Udine in Italy: the picturesque north of the country

Weekend in Udine

Udine is a small town in northern Italy with Venetian charm and ancient palazzos. There are some wonderful squares, a castle on a hill overlooking the roofs of the city houses, the mountains and the Adriatic Sea to the south.

The painter Giambattista Tiepolo lived and worked in Udine in the 18th century; it was here that he reached his artistic maturity. His masterpieces can be admired today in the Tiepolo Gallery (in the Patriarchal Palace), in the Cathedral and in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Udine these days is a city open to innovation, although the traditional image of it is built around the old taverns and osterias where locals enjoy a glass of wine (“melt”) in the atmosphere of a friendly feast.

Friulian specialities, cultural events and traditional festivals, museums for every taste, Udine has it all.

What to see

Piazza Libertà

Piazza Libertà is the oldest square in Udine. It is the heart of the city and the starting point of many sightseeing routes dedicated to its history and culture. The architectural ensemble of the square is made up of a harmonious blend of Renaissance buildings; some even claim that Piazza Libertà is the most beautiful Venetian square outside the lagoon.

The square is at the foot of the hill on which the castle of Udine stands; its name has been changed several times. In the Middle Ages the square was called the wine market. In 1350 it was renamed Piazza Comune because it was the seat of the town council. In 1550, when the city was already under Venetian rule, the square received the name of one of the Viceroys of the Light, Contarena, and in 1866, when the whole Friuli region became part of the Italian Kingdom, it was named in honor of Victor Emmanuel II. Today’s name appeared only after the Second World War.

Piazza della Libertà is adorned by several interesting buildings. For example, the Loggia Lionello, an elegant palazzo in the Venetian Gothic style lined with white and pink marble. On the opposite side of the piazza, on an elevated site, you will see the portico and the chapel of San Giovanni. They were built between 1533 and 1535, designed by Bernardino da Morcote; the chapel is now dedicated to all the fallen in the battles for Italy.

Nearby is the clock tower, built by Giovanni da Udine in 1527 and decorated with statues of two Moors. And even farther is the Arch of Bollani, designed by Andrea Palladio. The rusticated arch with the lion of St. Mark on top leads directly to the city’s citadel. Between the Loggia of Lionello and the Arch of Bollani a monument to peace was erected in 1819: it was placed here by Napoleon to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Campoformido.

On the edge of the square opposite the monument is a monumental Renaissance fountain by Carrara. Also in the piazza are two columns: St. Mark (installed 1539) and Justice (1614). And between the columns, facing the Loggia Lionello, are two statues of Hercules and Cacus (affectionately called Florean and Venturin by the locals).

Cathedral

Udine’s Cathedral is the city’s main and most impressive church. It is located in Piazza Duomo, a few steps from the main streets of the old town.

Cathedral facade © milosk50 / Shutterstock.com

The construction of the church began in 1236 at the will of Patriarch Bertoldo on the site of the church of San Girolamo. In 1257 the building was consecrated in honor of St. Odorico. In 1335 the cathedral is enlarged: the patriarch Bertrando di San Genesio begins the construction of the Chapel of the Annunciation and the whole building is named Santa Maria Maggiore. In the XIV century the side chapels are completed and in the XVI century Domenico Rossi and Abondio Stazio redesign the entire cathedral in the Baroque style.

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In the 20th century the façade was given back to the XIV century, and this combination of Romanesque and Gothic style can still be admired today. Standing out against the brick facade is the portal of the Atonement, whose decorative apparatus refers to a number of key themes of the Christian religion.

Next to the cathedral rises a powerful bell tower, built by Cristoforo da Milano in 1441. The author intended it to be graceful and high, with a statue of the Madonna on top, so that it would reach the height of the castle bell tower with a statue of an angel; the result would be a symbolic Annunciation in the sky above the city.

On the first floor of the bell tower is the cathedral museum dedicated to the person of the Blessed Bertrando di San Gensio.

The interior of the cathedral is dominated by the Baroque style. The majestic presbytery and masterpieces by some of the world’s leading painters stand out. The Santissimo Chapel contains paintings by Tiepolo. The church is also decorated with works by Pordenone, Pellegrino da San Daniele, Torretti (Canova’s teacher), Domenico da Tolmezzo and Dorigna.

