San Daniele del Friuli, Italy. What to see and where to eat

San Daniele del Friuli

San Daniele del Friuli is a small town, primarily known for the prosciutto (ham) of the same name, protected by geographical indication, that is, the meat delicacy can only be produced in the area around this town, because it is here that it acquires special qualities that are not achieved elsewhere. San Daniele del Friuli lies on a hill 250 meters above sea level, which dominates the surrounding plain.

In the central square of San Daniele del Friuli rises the cathedral dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. It was erected in 1806 to a design by the architect Domenico Rossi on the site of an older church. In the autumn of 1944 the facade was damaged by the shells of the Allies, and in 1976 the building was damaged by an earthquake.

Cathedral. San Daniele del Friuli

The bell tower. San Daniele del Friuli

Surrounded by the historic city center, filled with old buildings and characteristic prosciuteria, where you can taste meat products and typical local dishes.

Prosciutto. San Daniele del Friuli

The old town hall with its loggia dates back to the 15th century and now houses the library, which was the first public library opened in Friuli.

In Via Roma is the only medieval building from the 14th century.

 San Daniele del Friuli

The street leads to a picturesque garden, once a castle, on the ruins of which Palazzo Ticozzi de’Conchina was built. Nearby stands the church of San Daniele in Castello.

Palazzo Ticozzi - de

Church of San Daniele in Castello. San Daniele del Friuli

In San Daniele del Friuli there are the city gates, designed by Andrea Palladio in 1579. On via Garibaldi is the church of Sant’Antonio Abate, which has frescoes of the period 1497-1522. The Chapel of St. Martino da Udine, who is known as the Pilgrim of San Daniele. The frescoed chapel is called the Sistine Chapel of Friuli. The first news of the temple dates back to 1308. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1348, but was rebuilt. The facade of Istrian stone was made in 1470 in the late Gothic style, it is decorated by a window-rosette with mosaics. On top are figures of St Anthony Abbot, St John the Baptist and St Anthony of Padua. Like most of the buildings of San Daniele, the church was damaged during the 1944 bombing and after the 1976 earthquake. Inside, the church consists of one nave, which is covered with frescoes by Vitale da Bologna (late 14th century) and Martino da Udine (1497-1522).

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After a leisurely stroll through the streets, which does not take more than an hour, it is definitely worth stopping by one of the restaurants or prosciuttery to taste what most people come to San Daniele for, that is Prosciutto di San Daniele (DOP Prosciutto San Daniele).

Prosciutto San Daniele - Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP

The San Daniele raw ham is known all over the world for its delicate and refined taste. The prosciutto is made from pork thigh, with added sea salt and no preservatives. It is possible to use pork from 10 regions of Italy, located in the central and northern parts of the peninsula. The animals adhere to a specific “diet” that is spelled out in the discipline. All further production must take place exclusively in the commune of San Daniele, where a special microclimate, formed by cool Alpine winds and warm air currents from the Adriatic, plays a key role.

The production cycle is 13 months. The weight of the pork thighs must be at least 12 kg. They are chilled, trimmed, and undergo strict quality control. They are then salted and left to rest for a few days. The next stage of production is pressing, so that the salt penetrates deeper into the meat. This phase is only present in St. Daniel. Then the future prosciutto “rests” for 4 months. It is then washed and dried, then coated in pork fat mixed with rice flour to keep the ham tender, and sent to age.

Prosciutto San Daniele - Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP

San Daniele prosciutto is usually served with white, dry wine.

On the last weekend in June, San Daniele del Friuli hosts a festival dedicated to prosciutto, during which stalls of ham and local products are set up in the main streets of the city.

One of the most popular dishes is tagliolini al San Daniele.

But prosciutto is not the only thing San Daniela is famous for. About 30 years ago, one of the locals began breeding trout in his pond; the fish was so tasty that it quickly became popular. The hobby turned into a profession, and the local trout began to be called “queen of San Daniele”.

