During our 3 week stay in Cividale del Friuli, we were lucky enough to be able to visit the surrounding areas with our rental car. Two little towns worth a visit are Venzone and San Daniele.The village of Venzone is a fortified jewel near the Alps. The town has Celt and Roman origins and the fortifications were built in the XIII century. So, it is a very old town! Unfortunately, Venzone was almost completely destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1976, but it has been restored to its former glory using the same materials wherever possible. After only 8 years Venzone was reborn together with its Cathedral, which has become a symbol of the earthquake and the subsequent town’s rebirth. It is said that Venzone has been reborn “where it was and how it was” and today it is an example of historical and architectural conservation.
The village of San Daniele lies tucked away in the north-east corner of Italy, in the province of Udine and close to the borders of Austria and Slovenia. It is famous worldwide for its delicious Prosciutto di San Daniele, and rightly so!
SIGHTSEEING – VENZONE
Even though Venzone is quite small, there are a few interesting historical sights to visit. Venzone has a small but charming historic centre with picturesque medieval buildings and old churches. In Italy, Venzone is famous for the tenacity of its people who never gave up and rebuilt their town quickly and as authentically as possible.
Duomo – Cathedral
The Duomo, a Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral is considered the symbol of the post-earthquake restoration. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1338 by Patriarch Bertrando.
The interior has been rebuilt using the rubbles.
Mummies of Venzone
In the front churchyard of the Cathedral, we find the Chapel of San Michele built in 1200 and now home to the permanent museum dedicated to the Mummies of Venzone.
The discovery of the nearly forty mummies extracted from the tombs inside and around the Duomo dates back to 1647, when the first mummy, known as the “hunchback”, was discovered. The natural mummification of the bodies is due to a particular mold that dehydrated the tissues and inhibited decomposition.
To enter the Chapel, you need to get tokens (called “gettoni”) from the bar/café opposite the Duomo.
The Town Hall is a Gothic palace built in 1400 and rebuilt in 1500 whose external facades are decorated with the coats of arms of the most ancient noble families of Venzone and refined by mullioned windows in Gothic-flowered style.
Church of St. John the Baptist
The remains of the Church of St. John the Baptist, built in the XIV century still bear witness to the violence of the earthquake of 1976, which spared only the main facade. The portal of the Church bears the architectural features of the Gothic style with capitals decorated with figures and floral motifs.
The village of Venzone is surrounded by a large moat and an interesting double circle of walls of the thirteenth century: the first ring of walls forms an embankment on which the second one is built.
WWI and WWII Monument
SIGHTSEEING – SAN DANIELE
San Daniele has a lot of historical buildings and churches to explore. Also, make sure not to miss a visit to one of the local prosciutterias.
Duomo – Cathedral
Start your day at the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel with its beautiful white façade. The Cathedral was built in the 14th century on the site of a previous building, before being refurbished in the 18th century by the Venetian architect Domenico Rossi.
The inside is just as beautiful!
Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot
The Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot dates back to the year 1308 and is tucked away on a side street. It is dedicated to the patron saint of pork butchers and charcutiers – very appropriate for the town that’s home to Prosciutto di San Daniele!
There is a good reason why this church is called the “Sistine Chapel of Friuli”! Inside you will find a vividly coloured fresco cycle of paintings by Renaissance artist Pellegrino da San Daniele.
It is just breathtaking.
14th Century House
WWI and WWII Monument
While you will never have a problem finding a good place to eat in Italy, I strongly recommend trying some local Prosciutto di San Daniele in San Daniele itself! Yes, you can definitely make a meal of it!
We ate at Prosciuttificio Bagatto and loved it. We obviously had some amazing Prosciutto!
But they also serve other local specialties, like cheese and freshly baked bread and grissini.
Not to mention the most famous local cake: Gubana. This cake dates back to the 1400’s and it is a sweet brioche-like cake filled with walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, sugar/honey, grappa and lemon zest. It is often served with some more grappa that you are supposed to pour over it!
After the delicious lunch, we asked to visit the prosciuttificio where we were shown a very interesting video (in English) on how prosciutto is made and then we entered the room where prosciutto is kept to age. I can still remember the delicious smell!!
There is also a little shop where you can buy prosciutto and other local produce. Highly recommended!
In Cividale, we stayed in a beautifully appointed apartment right in the heart of town, in Piazza Polo Diacono: Casa in Piazza. This place is a gem.
We booked the 1 bedroom apartment with a king bed.
There were a big kitchen and a sofa bed in the living room.
There was also a perfectly sized bathroom.
It is very clean and practically new. Highly recommended – I think a place like that right in the centre of town is hard to beat! And with so many restaurants and cafés just down in the square!
Also, the building itself is ancient – it dates back centuries and the restoration work was done really tastefully. You can still see part of the original walls in some areas of the apartment!
The mezzanine with loft is the apartment above this and it was lovely too – friends from our same group were renting it, so we got to visit.
The owner and his wife are truly amazing people. Very friendly, helpful, and kind. One day they even took us for a drive to see the vineyards and we had lunch together. More on that in another post though.
If you decided to visit Cividale, look no further: stay at Casa in Piazza for an AMAZING experience.
I highly recommend a visit to both Vezone and San Daniele. They are very interesting places and absolutely not to be missed!
If you have any questions, leave a comment and I will be happy to help out!
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