A Celebration of Flavours in Friuli Venezia Giulia
A Vespa tour discovering the legendary San Daniele ham and the best cured meats in the northeast of Italy.
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Duration: 5 days of history, nature, legends and tasting
Itinerary: about 160 kilometres, with departure from Trieste and arrival in San Daniele del Friuli
Equipment: a windbreaker, some sweaters for the evening and hiking boots if you decide to explore the Karst plateau
The history of Italy can be felt in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Between the sea with its blue flag beaches – a symbol of respect for the marine environment and protection of swimming areas – and the mountain in unimaginable colours, there is so much to appreciate. And let’s not forget the excellent culinary options such as San Daniele ham. All this can be discovered on your Vespa, a real pleasure in the summer when temperatures never get too hot. The Italian Karst plateau will keep you cool, but if you feel the need for a dip in the sea, there are tons of beaches and coves.
Trieste will be your starting point, therefore enjoy the city while riding your Vespa. In the morning, visit the Miramare Castle – it’swhite in colour just like in a fairy tale, bordered by greenery and overlooks the wind beaten sea. On the way back, stop along the Barcola promenade, where tourists and locals lie down to sunbathe and swim. You can indulge at lunchtime in town with an excellent fish fry at the trattoria Città di Pisino. If possible, and weather permitting, sit in the outdoor area.
Continue your visit, stopping at Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia and the beautiful town hall, that alone may be worth a trip to Trieste. And if you still have some energy, put your helmet on and climb up to the old town; you will find the Cathedral of San Giusto, built on the ruins of an ancient Roman temple and located on the top of the eponymous hill overlooking the city. For a rare and unique experience, find some time to visit the complex that goes by the name of "Kleine Berlin", open every last Friday of the month at eight in the evening, without booking. It includes a series of anti-aircraft tunnels of the second World War, complete with a photo exhibition of the bombing that the town underwent. A touching experience. Thus, continue the evening at the historic Caffè San Marco with a rebechin, meaning "snack" in the local dialect, together with a tasting of native wines.
Get back on the Vespa and head towards the Karst. The first stop will be the Giant Cave, North of Opicina: to get there, cross Barcola again where, if you wish, you could also visit the Vittoria Lighthouse which offers a fantastic view of the Gulf. The cave is surreal: such large stalactites and stalagmites. Before lunch, you can even stop at Prosecco, the village with 1,000 inhabitants which gave its name to the famous sparkling wine. To decide where to eat, consult Osmize.com to see which wineries (known as "osmize") and farm houses are open in the area. If you are lucky, you will end up at Kamence, between Santo Stefano and Prosecco. There are excellent cured meats, especially the horseradish breaded ham and crusted pork loin accompanied by a sip of refreshing Refosco.
Get back on the saddle and ride along the roads, where colours range from green to fiery red. Between the ridges overlooking the sea and mountain views, plenty of unique spots can be admired, village after village. At sunset, head North to Duino where the castle overlooking the sea is simply spectacular. Have dinner at the pre-booked Cavalluccio Duino restaurant – a retro space with rush seat chairs and nautical details, where you can taste excellent fish dishes. It is also an Inn so stop here for the night.
Wake up and after a good breakfast start your itinerary to Aquileia, also known as the second Rome for its archaeological ruins. You can either get there going through Monfalcone, a town famous for its cruise ships, medieval fortress and park dedicated to the Great War. Continuing South, you will reach Grado, the Venetian inspired golden island. Have lunch here, after a little stroll through the town squares, narrow streets and fishermen’s houses where time seems to stand still. Then go for a nice walk on the promenade Nazario Sauro. Here, the sea of Grado has been featuring the blue flag for years, which classifies it among the best in Italy. Laura and Christian is the trattoria to stop at for lunch, located in the heart of the Old Grado. Indulge in local traditions like the Boreto on white polenta, the most typical Grado fish dish.
Once again hit the road, fasten your helmet and head north, towards Aquileia – about 10 kilometres along the 352 highway and surrounded by water. Upon arriving at your destination, let your fascination with history take over. The mosaics that form the floors at the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta are the oldest and largest in Europe, while the crypt hosts impressive frescos in Byzantine style. Before it closes, go quickly to the Aquilea distillery, where you can purchase a souvenir, like the typical local grappa: Sgnape dal Checo reserve. In the evening, leave the town centre, park your Vespa and dine at trattoria Al Campanile in Cervignano del Friuli. In this friendly environment with home-made cuisine you can try the soppressa salami with polenta and phyllo pastry rolls with ham. Stay in Cervignano overnight.
Back on the Vespa, say goodbye to the magic of Aquileia and head towards Gorizia – for a journey of about thirty kilometres to reach the city on the border with Slovenia. A visit to the Castle – the ancient heart of the city – is a must. It was bombed during WWI, then rebuilt in the 30s. Have an amazing lunch at Gianni, a trattoria known throughout the Friuli region, offering hearty meals and moderate prices. Taste its famous cutlets: one would be enough for three people. Then in the afternoon, explore the gently sloping lands, ideal on a Vespa. Options for stopping include Oslavia, Ruttars, San Floriano or the enchanting Dolegna del Collio, with only 352 inhabitants and surrounded by nature and vineyards. By sunset, reach Cividale del Friuli and enjoy the show from the Devil's Bridge, the symbol of the city and territory, built in stone in 1442 and resting on a natural rock within the bed of the Natisone river. The name comes from a legend: it is said that the inhabitants had asked the devil for help in order to build it.
After spending the night at the Maga Magò holiday home, a short walk from the Centre of Cividale, get ready for the last two legs, Udine and San Daniele, where you can finally enjoy one of the most appreciated Italian specialties in the world: the ham. The bell tower is the first thing to visit in Udine, in piazza della Libertà. Then, off to piazza delle Erbe where the market is held and where many would say is the city's most beautiful spot to cool off with a drink. In need of a more substantial snack? Try the Gianduja ice cream shop, where the name reflects the Piedmont tradition and the products are delicious. In the late afternoon, you will get to San Daniele del Friuli. Here, you will finally be able to enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the symbols of the entire Italian tradition: an exceptional prosciutto crudo. Wherever you decide to try the San Daniele ham, you will be satisfied. Some advice? Try the Osteria, for an all-around excellent experience. The ham practically melts in your mouth for a perfect ending to this wonderful tour.