Testimonial: Excursion to San Daniele del Friuli (Italy, Udine) – Ancient beautiful town, historic buildings, beautiful churches, delicious prosciutto and a wonderful atmosphere of small, beautiful Italy

Province of Udine, Italy

This region of Italy was formed after World War II, most of the province of Venice Giulia was ceded to Yugoslavia, and the port city of Trieste with its surroundings remained part of Italy. The region is one of the most developed in Italy; industry, agriculture and winemaking are concentrated here – the famous white wines “Prosseco”, “Pinot Grigio” and grape vodka – Grappa are produced. This area of Italy has a wonderful climate and diverse nature, any traveler will find something close to his heart. Friuli-Venezia Giulia stretches from the foothills of the Alps to the Adriatic coast, bordered in the Northeast by Slovenia and Austria, and in the East – with the Veneto region. The largest (by Italian standards) cities in the region are Trieste, Udine, Gorizia and Pordenone (regional cities in our words). But there are many remarkable historical towns about which not much is known to a mass tourist. There is not much information about them in guidebooks. But all of Italy is made up of such wonderful, sparsely populated towns, each of which has its own unique appearance, a glorious historical past and, as a rule, a highlight, for which it is worth visiting.

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Today I will tell you about San Daniele del Friuli, nestled in the hills in the foothills of the Alps:

San Daniele del Friuli

It’s a small town, just over 10,000 inhabitants. It is a typical Italian town, with narrow streets, old buildings and churches. It is clean and very well maintained:

San Daniele del Friuli

San Daniele del Friuli

Narrow sidewalks in San Daniele

Let’s admire the historical center of this glorious little town. This is the central square:

San Daniele's main square

On the square rises the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, it was built in 1806 by the architect Domenico Rossi on the site of an old church. In 1976 there was a devastating earthquake in the area and the cathedral was damaged, but was completely rebuilt, pebble by pebble, by the inhabitants of the town:

San Daniele Duomo

San Daniele has preserved the medieval city gate (Porta di Gemona), designed by the very famous Medieval architect Andrea Palladio in 1579, and the remains of the fortress:

City Gate

Ancient Fortress of San Daniele

Note the marvelous balcony:

Castle wall

Near the fortress is an observation deck that offers an impressive view of the town, the plain and the Dolomite Alps, which are about fifty kilometers away:

View from fortress

Also in the town our attention was attracted by the ancient church – Chiesa of St Anthony Abbot, it is famous for its perfectly preserved frescoes made by the master, called Pilgrim of San Daniele, in 1497-1522. Above the entrance to the church under a stone lace rosette are the figures of three saints, revered in Italy. The minister in the church told us about it:

Chiesa of St. Anthony the Abbot

The facade of the church is lined with Istrinsky marble, inside the building – a wooden ceiling with beams and perfectly preserved ancient frescoes:

Ancient frescoes in the church of San Daniele

The Santuario della Madonna di Strada was discovered at the foot of the hill, a sanctuary built on the site of the very ancient Church of the Madonna of the Road, revered by wayfarers. The building is in the Baroque style:

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Sanctuary of the Madonna

Behind this building you can see the ancient clock tower towering over the city:

The tower of San Daniele

The tower of San Daniele

The oldest building, built in the fourteenth century and preserved to this day, is also preserved in San Daniele:

Fourteenth century building

The town has many beautiful, typically Friulian, houses with shutters and balconies and beautiful lanterns:

House in the Piazza of San Daniela

House with fresco

Bank in a Historical Building

There are many small fashionable stores in the town:

Excursion in San Daniele del Friuli (Italy, Udine) photo

Small, well-kept houses decorated with small gardens and flowers:

Excursion in San Daniele del Friuli (Italy, Udine) photo

San Daniele square

And there are also many nice restaurants and bars in the town:

Restaurant in San Daniele

In one of them, after a walk through San Daniela, we stopped for an aperitif to take a break and drink the local white wine. The bar was in the center and was not crowded, with prices like these:

Price tag in a bar in San Daniele

The patrons were seated on the terrace and we were inside, it was cooler and more comfortable. After having a glass of Prosecco (this white sparkling wine is produced in Friuli), we looked at the premises:

Inside bar

It turned out to be interesting: with ancient walls (exposed masonry!), a very calm atmosphere, and near the entrance my attention was attracted by an ancient stove, above it a dome, on which was depicted a bersalier hat with a feather, and on the stove stood a beautiful bouquet of white roses. Do they honor the memory of the glorious Bersalliers? – the question remained unclear to me. (Bersalliers are the elite Italian firing squad):

Ancient stove in a bar in San Daniele

Next we decided to walk again through the pretty, very much liked town. Through its winding, narrow streets that led uphill and downhill. This landscape certainly gives the town a special charm, in my opinion. Let’s take another look at the city streets, the narrow sidewalks, and the pretty tiled houses with shutters and galleries that shielded the inhabitants from the scorching sunlight in the summer and the cold Alpine winds in the winter:

