Exploring Friuli Venezia Giulia: The Untouched Italy

As part of their partnership with the 2016 Lavazza Italian Film Festival, our friends at Fiat headed back to their Italian roots earlier this month, collaborating with film director Ruth Borgobello of ‘The Space Between’ (premiering at the festival). 

The journey saw Fiat explore their Italian roots in Friuli Venezia Giulia – a largely undiscovered area in the north-east of Italy. 100km from Venice, the region boasts a richly diverse landscape that encompasses the jagged Giulian alps, a vineyard peppered countryside and the deep blue Adriatic sea.

Visits can be made along the way to world leading vineyards, grappa distilleries, artisan cheese and proscuitto producers, castles, dramatic ruins on the coast, private villas, beachside restaurants and the vibrant towns of Trieste, Udine and Cividale. Voted this year by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten regions in the world to visit in 2016, the region is set to take off as a leading Italian tourist destination.

Here are some of the must see destinations in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Caffe Tomaso, Udine

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Located in the centre of Udine, Cafe Tomaso is a cosy Italian ristorante that showcases innovative, modern dishes. With a menu that changes daily and is recited to you at your table, chef and owner Andrea Zuccolo focuses on using the finest local ingredients. Initially an osteria, Andrea confesses that upon opening, the space wasn’t an immediate hit but following his recent decision to change the offering, the place has hit its stride.

Cividale

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This charming town in Friuli Venezia is well-known for its spectacular landscape provided by the surrounding hills covered in vineyards, providing a backdrop that is as good as they come. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town has incredible history, a walk through the streets will showcase this, but the the most famous symbol is the Ponte del Diavolo or ‘Devil’s Bridge’ which was constructed in 1565.

Livio Felluga

Fifty years ago patriarch Livio Fellugo’s shrewd intuition prompted him to focus his attention and experience on the hill country of Friuli. Livio brought new life to old vineyards, and planted new ones – the gentle hills of the Eastern Friuli is superb wine country, thanks to its position between the Adriatic and the Alps, to their very special site climates, and the unique soil composition. It is in this region that Livio Felluga’s 155-hectare estate is located.

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Livio Felluga wines are distinctive for their perfumes and aroma, one of their most famous being the Terre Alte, created in 1981, considered one of Italy’s most prestigious white wines. December 2015 saw the wine coined as “Italy’s best white-wine blend” by Decanter magazine.

Terra & Vini

Terra & Vini is a modern, stylish interpretation of the older traditional Friulian osterias of the past. The restaurant is part of Brazzano’s history, having been the village’s ‘osteria’ since the 19th century, making it the heart of the local community. The Felluga family (same as the winery) have done an incredible job at maintaining the ancient charm of the building, following its renovation. The original stone walls have been restored whilst the original furnishings have been impeccably preserved, including an ornate mirror that has hung in the same spot for more than half a century!

The kitchen works to reinterpret the traditional menu of an old-school Friulian osteria by incorporating the seasons and the products of the local landscape. Glasses of finest wines accompany selections of Friulian cheeses, such as the ‘Caciotte’ of local producer Zoff, along with tasting portions of cold meats and hams, like the slightly smoked D’Osvaldo proscuttio.

MAANJA Lake Suite & Restaurant

Lake Sauris is a relatively unknown pocket in Friuli, and one that will certainly be discovered once word gets out about this jewel. Sauris is one of the German language islands in North East Italy, meaning German is spoken just as frequently as Italian.

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The best part – boutique hotel MAANJA Lake Suite & Restaurant, which opened 12 months ago. The hotel sits on the banks of Lake Sauris with a 240 degree view and was designed by the most famous architect to come out of the Friuli region, Alessia Princic, known for his use of varying materials and the ability to maximise the surroundings. The restaurant is headed up local chef Alex Lucchin who has carefully crafted an impeccable menu of local produce to be coupled with regional wines.

Al Portonat, San Daniele

A 20-year family run proscuitteria in the centre of San Daniele, the home of prosciutto. The osteria takes its name from the ‘Portonat’, or city gate, located nearby. The restaurant’s wood-beamed interior is warm and welcoming, especially when coupled with the mama and papa style service. The restaurant uses all local produce including delicacies such as San Daniele prosciutto, local cheese and San Daniele Regina trout – proof of the love of their land.

All images courtesy Marco Covi

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