Land of delightful traditions

Nestled at the foothill of the Giulie Alps, along the banks of the Tagliamento river lies the fortified town of Venzone, an important point of passage in ancient and mediaeval times, and today located near the borders of Austria and Slovenia. The name Venzone derives from “av-au”, “flusslauf” (spring, stream) and therefore from the Venzonassa stream (it is possible to follow its course and its spectacular gorge from the old town).

One of the first documents regarding Venzone dates back to 923 where the “Clausas de Abincione” (Dams of Venzone) are mentioned, even though a fi rst settlement dates back to the late Seventh Century. In order to make the town more secure in 1258, a double city wall of roughly 1300 meters was built, divided by sixteen towers. A true masterpiece of medieval military engineering, which is unique in Friuli. During this period (XIII-XV Centuries), Venzone experienced a thriving period of culture and commerce. Merchants and Jewish bankers, people from Siena, Florence, and from across the Alps brought goods as well as artistic and cultural trends from their places of origin. In 1420, Venzone became part of the Venetian Republic, retaining its ancient rights and privileges. From this moment onwards, however, its slow decline began due to the trade route diversion towards other centres, as well as the prolonged war between the Venetian republic and the Archdukes of Austria.

Between May and September 1976, a long series of earthquakes hit Friuli and destroyed Venzone. A careful and exemplary philological work of reconstruction, adopting the technique of anastylosis (original repositioning of the stone elements recovered and integration of those destroyed), enabled the recovery of the monuments, the city walls, with the Cathedral being beautifully reconstructed stone by stone, along with the urban structure of the town. To witness and comprehend the earthquake of 1976, as well as experience all the technical, social, cultural and economic elements, a visit to the “Tiere Motus. History of an earthquake and its people” museum is a must. Here, in an earthquake simulator, visitors are able to experience in a realistic manner, the intensity of the shock of May 6th. Strolling around the characteristic streets of Venzone, you will be able to discover unique and interesting “signs” of its past: the Town Hall Square, with its elegant central fountain overlooked by buildings of extraordinary beauty and richness of style. The Beautiful Town Hall building is an example of Venetian Gothic architecture, built between 1390 and 1410. The external facades are decorated with a series of coats of arms belonging to the oldest noble families of Venzone, and traces of its glorious past are reflected by the eagle, representing the Patriarchate of Aquileia, the crenellated bridge, which is the symbol of Venzone, and the Lion of San Marco. Above all the rooftops appears the Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of Saint Andrea, initially created in 1300 and consecrated in 1338 by the Patriarch Bertrando San Geniès. Inside, the Cathedral contains some highly valuable and unique works of art. Next to the Duomo lies the cemetery chapel of San Michele. Inside are crypts holding preserved mummies that have made the name Venzone known around the world. All of this is summed up by visiting the second floor of the Orgnani-Martina Palace which hosts the permanent exhibition “Forests, Man, Economy in Friuli Venezia Giulia”. The exhibition illustrates all aspects of the forest ecosystem, with a section dedicated to the history and development of forests, fauna, and the functions and uses of the forests.

An event not to be missed is the Pumpkin Festival held on the fourth weekend of October. During the two days of festivities all centered around pumpkins, the town lights up with its magic and history. The streets are lit by torches and populated by nobles, knights and ladies, tavern keepers, shop-keepers and merchants. The re-enactments of historical parades are enhanced by music and medieval dances, complete with jugglers, fl ag throwers, acrobats, fire-eaters and sword swallowers. Deserving a special mention is the treats made from pumpkin, such as the delicious gnocchi, soups, and sweets filled with pumpkin.

Another point of interest is that Venzone was the location for the 1957 film “A Farewell to Arms”, based on the novel written by E. Hemingway, and starring Rock Hudson, Alberto Sordi and Vittorio de Sica. Then in 1959, “The Great War”, was filmed in Venzone, a masterpiece by director Mario Monicelli, starring Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi.

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