Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011 (recognized as the capitol of the Lombard Duchy and first stop in the “The Lombards in Italy, the places of power (568-774 A.D.)” UNESCO Itinerary), Cividale del Friuli is an intriguing town. Situated high above the Natisone River which, like the Isonzo river, is an amazing shade of emerald green & turquoise due to the naturally occurring limestone sediment or “rock flour”, you reach the town of by crossing the “Devil’s Bridge”. Legend has it that building the bridge was very difficult, and so the townspeople made a pact with the Devil that in return for his help in building it they would give him the first soul to go across. Once the bridge was built, the townspeople tricked the Devil by sending a cat across it first.
Cividale del Friuli is home to one most important and best preserved medieval temples, from the time when the Lombards (Longobardi) ruled in Italy. The visit to Tempietto dei Longobardi begins with a 20′ multi language video explaining the history, the architectural details and the sculptures on the walls. You can also visit the Monastery of Santa Maria in Valle, which has just undergone a restoration.
Another beautiful church not to miss is the Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Biagio from the XV Century, adorned with beautiful frescoes.
Hidden underneath the city is the fascinating “Camera Funeraria” or “Ipogeo Celtico” which is pre-Roman and is thought to have been used as a burial chamber or even a prison. No one is quite sure. There are some crudely sculpted faces in the walls and benches and steep steps that once led to the river, leading some to believe it might have been used as a cistern.
The city also has a Museum of Archeology, a Museum of Christian Art and Treasures of the Duomo, and a Museum dedicated to the Marionettes of Vittorio Podrecca made by Maria Signorelli. Make sure to check the times of all the sites you want to visit before you go because they are closed for several hours at lunchtime.
You can enjoy a nice lunch in the historic center where there are many wonderful taverns. Or, after your visit of Cividale del Friuli, you can retire to nearby ORSONE, the bed & breakfast, restaurant and grill located near the vineyards of the famed Bastianich family. Opened in 2013, Orsone launched with a high-end restaurant (with Del Posto chefs) and an American style grill featuring burgers and lobster rolls. Orsone is now undergoing a re-positioning towards a more casual, rustic vibe without losing the high quality on which it prides itself. The B&B has 6 comfortably furnished country style guest rooms, where one can stay after a day of exploring Cividale del Friuli. Don’t miss the Bastianich wines – they are quite delicious.
Cividale del Friuli is only 70 minutes from Trieste so perfect for a day-trip. If you’re planning to visit in the Summer, then you will find the town in full swing with MITTELFEST a 10-day celebration of art, music, theater, prose, and performances bringing people to discuss, celebrate and share the importance of art and culture. 2017 will feature a concert by Sting.