Be Sure to check out Part I of this article on Friuli’s Attractions
The numerous museums devoted to arts and crafts have collected and preserved the area’s material culture like a treasure of memory and poetry: the Museo dell’Arrotino, in Val Resia, devoted to knife-grinders, evokes figures and words that have now disappeared, and the Permanent Exhibition of the Mining Tradition in Cave del Predil recounts the stories of the men who toiled in the depths of the earth.
Carnia is a territory where nature, tradition, sports and hospitality have come together to offer you a perfectly balanced holiday. The landscape is unforgettable: small parishes, votive churches set at the foot of rugged mountains, Alpine hamlets with their charming buildings made of stone and wood, and crafts shops where trades that have disappeared elsewhere have been handed down for generations. Discovering Carnia’s ancient face is a fascinating experience.
It is a return to an ancient world that has survived in little village shops. In Sutrio, skilled woodworkers created veritable works of art whose delicacy and harmony will enchant you. Since the 18th century, craftsmen from Val Pesarina have produced clocks with ingenious mechanisms that hark back to a Genoese pirate – Solari – who took refuge in these valleys, considered inaccessible at the time.
This extraordinary cultural heritage is demonstrated by a network of museums that dot the territory and differ in both subject and size, from the Museum of Popular Traditions and Arts in Tolmezzo to the “Mozartina” in Paularo, which displays antique and modern musical instruments that are perfectly functional.
Sauris-Zahre, the highest municipality in Friuli, is the homeland of a delicious type of smoked ham, and it still cherishes the Germanic traditions that have given the town its old-fashioned fairytale atmosphere. Carnia – like one big village – is the perfect place for marvellous excursions.
On foot or astride a mountain bike, you can take panoramic routes or follow ancient roads to discover archaeological sites. Or you can walk through the trenches and visit the military posts of the Italian-Austrian front from the First World War. Wherever you go, you will meet the people of these valleys, and you’ll come to know and love their proud character and extraordinary hospitality.
You can choose from a network of small family-run hotels, which will make you feel at home; in Lauco, Ovaro, Sutrio, Sauris e Comeglians you can try the unique experience of alberghi diffusi, multi-building hotels that combine typical hotel services with the charm of staying in picturesque homes. Walking aficionados who want to hike along one of the 15 trails of the Via delle Malghe can stay at some of the small houses used by herdsmen or take advantage of the network of simple but cosy refuges.
In the evening, the people of Carnia will keep you company with their storytelling. There is the true story of the Cossacks of the Don, an entire population that, towards the end of the Second World War, arrived here from the steppe with horses, carts and camels.
And there is the fantastic tale of the Sbilfs, the mischievous elves that live in the woods and only show their faces to those whose hearts are pure.
Carnia: authentic in every way
An ancient rhythm, in the wood of skilled artisans, in the clocks of eighteenth-century tradition, in parish churches of timeless worship. From the highest village in Friuli, Sauris, the home of a delicious cured ham, right down through valleys and enchanting villages. In albergo diffuso hotels and refuges. Sbilfs and… Cossacks.
Forra del Vinadia
The canyon of the torrent Vinadia is a miraculous gift of nature. Formed by thousands of years of erosion, it offers experts an itinerary of waterfalls, small lakes and impressive walls that, at some points, are so close together that they block out the sky.
The Butterfly House
Near Bordano, the interior of the “Casa delle Farfalle” (the Butterfly House) reproduces breathtaking exotic gardens, where, day after day, more than 400 of the world’s most beautiful butterflies court each other, feed on blossoms and reproduce.
The Alpine foothills and the Carso: history and nature
Gentle white storks and majestic griffons. Butterflies brightly colouring meadows and walls. Bonfires for predicting the future and mediaeval reenactments. And why not visit the caves filled with thousands of stalactites and stalagmites. Including the largest tourist cave in the world.
The Alpine foothills, which boast a delightful variety of landscapes, are the perfect destination for those who want to enjoy a natural pace, in touch with a farming culture that is still very much a part of everyday life.
