You’ve seen Rome’s Colosseum, Venice’s canals, Florence’s Duomo, and eaten your weight in pizza and gelato, but have you ever heard of Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region?
Tucked away in the north eastern part of Italy near Slovenia, lies what could be Italy’s best kept secret.
The Friuli Venezia Giulia region is filled with rugged mountains, wild rivers, ancient ruins, quaint old towns and secluded beaches. It’s the region that has everything for outdoor lovers, yet it’s skipped by most tourists.
Now here’s a blog to show any outdoor lover why they must add a visit to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region to any Italian itinerary – however you’ll need to hire a car to get around this region.
Trieste & local beaches
The main city of the Fruili Venezia Giulia region is Trieste, a seaside city tucked away in a corner of Italy.
The harbour city faces out to the Adriatic Sea and you’ll find plenty of beaches around Trieste to soak up some sun and sea time.
If you’re armed with a kayak, you’ll find even more.
With a car or scooter, you can also find plenty of great viewpoints in the hills surrounding the city.
The city itself is also worth a wander with its charming harbour and old town.
Old towns and ancient ruins
Like other Italian regions, there’s plenty of cute towns to explore in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and enjoy a cheeky gelato or Aperol Spritz.
Cividale del Friuli is one of them. Its Old Town streets are quaint and quiet, and you will likely only see a handful of people on the city’s main attraction, Devil’s Bridge. Make sure you head down the stairs into the gorge to see the bridge from below.
Aquileia was once a thriving Roman city, and it’s now home to Roman ruins and mosaics. The Patriarchal Basilica features a wide range of beautifully restored 4th century mosaics.
The island of Grado, separated a short distance from the mainland, felt like a mini-Venice. It has a gorgeous Old Town and beaches, perfect for wandering and taking the time to enjoy the atmosphere with an Aperol Spritz. Grado was actually where people from Aquileia fled to seeking safety when it came under invasion.
The Natsione River is a hidden gem of this region and one I only found out about from the Italian family I was staying with during my visit.
The river is 60 kilometres long and runs through both Italy and Slovenia. The town of Cividale del Friuli is located on the Natsione River.
There’s plenty of spots where you can have a swim in the refreshing clear blue water.
Near the Italian-Slovenian border in the region’s north-east lies the two beautiful glacial Fusine Lakes.
There’s a small and large lake (named Lago Inferiore and Lago Superiore).
It’s a charming place for an easy hike along quiet wooded paths, and you can even a dip in the clear, but cold, glacial water.
Nearby is the Goriuda waterfall – a stunning waterfall cascading over a cave opening. It’s a short and easy hike to the waterfall from the road.
The Dolomites are not just in the Trentino region – they also extend out here too.
This Fruilane section of the Dolomites mountain range is much wilder than the more popular Trentino Dolomites – but that means they are also barely visited. You’ll likely only see locals around here and you’re likely to have mountain summits all to yourself.
One of the best hikes I’ve ever done was in this section of the Dolomites and took me up to a rock formation called the Campanile. At the time, the path was nearly non-existent up a very rocky, scree slope due to an avalanche the previous year. The views up here were stunning with a 360 degree view over the mountains. Due to the wild and isolated nature of this area, you’ll need to be an experienced hiker to venture out here.
The beauty of this region is that it’s also a short drive from Slovenia. You can base yourself on the Italian side, but take a day trip over to Slovenia to see the nearby turquoise Soča River.
You can also take a drive up the Vrsic Pass, traversing 50 hairpin bends to reach the top of the scenic mountain pass, with many beautiful views along the way.