Oratorio della Purità

The oratory is located on the south side of the cathedral of Udine. It was built on the place of the theater of the XVII century. The theater, destined for entertainment and far from the spiritual life, was not particularly liked by the patriarch Daniele Delfino who considered it a place of “peace and luxury”. And since it was very close by, the patriarch decided to buy it and convert it into a religious institution.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. “The Ascension of the Virgin Mary. Detail of the fresco © Mattana / Wikimedia Commons

A church was created in the lower part and an oratory for girls in the upper part. The interior of the rooms, on which Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Giandomenico worked, is interesting. The former painted “The Immaculate Virgin Mary” for the main altar of the church and “The Ascension of the Virgin Mary” on the ceiling, surrounded by “Angels in Glory.” Tiepolo, Jr. painted the walls with scenes from the Bible.

In the church you can also admire the baptismal font by Giovanni di Biagio da Zuglio (1480), which was transferred from the cathedral.

The Archbishop’s Palace

The Palazzo Arcivescovile, or Archbishop’s Palace, in Piazza Patriarcato, is undoubtedly Udine’s most famous monument. It is very close to Piazza Primo Maggio, a few steps from the historic center of the city.

The original Palazzo was built in the 16th century when the patriarchs of Aquileia decided to move from the castle of Udine to another building in the city. It was then rebuilt in the 18th century to a design by the architect Domenico Rossi, appointed by the patriarch Dionysius Delfino. In 1708-1725 a wing with a library and an oval staircase were added. The central building was superstructured with the realization of the entrance portal, the north wing of the building and the grand staircase were finished.

The Palace of the Patriarch, or Archbishop, since 1995 has become the Diocesan Museum of Ecclesiastical Art, famous for its Tiepolo Galleries. It displays artwork from many local churches, and its walls are decorated with early frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo, dating from 1726-1729. The Archbishop’s Palace is one of the most famous gems of architecture and art in Udine.

On the ceiling of the Entrance Hall, one can admire the magnificent fresco The Descent of the Fallen Angels. In the Guest Gallery are frescoes by the famous artist with biblical subjects, and the ceiling of the Red Room is occupied by The Judgment of King Solomon.

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The interiors of the other rooms of the palace are no less precious. The Yellow Room is decorated with delicate moldings, and the Blue Room with grotesques by Giovanni da Udine. Be sure to check out the Delfino Library, home to ancient manuscripts, incunabula and paintings by Nicolo Bambini.

The Castle

Udine Castle is entered from Piazza Liberta through the Bollani Arch, topped with a Venetian lion. It was built in 1556 by the famous architect Andrea Palladio.

Before climbing to the top of the hill, following the steps to the right of the Lippomano portico (1487), you will see the church of Santa Maria di Castello, the interior of which is decorated with priceless frescoes from different centuries.

At the top of the bell tower is a figure of a bronze angel that rotates according to the direction of the wind. The castle is on top of a moraine hill. At various times it has been the main residence of the Gastalds, patriarchs and Venetian-appointed rulers.

The modern, recently restored building of the castle was built in 1511 on the site of the ruined one. The most interesting part of the castle is the Salon of the Parliament, the walls of which are richly decorated with frescoes and the coffered ceiling with numerous drawings.

Casa Cavazzini

Casa Cavazzini is located in the historic center of Udine. It is a rebuilt sixteenth-century building that has become a new ark for the art of the city.

The Casa Colombatti-Cavazzini overlooks via Savorniana and via Cavour, opposite the town hall. Its rebuilding and reconstruction was entrusted to the internationally renowned architect Gaia Aulenti.

The area of the museum is 3,500 square meters, distributed over three floors, connected by two elevators and two grand staircases. One of them is newly built, while the second has been preserved since the 19th century. The architect succeeded in emphasizing two areas by making them visible and endowing them with a special aesthetic and architectural sense: a splendid 16th century Venetian style tankard and a room for the collection of early Iron Age tableware (second half of the 8th century B.C.), the oldest of the museum’s collections.

During the renovation works in Casa Cavazzini, the splendid frescoes of Afro Basaldella were discovered, as well as works by artists of the second half of the 14th century. The secular subjects of the frescoes are important for the study of Gothic painting of Friuli.

Today Casa Cavazzini is home to the Museum of Modern Art, with exhibitions on the second and third floors. Here you can admire the Astaldi collection, donated to the Museum of Udine by Maria Luisa and Sante Astaldi in 1982. Among the works are those of De Chirico, Savinio, De Pisis, Carrà and Santomaso; the FRIAM collection, a group of 113 pieces of contemporary American artists such as Willem De Kooning, Carl Andre and Frank Stella, donated to the city by the artists themselves after the 1976 earthquake that devastated Friuli. There are also creations by the brothers Dino, Mirko and Afro Bazaldella in the room of the master of the house, Dante Cavazzini, who in 1938 commissioned the young Afro and Mirko Bazaldella and Corrado Cali to fresco the walls.

