*Updated 20 February, 2018*
I have been meaning to write more about Friuli on the blog; however, it has been extremely difficult for me to condense my thoughts into one single post.
After writing, deleting, re-writing and deleting some more, I finally settled upon a “Friuli-Venezia Giulia For Beginners” guide that will be useful to those of you who know nothing (or very little) about the region and would like a general overview.
Friuli is home to the Aviano U.S. Air base, so I know that there are many American military families who seek info about the region.
Others may be passing through the region as they head to another destination, although once you enter, you may not want to leave. You have been forewarned.
Some of you might be located in another region of Italy or other European countries and you read about Friuli somewhere and decided that it was worth a visit. In that case, you are SO right!
For whatever reason you may be coming, I’m here to offer you some insider tips below, so continue reading to find out more about the region tucked into Italy’s northeastern corner.
Friuli is tucked away in Italy’s northeast corner. It is bordered by Austria, Slovenia and almost (but not quiet) Croatia.
Terrain – Farmlands, mountains (the Dolomite Mountains pass through with plenty of amazing water holes to cool off in during the hot summer months), Adriatic Sea.
Languages – Yes, Italian is spoken here, however Friuli has its own language – Friulano – which is spoken throughout a large portion of the region. In the southwest corner, which borders Italy’s Veneto region, Friulano is rarely spoken and you’ll hear the locals speaking in different versions of the Veneto dialect. Head up north toward the Slovenia border and you’ll hear a mixture of Slovene and Italian. Also a bit of German, seeing as it’s close to Austria.
Special Region – Friuli is one of Italy’s five Regioni Autonome – or Autonomous Regions. In a nutshell, this status means that they can govern some of their own affairs without the interference of the main Italian government. This is a positive thing, as the people of Friuli have more of a say among themselves.
Furniture Capital – Friuli is the heart of Italy’s furniture industry, especially chairs. Manzano is known as the “Chair Capital of the World” and if you head over to Maniago at the base of the Dolomite Mountains, you’ll find a rich history in knife forging. Don’t forget charming Spilimbergo, which is famous for its international mosaic school.
What People Do – Friuli is the best of both worlds since you have the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. The hiking possibilities are endless, as are the biking trails. You can head to the beach for the day to soak up some sun in the summer or sail down the ski slopes in the winter. Everything is easily accessible since Friuli is so small.
There are also many, many wonderful town festivals throughout the year, my personal favorites taking place in the fall months (chestnut festivals, pumpkin festivals, etc.)
I love that Friuli is so close to the Veneto region, which means you can hop over to Venice for a day or head into the heart of Italy’s Prosecco country: Valdobbiadene.
I also like to go to concerts at the Fazioli piano factory. If you love classical music, then you must go!
Read the story of how I discovered that this famous piano factory was practically in my back yard.
The weather can get rather crazy here. Since it is located between the sea, the mountains and just north of Africa, we get a little of everything and the weatherman’s predictions are not often reliable.
There are a lot of microclimates here, and the closer you live to the foot of the mountains the more rain you’ll probably have. You might be experiencing a downpour while your neighbor five minutes away is out sunbathing on the terrace.
Watch out for the mini “hurricanes” that blow in out of nowhere and pummel everything in their path! The day can start out sunny, but then the mountains start “shooting” clouds up into the sky. They build and build and build…and then dump down buckets of rain and sometimes hail as the wind whips the trees to and fro.
10 minutes later the sun is shining and you’re picking up the tree branches from the yard. If you plan to plant a vegetable garden, a net is crucial to your garden’s success.
Sometimes the summers are hot and humid and other times they are rainy and cool.
The winters vary: higher elevations get snow but down below, it is a very rare occurrence. Some years the mountains are a wintery wonderland and other years the ski resorts have to make their own snow.
Again, Friuli weather is a little of this and a little of that, and it’s very hard to accurately predict what Mother Nature has in store for you here.
