The Michelangelo Team goes off the beaten tracks

A Fam Trip to one of Italy’s lesser-known regions Friuli Venezia Giulia

Educational tours not only broaden our view of the ins and outs of travel, but also provide the best possible destination training enabling us to better advise our clients in the field of group travel.

The latest Michelangelo staff fam trip took us to Friuli Venezia Giulia, a somewhat overlooked region which encompasses Italy’s far northeastern border with Austria and Slovenia. You can find it all here, amazing landscapes with a stunning Alpine scenery, lovely rolling hills on which world-famous wines are cultivated and the beautiful Adriatic coastline dotted with lagoons and small islands. On top of that you can’t fail to be impressed by the area’s interesting cultural diversity and distinctive local cuisine.

180227_mappa_friulieducationalWe recently wrote about this Italian region in our article “Friuli Venezia Giulia – Living history, hiddentreasures & unique nature” where we introduced some of the highlights, we now want to present some must-sees and dos we left out last time.

Our tour first took us to the region’s capital Trieste, an elegant and cosmopolitan city framed by green hills and white limestone cliffs on one side and the Adriatic on the other. Built by the Austrians to be the Empire’s only port, the Habsburg influence can still be felt today. From the grand architecture lining the main squares and boulevards to the distinctive coffee culture the Austro-Hungarian heritage is remarkably present in Trieste’s glorious architectural and ethnic pot-pourri.
The city’s landmark, the Piazza dell’Unità, surely ranks among the world’s largest and most impressive squares set right on the waterfront.

Upon arrival around lunchtime we enjoyed a light lunch in the historic coffeehouse L’Antico Caffè San Marco. Founded in 1914, the cafè was known for having always been one of the city’s main meeting places for intellectuals. Destroyed during the WW1 hostilities, it remained in decline until the end of WW2 when it was restored. It earned the status of “Historic Italian Cafè”  in 1989 and is now a café, cultural centre  and library.

After a nice stroll through the city centre we headed just 10 km out of town to another of Trieste’s juwels:

Miramare Castle

The  Castello Miramare is an extremly picturesque castle with obvious Habsburg roots, which was built on a rocky cliff from 1860-1865 by the Austrian Archduke Maximilian. Although he was only able to enjoy it briefly with his wife Charlotte (he was killed by Mexican republicans just two years after it was completed), the castle remained as a testimony to both their love and sadness. The castle park is filled with rare and precious trees, which the archduke, and self-proclaimed Emperor of Mexico, had selected himself. Visit the small swans’ lake, lotus pond and the castelletto (a small, somewhat secluded castle) and enjoy the marvellous flora.

We spent the night at the Savoy Beach Hotel, a superb  5* Hotel right on the beach of the Adriatic resort of Bibione.
After an enjoyable stay, the following day we had the pleasure of tasting one of the region’s  culinary delights, San Daniele Ham. A visit to Prosciuttificio Suavis, a long-standing Michelangelo supplier, gave us an interesting introduction to the ham manufacturing process.

San Daniele Ham

The genuine San Daniele is an air-dried raw ham, recognisable not only by its stamp, but also by its trotter, which is not removed. To qualify as San Daniele ham, the production facilities must lie within the precincts of the commune of San Daniele and can only use fresh haunches from healthy pigs bred in Italy which have been fattened with fodder through controlled farming. The centuries-old tradition of San Daniele ham rests on the intricate control and certification process of the protective body, which carefully supervises every stage of production. A special needle made out of horse bone is inserted into the hams after they have been curing for at least 13 months in large, well-ventilated rooms. The ham can only be marked as San Daniele ham if it passes this final test. There are around 25 prosciutterias in San Daniele, where ham can be bought and/or tasted. In addition, there are around 30 prosciuttificios, which produce the ham. Some of these also offer ham tastings.

Before heading back to our beautiful base, Lake Garda, we stopped in Udine for a quick tour of the town centre. Although the city seems completely unaffected by tourism, especially at the time of year when we dropped by, it is well worth a visit. The townscape is made up of a charming jumble of Venetian arches, Grecian statues and Roman columns, and the small medieval canals, which flow through the centre, provide an attractive additional feature. Remnants of the almost 400 years of Venetian rule are still present today, especially in the city’s main square, the ‘Piazza della Libertà’. With its unique architectural ambience, it is certainly one of the loveliest squares in northern Italy. The historical impact of the Habsburg monarchy and the proximity to Slovenia (20 km) both contribute today to Udine’s cosmopolitan atmosphere.

After two intense days of visits, great food and wine and some wonderful sights, we returned to Riva del Garda with a greatly enhanced appreciation of this interesting and cosmopolitan region.

Make sure you don’t overlook this part of Italy when planning your tour programmes. Get in touch with us if you have any questions. We can heartily recommend the Friuli Venezia Giulia and are sure that it will provide you with an outstanding destination for your next group tour to Italy.

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