The museum also hosts splendid temporary exhibitions.

Kitchen

The local cuisine uses simple and traditional products. There is a strong seasonality and a special emphasis on natural ingredients, which due to the mountain climate acquire a richer taste.

Polenta made with corn flour

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Polenta on a board © Foto Alessandro Castiglioni / Regione Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Cornmeal is mixed with water in a copper pot and boiled for an hour. This is the simplest, most popular way to make cereal, in addition to baking or making pasta (pasta). Before corn was brought to Italy, barley, spelt, rye, millet, buckwheat, and wheat were cooked this way.

Frico con polenta

Frico con polenta © ristorantecarnia.com

Frico is undoubtedly the most famous dish of all the gastronomic diversity of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It is a flatbread made of cheese and potatoes with butter. There are two varieties – crispy and soft. The crispy frico includes a thin layer of cheese (usually montasio), which is fried in boiling oil. It is often served as an appetizer. Soft frico is made from potatoes, cheeses of varying age, adding also butter, olive oil and salt. It turns out a thick flatbread.

Chiarsons

Chiarsons © Foto Regione Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Chiarsonsons are a hot first dish, traditional in Udine. In fact, they are semicircular-shaped dumplings with sweet and salty fillings, which creates an inexpressible contrast. They are filled with raisins, cocoa and chocolate, cinnamon, spinach, green onions, ricotta, jam, rum, grappa, parsley, galette, egg and milk. They are boiled in hot salted water, drained, seasoned with butter and smoked ricotta (“scuente fumade”). Instead of fresh butter, they sometimes use ghee, which was widespread in the past due to the lack of refrigerators.

Niocchetti de Gris

Niocchetti de Gris in broth © blog.giallozafferano.it

Niocchetti de Gris is a typical Friulian dish, dumplings made of semolina in broth. The semolina is poured into the boiling milk and butter, egg yolk and nutmeg are added while stirring. Although this dish was considered the food of commoners, it is extraordinarily delicious.

Muzzet e brevade

Muset e brevade © mangiarebuono.it

“Muzzet” is a type of salami of offal, and “bravade” is a garnish of white turnips with grapes, traditionally served with roasted and boiled meats. Since 2011, it has even been categorized as DOP. It’s prepared this way: small slices of turnip with a purple rim are soaked in grape cake and then stewed for a long time in a pot with olive oil, bay leaf and often with a piece of fatty pork.

How to get there

By plane

Ronchi dei Lejonari International Airport is 30 km from Udine. There is an express bus to the city.

The main station is on the viale Europa Unita, a stone’s throw from the historic center. Trains go to the main cities in Italy.

By car

The easiest way to get to Udine is along the highway A23 Palmanova – Udine – Tarvisio. You can use the northern and southern exits, Udine North and Udine Sud respectively. To get to the city center by both roads is equally convenient.

Response: A city tour of Udine (Italy) is not really an Italian city either.

Today is Italy again, but have patience, it’s coming to an end:) Today is the city in the north of the country. And that’s it, there is no more Italy. We are leaving it.

Udine. We were here for one day. Do you know what towns in the north of the country look like?) It’s not really Italy, if you look at the era that’s left in the architecture nowadays. It’s Austria. The city was part of the Austrian Empire in the late 18th century. But I will try not to show you Austria:) We are still in Italy. Austria will start later:)

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

What to do in the city? The usual! Walk! Walk a lot, walk and breathe, walk and eat, walk and watch!

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That is, even here the traditional walks were waiting for us:). Yes, right before breakfast, and we’ll rush. Slowly, leisurely, quietly. While the locals are asleep. Not many tourists yet.

The center of the city is very compact, very clean, and architecturally organized, in fact the Austrians:). There are a lot of butchers and bakeries. The guys are eating like in central Europe:). Build, by the way, too.

Not Vienna, of course, but something is already slipping through.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

But if you look along. If you look across, then Venice! Why? For almost half a century the city was ruled by Venetians. Their Venetian Republic. Now it’s no more than 50 km to the Slovenian border.

What is striking about the local environment? Udine is amazing in this respect. The city is almost unspoiled by tourism. There’s no polished and polished development for tourists. You walk around and you don’t get the idea that “this place is touristy.” and this. and this. Everything is authentic and natural: unpainted walls, broken shutters… No one hides this naturalness. People just live here. People? Just like everywhere else in Italy:). Simple and friendly.

