Friuli Venezia-Giulia (FVG) is an area of Italy many Americans don’t know about. Northeast of Venice, it’s a region of Italy rich in history and influenced from several different directions. Originally on the road to Rome, portions were later ruled by the Venetians and the Austrian Empire. World Wars I and II heavily shaped the area and changed the borders with Austria and Yugoslavia (now Slovenia). With so many Americans traveling to Venice for vacation, getting out of the city and into the super-friendly countryside is well worth the short drive (about 1-1/2 hours).
An ideal destination for this short drive would be Agriturismo “Borgo Floreani”, a wonderful agriturismo in the Friulian plain. The agriturismo movement in Italy offers wonderful opportunities for travelers who want to get away from the big cities and tourist destinations to see the real Italy. Agriturismo establishments are rooted in locally grown foods and wines, offering simple hospitality on working farms, usually with a small number of guest rooms. Borgo Floreani, run by Carlo and Federica, is located in the small town of Treppo Grande, just off the Autostrade. Its beautifully restored centuries-old building is the perfect central base for exploring FVG.
We had a terrific time at “Borgo Floreani”. The room was spacious with local FVG antiques and furniture; the bath modern and spotless. We visited just as spring was beginning — the large tree in the courtyard was in full bloom — and it was obvious that the property would be incredible as spring and summer progressed.
Each morning we had a perfect Italian breakfast of local meats and cheeses, homemade biscotti, breads and fresh-made jams.
One evening we enjoyed a wine-tasting meal, traditional dishes prepared by Carlo and Frederica and paired with local wines by Carlo. The wines were from a local producer, Guerra Albano, which we subsequently visited, buying a case of delicious wine to bring home. At the wine-tasting dinner we enjoyed:
- Zucchini rolls with capers and sun-dried tomatoes with a dry Merlot rose
- A salted local cheese with Prosecco
- White asparagus risotto with Tokai (now call Friuliano due to a EU despute with Hungary)
- Frittata and local sausage with Refosco
- Homemade cookies with Moscato
Perhaps the best thing about Borgo Floreani was Carlo’s suggestions for day trips. He had maps and directions ready to go. One day he suggested a terrific route that had us driving through incredible countryside, visiting a stork refuge and touring a butterfly sanctuary. He suggested a great restaurant in a small Alpine town. On another day, we had a trip planned to Grado on the coast, and Carlo recommended a stop at Palmanova, a 16th century military town built within a 9-pointed walled fortress. He also recommended a stop at Aquileia, an ancient Roman city that also has a Cathedral with a mosaic floor dating back to the 4th century. Apparently, the depiction of fish in the floor mosaics is the first time the Christian symbol of the fish appears in liturgical architecture. We then took a long and winding drive down to the city of Trieste, which Carlo had recommended over the Autostrade — and he was right: the views along the coast were unforgettably dramatic, as the coast road ran high up along the bluffs. For our return that day, Carlo recommended we stop at cavern which he said was worth the short detour off the main road. We were a bit skeptical but it turned out to be amazing. Grotta Gigante is the world’s largest tourist cave with a height of 351 feet. Words cannot describe how big this cave seems. We went on a guided tour with about 100 high school students. Truly amazing.
Our five days based at Borgo Floreani flew by, and we were sad as we said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts Carlo and Frederica. Carlo provided a last bit of wonderful advice in his fluent English (his two sisters live in the UK), showing us a route through the mountains into the Veneto, our destination for the next portion of our trip, that made the drive itself a memorable adventure.