On the walls of Bordano, the town of butterflies set in a kaleidoscope of green, street artists have recreated the lively colours of the thousands of butterflies that populate the sweeping meadows. Every year, Tarcento relives the tradition of the Venerable Old Man, a storytelling sage who predicts the prosperity of the harvest by observing the pignarui, the bonfires of the Epiphany. In the ancient mediaeval hamlet of Gemona, the atmosphere of yesterday comes back to life with a procession of men and women in lavish costumes.
The nature trails are also full of surprises, revealing hidden chapters of the local history. The Quadris natural oases in Fagagna and the nature reserve of Cornino offer a unique opportunity to observe white storks and griffon vultures nesting in their natural habitat.
The area’s extraordinarily rich flora yields exquisite herbal remedies and lends an unusual touch to the simple traditional cuisine. The caves in the area once offered shelter to the wayfarers who journeyed through these lands during the Roman era and the Middle Ages.
Visit the Giant Cave in the mountains of the Carso area near Trieste, one of the largest caverns in the world that is open to tourists; the Villanova Caves, filled with stalactites and stalagmites along its countless tunnels and passages; and the Cave of San Giovanni d’Antro, with its wealth of evidence left behind by the people who lived there during the Neolithic period.
The Carso is also the perfect place for free climbing. Some of Italy’s best climbers have trained on its dramatic cliffs over the sea. Rock gyms and expert instructors will help you learn an art that strengthens muscles and frees the mind.
Last but not least is gubana from the Natisone valleys: be sure to try this round delicacy filled with dried fruit and nuts. This cake – the ancient symbol of abundance – is traditionally enjoyed with family and friends.
Piancavallo and Valli Pordenonesi: holidays on the go
A thousand sports in nature: skiing and horse riding, climbing and canoeing, mountain biking and windsurfing, hang-gliding and kayaking. Home to the Parco delle Dolomiti friulane, the Green Caves and a gorge resembling a grand canyon. And enchanting villages in wood and stone architecture.
The area of Piancavallo has developed a strong vocation for sports: modern ski resorts, riding schools and climbing walls await you, to offer you all the sports you love. These ancient mountains are young in spirit and boast state-of-the-art facilities for all kinds of activities. Castaldia, at an altitude of 1108 metres above sea level, is a mecca for those who want to soar through the clouds on a paraglider.
For those who love water and exciting sports like canoeing and kayaking, sailing and windsurfing, there is nothing better than Lake Barcis or the three lakes in Val Tramontina, by the Meduna torrent. Caves, ravines and limestone gorges formed by the slow and constant erosion of the torrent characterise the Green Caves of Pradis. Forra del Cellina, another spectacular gorge created by erosion, offers one of the most extraordinary landscapes of the entire Alpine arch.
For mountain bikers, there are over 30 trails that cater to experts as well as those who simply want to enjoy some relaxing fun. At the end of each itinerary, you can explore towns and villages, some of which have just a handful of houses: places far from the rest of the world, with a cosy inn that seems to be there just for you.
A holiday in the Friulian Alps is something rare: a holiday of discovery and memory. It is the discovery of traditions that are still alive, and the memory of a civilisation preserved in numerous museums of art and rural culture.
In the hamlets of Frisanco and Poffabro, you’ll come across typical buildings made of wood and stone, with lattice balconies overlooking cobbled streets. Erto and Casso, examples of the area’s spontaneous architecture, vividly recall the Vajont disaster of 1963, when a part of the mountain collapsed into the hydroelectric dam and the water from the reservoir washed two towns away forever. The unfolding of this tragedy is illustrated in the permanent exhibition at the Visitors’ Centre of the Parco delle Dolomiti Friulane.
The park, which is the largest in the region, lies between the Tagliamento and Piave rivers. It also organises environmental education and nature learning activities. At Andreis, the rescue centre for birds of prey is open to visitors; the centre studies and treats wounded predators and then sets them free again.
Agenzia Turismo Friuli Venezia Giulia