We walked around the beautiful Piazza della Liberta. Old and imposing arcades, old and imposing monuments . Arcades are still practical, in addition to being insanely beautiful. Really used both as protection from the rain and as shelter from the sun. On our walk, however, there was neither the former nor the latter, so these columns acted solely as architectural creations.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

The Loggia di San Giovanni, the arcade around the clock tower topped with bronze statues. The square is also decorated with a statue of a lion, the symbol of Venice.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

And the clock tower is the counterpart of the Venetian. I told you Venice seeps in from everywhere. 16th century. The tower would have been older, but the old one collapsed in the earthquake. And the bronze guys on the roof are ringing the bell. Moors, what can you take from them?

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

A man with a leaf is for you instead of cats. We didn’t meet, so don’t judge. )

And in the picture below is the bell tower of the cathedral of Udine. It looks like a water tower, and owes its original form to another building on which it stands. In Ravenna we saw them several times. It is the base of a baptistery, a building designed for baptism. That is, it is a freestanding church building or an annex to a temple, which is entirely dedicated to this sacrament. And here they managed to add ten meters to it:)

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Here in the square is the town hall of Udine, a variant of the Doge’s Palace of Venice.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Partially burned, but it looks great. Venetian Gothic.

Then we went up to the Castello, the castle of Udine. This zig-zag route up the castle hill led us through the back door to Udine’s most panoramic spot. Up we went, catching our breath, turning our heads.

The hill is steep and somehow isolated. I would even say it is alone:). The castle itself is like the culmination of this climb. But the setting is somewhat standard. Instead of a medieval fortress castle, it’s a large sixteenth-century palace. In general, in this matter, Castello resembles our Kremlin. Of any city, moreover. The walls may be standing, but inside is a completely different era. Or completely or partially.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

These palaces are just a few of the city’s museums. Didn’t get in, but I highly recommend it to you. There’s a very nice art gallery there. We were unlucky, it was a sanitary day:(. I really wanted to have a look at Carpaccio and Caravaggio.

And from the walls there were these kinds of views.

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City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Well, it’s not Italy at all.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Now we can eat.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Castello is traditionally the heart of the city. The city itself, one way or another, grew up from the castle walls. In this sense, nothing new.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

And where did castles used to be built? That’s right, on the highest point. On a hill. And there’s a hill here, and there’s a plain below, and there’s postcard views, what without them!

That’s not bad optics, is it? The spire is a bit far when you look at the photo from above.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

The city as you can see it. All the details and little things!

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

You’re so turned around.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Now we can go down. With this place everything became more or less clear. The hill is like a lookout and a platform and a defensive fortress. And that explains the location of the city and its importance in those years. And now the castle grounds, with benches and lawns is just a good place to relax and contemplate the city.

In the meantime, it was already getting dark. It’s winter outside, it gets dark quickly.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

I managed to put the optics on these brave guys:). Got the right angle. I must say it was not very clear:).

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Next we were waiting for the Chiesa Fi San Francesco. The church was built in the 13th century.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Surprisingly, the state of this temple raises questions. But there is an explanation.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

The city has been shaken several times, and air strikes in World War II permanently damaged what was still standing. And this church has been rebuilt several times, changing architectural styles and decorations. Inside the temple, there are the remains of frescoes.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

And there are similarities with our country, too. Although it is impossible to say that the temple is not maintained.

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

City tour of Udina (Italy) photo

Now about the logistics, hotels and restaurants.

There are enough hotels in the city. I will not list the names, we again pointed at a few options, walked around them, the good thing we can walk near, and the last hotel just talked to the owner:). But we could have done it in any other hotel. Do not deny a discount, or food, or conversation:).

About the food. I can name a couple of places where we if ourselves, but I think that in this town you can safely go to all places:). The main rule is the same. The first local you meet, you have to get one question. Where he eats himself or where he takes his guests:). This will save you the agony of choice. But no one cancelled the Internet with reviews. I will not tell you the name of the institution to which the first encounter was pointed out to us, or you will be bored. But I will definitely name the second charming and inexpensive place. Osteria Alla Ghiaccia. There’s a terrace, homemade wine, good service and local cuisine. In general, than I could:)

Everything is transparent with the logistics. If you are in Venice and you are bored, the electric train will get you here in two hours:). You can also rent a car in Venice and you will be here in 1.5 hours. It’s about 130 km.

You are unlikely to get here as part of a trip to Italy by car. The city is still a bit off the main tourist routes. Usually everyone ends up in Venice, too. But if you can find a few hours, be sure to make it to Udine. The city has a lot intertwined and much is very well preserved. There’s no unnecessary pathos, no crowds of tourists, no noise. Plus there is the cultural heritage, both historical and architectural. All have a good rest and new discoveries!

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