Living History – Attractions in Friuli-Venezia Giulia

From the Ancient Romans to the Cold War: history was made here in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Put yourself in the shoes of a legionary on watch among the pillars of the Roman forum, brandish a double-edged sword left behind on the battlefield by the Lombards, and discover traces of the “Iron Curtain” of the Cold War. Walk along paths trodden by a young German officer called Rommel, crawl among the trenches that inspired the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti and search for the dungeons of a fortress in the midst of powder magazines, gun batteries and tunnels. The past is truly in the air in Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region covered by battlefields and places where history was made, deep in the heart of Europe and open towards the Adriatic Sea. This strategic position has often meant Friuli Venezia Giulia was at the centre of great conflicts and of some of the most significant moments in history. It was here that the ancient Romans built the fourth town of Europe, Aquileia, town where the most extensive mosaic floor of Europe is kept in the Paleochristian Basilica, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998. The Lombards, who were warriors and craftsmen, horsemen and goldsmiths, shaped the land and built a metropolis called Forum lulii – now Cividale – from which the name Friuli is derived and where a small Lombard Temple, true jewel of ancient art, can be found, also a UNESCO Site since 2011. Later, the area became the favourite playground of the Hapsburg Empire.

World War 1

This region was the principal scenery of the Italian frontline for over two and a half years during WWI. Hundreds of thousands of Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers faced each other in twelve great battles between May 24th, 1915 and the end of October 1917, on the Karst plateau and Julian Prealps, at the Slovenian border. Behind them, the Friuli plains were transformed into a great military machine of back-roads, needed to supply logistic support to all these soldiers on the frontline. Udine then became the military capital of Italy from 1915 to 1917. On October 24th 1917 the situation was overthrown when an attack by the Austro-Hungarian brought on what is today known as the “Defeat of Caporetto”. Almost 100 years after Italy entered in battle (precisely 100 years since the Austro-Hungarians entered in battle, of which the current provinces of Trieste, Gorizia and part of Udine formed a part) there are still many traces of the conflicts in Friuli Venezia Giulia, creating an open-air museum. The Isonzo Karst, Natisone Valleys, the Carnia and Tarvisio mountain peaks are covered in trenches, fortifications, military posts and remains of frontline barracks. The Tagliamento hill area, up to the Friuli Dolomites, still carries memories of the October-November 1917 retreat. There are many original tokens of these battles to which others were added: museums (First World War Museum of Ragogna), where thousands of military objects are kept, monuments built to remember the most important moments of the conflict, shrines (War Memorial at Redipuglia) where the remains of over 100 thousand soldiers are kept), and Italian and Austro-Hungarian cemeteries.

Not to be missed

  •  Palmanova, ideal fortress enclosed in a 9 point star, National Monument.
  •  The First World War Theme Park: open-air museum in Monfalcone.
  •  The impressive Tagliamento line of defence, scattered with ruins and blockhouses.
  •  The Risiera di San Sabba, was a Nazi concentration camp in Trieste, now a National Monument.
  •  The Foiba di Basovizza, National Monument, symbol of all the atrocities perpetrated at the end of WW2 by Yugoslav partisans.
  •  éStoria, International History Festival (May 23rd-25th in Gorizia)

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