To most Americans, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is “that place north of Venice.” But times are changing. Friuli has been discovered, and as more intrepid travelers venture into its pre-Alpine hills and Adriatic shore towns, they’re discovering one of the most diverse regional cultures and cuisines of Italy. Friuli is a melting pot of Italian, Slavic, and Austrian influences, evidenced most dramatically in its cosmopolitan capital, Trieste, but also in evidence in the bucolic wine towns of its pre-Alpine hills.
Friuli is one of the most active regions in the Movimento Turismo del Vino, a tourism promotion initiative with chapters in each of the country’s twenty-one regions. This is the group that organizes the annual Cantine Aperte, meaning “Open Wineries,” which is typically held on the last Sunday of May each year. During which, many wineries, some of which that would not normally do so, open their doors to visitors.
Should you not be in Friuli for Cantine Aperte, a few more tourist-friendly wineries in Friuli-Venezia Giulia include Marco Felluga’s Castello di Buttrio, a renovated castle with a restaurant on-site, and the Conti Formentini property in the heights of San Floriano, which has a restaurant,agriturismo, and even a golf course. And if you’re looking simply for a centrally-located place to stay amid Friuli’s vineyards, there’s the homey Agriturismo Scacciapensieri, nestled in the hills of Buttrio.
Also not to be missed is a trip to a prosciutificio (prosciutto factory) in the little town of San Daniele, northwest of Udine. San Daniele hams are among the best of Italian prosciutti, and after touring one of the factories, there are a number of small osterie in San Daniele where you can sample a wood paddle-full of prosciutto à mano (cut by hand), complimented with a caraffe of tocai friulano
And, should you want to come down from the hills and check out the Adriatic coast, be sure to stop into the resort town of Grado on your way down to Trieste.