San Daniel Town Street

San Daniel Town Street

Street in San Daniels

Street in San Daniels

I think, my friends, that you are impressed with the town of San Daniele. But this is not the end of my story. The main pride and attraction of San Daniele, for which gourmet tourists come here, is the raw, cured ham, Prosciutto di San Daniele, which is produced only here, in San Daniele and its surroundings, is patented and is world famous. In terms of taste it is not inferior to the Parma ham, more famous in Russia, and Italian connoisseurs consider it more delicate and subtle in taste. For the production of prosciutto they use legs (thighs) of a special breed of pigs, they are fed on a special diet, the meat is not fatty and very tender. The process of cooking takes 13 months, the meat is sprinkled with sea salt (no preservatives!) and kept in special conditions in special rooms with a certain microclimate, which was formed under the influence of coolness from the Alps and the warm air from the Adriatic. At the end of June every year, prosciutto lovers gather in San Daniele for the Aria di Fiesta, when the town is full of people – not only Italians, but also Austrians and Slovenians come here – the border is not far. The town has a 4-day fair where prosciutto is sold and numerous restaurants and prosciutterias serve typical dishes:

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Prosciuttoire in San Daniel

Again, a reminder of prosciutto (read the sign):

Prosciuttoire in San Daniel

In the souvenir shops, of course, they sell the symbols of the town – pigs of various colors. I came across such a cute little store:

San Daniel Gift Shop

I got stuck there for a long time, looking at cute little pigs:

Pigs in a gift store

Pigs in a gift store

And such an excursion into the history of pig breeding – a historical corner in the store:

San Daniel Gift Shop

There are themed T-shirts for sale everywhere (though everything was closed):

San Daniele souvenir t-shirt

Naturally, we couldn’t help but try the prosciutto production site – that’s why our Italian friends brought us here in the first place! We chose an old family prosciuttery for dinner:

Prosciuttoire in San Daniel

The façade is beautiful, isn’t it? And inside everything is very simple and even a little gloomy, if you don’t know that this place has existed since 1884:

Prosciuttoire in San Daniel

On the wall, in the place of honor, hangs a photo of the owners – a genealogical tree of an Italian family, which impressed me a lot:

Photo of the owners in the prosciuttery

In the prosciuttery, pig’s feet (prosciutto) hung on one of the walls:

Prosciutto in a restaurant

Impressive, isn’t it? The menu consisted of typical dishes for this region, of course they all had prosciutto. Dinner was delicious, very plentiful (the portions were huge!) and simply luxurious. The appetizer (antipasti) was prosciutto and homemade pickled vegetables (sun-dried tomatoes, olives, onions, peppers and artichokes):

Prosciutto in a restaurant

Hostess marinated vegetables

And “Caprese” – tomatoes with delicate mozzarella:


For the hot meal, the hostess, a very gracious lady of age, suggested we try the San Daniels pasta (the house’s signature pasta!). It’s tagliolini with prosciutto in a cream sauce, all garnished with poppy seeds and topped with 2 slices of prosciutto crosswise (which I ate immediately, and then I remembered I had to take a photo), so I don’t have it as pretty as the dish was in the original (sorry!):

Pasta di San Daniele

My friend ordered herself a dish of pearl barley, also San Daniels-style (pearl barley! with zucchini and salmon), but what a great serving!

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Dish of pearl millet

This is the kind of dish you have to try to make. Very, very unusual and delicious (I tried it!) – surprise everyone!!! Decorated with salmon caviar (Italians don’t eat it) and pesto sauce. Beautiful. And there was a wonderful dessert – Crema caramelo (we had crème brûlée):

Crème brûlée

Of drinks – beer, brewed here in the prosciuttery, and wine Friulian, white – whoever liked what. I found a prosciutto cutting machine in the establishment, which I think is also historical:

Prosciutto slicer

The thing is that the taste of prosciutto is very thin, and it is cut in the thinnest, straight transparent slices with special slicing machines. You can’t slice it like that with a knife! They fix the leg in this thing and then start cutting the meat, having previously cut off the pork skin. Eat prosciutto with thin dry breadsticks – grissini, wind the meat on this stick, often it is salty, but there are also neutral ones. Sometimes prosciutto is served with slices of melon – this is a gourmet dish, but very tasty and unexpected. While we had a leisurely dinner, it got dark outside. The town glowed with the lights of lanterns and became quite magical, the streets were deserted – in Italy, I noticed, people go to bed early (in small towns):

Evening in San Daniele

We left this lovely little town – San Daniele – del Friuli, but I know I will definitely be back here again!

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