Exploring Cividale del Friuli
Cividale del Friuli is a beautiful and ancient city in Northern Italy which is famous for its old city center from the Lombard era. It was originally settled by the Celts and became a Roman city in 50 BC. Located in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Cividale del Friuli is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Given its interesting history and proximity to Villach, I figured it would be a great place to spend the afternoon.
I started my afternoon with a trip to the Celtic Hypogeum. The original purpose of the Hypogeum is unknown, but they believe it was built by Celts. It is an underground cave area close to the river with a series of carved halls and niches. In order to enter the Hypogeum, you have to get keys from the Oratorio di Santa Maria in Valle or the tourist information office. Since the tourist office was closed while I was visiting, I made a trip to the Oratorio and attempted to speak Italian with the grumpy old woman that worked there. Luckily she spoke some English, so I did not have to speak my embarrassing Italian for too long.
The Celtic Hypogeum was awesome and lucky for me, I was the only visitor. I enjoyed reading about the many uses of the caverns through time and having the opportunity to take my time in the space.
After my history lesson, I made it into the historic city center in search of lunch. The Piazza Paolo Diacono is the hub of Cividale del Friuli with plenty of small cafes and osterias nearby. The centerpiece of the piazza is a beautiful fountain of the hunter goddess Diana surrounded by four lion heads. Since I visited during the off-season, it was pleasant to get a picture of local life rather than a piazza filled with tourists. Friends catching up over warm drinks and children playing in the fountain – the good life for sure!
I had a fantastic and well-priced lunch at Ristorante Trattoria ai Tre Re. I enjoyed a glass of local red wine, a fresh mixed salad, and an excellent pasta dish made with San Daniele prosciutto. The waiter was very accommodating and even brought some prosciutto-cotto for my dog Laika to enjoy. Even though I was traveling alone, the atmosphere of the restaurant made me feel welcome – I will definitely return!
Due to Cividale del Friuli’s interesting history, there is plenty to see in an afternoon of exploration.
Things to do in Cividale del Friuli
- Walk across the Ponte del Diavolo (literally, “Devils Bridge”). The Devil’s Bridge is one of the primary sights of the town and goes over the Natisone River. From the bridge, it is possible to take stairs down to the riverside.
- Taste Strucchi Friulani. Strucchi is an Italian pastry typical of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region that is filled with a sweet mixture of nuts, spices, and sugar. There are several bakeries near the Ponte del Diavolo that make fresh strucchi daily. Nom nom.
- See the Ipogeo Celtico. Mysterious Celtic Hypogeum that is free to visit.
- Visit the Lombard Temple of Santa Maria in Valle. The beautiful monastery and temple area are home to a large collection of art from the Lombard era. Tickets cost 4 Euros to view the collection, but the building is worth a visit to see the architecture from the outside for free.
- Check out a museum. Cividale del Friuli is home to two museums: the small, but important Museo Cristiano and the interesting Museo Archeologico Nazionale.
Have you been to Cividale del Friuli? I would love to hear any recommendations you may have in the comments. I plan on visiting again soon!