There are plenty of delicious, hearty dishes to eat here. In the mountains you can pile on the polenta and wild game (venison, boar and rabbit to name a few) or a some fresh, wild mushrooms. There are too many for me to name, and being located in the southwest corner, I find myself eating more Veneto dishes than true friulano dishes.
Cheese – Montasio, Formadi Frant, Cuc (which I have yet to try)… so much cheese, so little time (and too many calories)! I taste as I go and find that in my area, there is a huge Veneto cheese influence (bastardo, ubriaco, ecc.)
Frico – Rolling right down the cheese line is one of my FAVORITE dishes here in Friuli: frico. It is a very simple dish made from a mixture of potato and cheese (usually Montasio but sometimes other similar cheese). If you happen to be a fan of the show MasterChef, you may recall a young Italian man named Luca Manfè who won season four…and he WON the show with his simple, charming frico friulano. Luca is from Friuli and every now and then, the locals in Aviano will spot him when he comes to visit his family (he currently lives in Houston and runs a “from farm to streets” food truck called “The Lucky Fig.”
Cured Meats – Prosciutto from San Daniele or Sauris are a must. Sauris, which is a small mountain town tucked into the Dolomites, is also famous for its speck, which is smokier than proscuitto and has a tougher consistency.
Risotto – Risotto dishes are particularly appreciated here in the north, Friuli included. As you can see in the picture above, locals in Friuli use wild herbs and local ingredients to mix into their risotto (learn about the artisanal rice from Piemonte I used in the risotto recipe above in this post.)
Cjarsons, Gubbana, Muset, Zuf and…and…
It’s not always about the past and the pizza — if you want to branch out and love rustic, mountain fare, then Fruli is the region for you.
Wine, coffee and beer.
Yes, yes and yes!
Collio is the heart of Friuli’s wine country. If you visit Friuli and you love wine, then this has to be at the top of your “must see” and “must drink” list.
They have some very unique sweet white wines here, including Picolit, Verduzzo and Moscato. Other whites that I really enjoy from here include Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Traminer.
If you prefer reds, then I recommend that you track down a bottle of Refosco del Peduncolo Rosso, Merlot or reds that are made with mixture of grapes.
If you would like to learn more about some of Friuli’s Artisanal Winemakers, then I suggest you Meet The Winefathers.
I also wrote an article about my favorite microbreweries in Friuli, so if you’re looking for some unique ex-beeriences here, please check out this article: Best Microbreweries in Friuli (+1 In Veneto)
I’ve been to some of the most well known ones from the region (or else made it a point to taste their beers) and made a list of them for all of you beer lovers out there.
I love ex-beer-iencing Friuli one mug at a time!
(Sorry, I do love a good pun!)
Can you name one of the most famous Italian coffee brands on the market?
ILLY caffè, that’s right!
Illy is a brand that hails from Friuli, and while I love Illy caffè just as much as the next coffee nut, there is another smaller company that I would much rather you know about: Grosmi.
I’ve toured the factory and inhaled the aroma of their freshly roasted beans (mmmmmmm), and even written about them on several occasions here on the blog.
I used their coffee as a part of my Italian Blogger Exchange, which you can read about in this post.
You’ll also learn about them in the post where I talk about my designer product splurge and spending 48 Euros on a single serving moka.
Here, you will find castles and villas, small hamlets and sandy beaches, ancient Roman ruins and modern Italian architecture, hills dotted with sheep and cattle, or lush forests that are crawling with native flora and fauna.
I will be honest with you: I still have a lot of Friuli to discover. Every year I try to incorporate spontaneous day trips into my “slow travel” itineraries in order to discover this region thoroughly, and it never fails to leave me feeling in awe (well, except when I was expecting sun and it was pouring down rain on the day of my trip).
Being such a small region, all of its hidden gems and treasures are just a short drive away, and that is what I love so much about living here.
Rain, snow, sun or storm, it is quite simply…breathtaking.
I will now end this post so that you can soak in Friuli photographically.
(a typical greeting in the friulano language)