala Napoleonice (Napoleonic Wing, rebuilt by Napoleon in 1810). Another left turn of the arcade, the building is known as the Procuratie Nuove (16th & 17th century). Next building on the Piazza is the Campanile of St Mark’s church (first erected in the 12th century) – the bell tower. Adjacent to the bell tower is the Loggetta del Sansovino (16th century), which was used as a lobby by patricians. Strictly speaking, that’s it. But then there’s also the Biblioteca Marciana, the Grand Canal, the Piazzetta di San Marco, the Doge’s Palace and the Porta della Carta right next to the Piazza San Marco.

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Venetian Seaside
In the hope of a sea breeze we spent some time walking along the seaside with a view at the Isola di San Michele – the cemetery island. It was indeed much chillier than in the city centre and very beautiful. Yay!

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Walking around & exploring
On our little walking tour we also stumbled upon the ‘famous’ bookstore ‘Liberia Acqua Alta’, which is a must-see for book-lovers and people who like the ‘unusual’. There’s even a gondola in the middle of the bookstore. Plus we got a friendly greeting of a black cat at the door. At the end of the store you can climb up a book-staircase and have a look at the canal. Beautiful! For more information & more pictures – just have a look at this blogpost that I found.

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Our little Venice adventure was better than expected! I didn’t expect the city to be so charming even though it was the middle of the summer and the place was full of people. I really want to revisit Venice – next time in the winter season to see a totally different side :)

What’s your take on the City of Bridges?