Why, when most Italian regions have lovely one-word names (Toscano, Piemonte, Puglia), is one of the smallest and most out-of-the-way regions burdened by a name with three multi-syllablic words, one of which is also the name of a city not even in the region? Couldn’t anyone figure out something more concise to call Friuli-Venezia Giulia?
Actually, the tongue-twisting name says a great deal about this fascinating region tucked in the northeast corner of Italy: generalities and blending are resisted, autonomy and distinctions are important. Friuli-Venezia Giulia is simply not a melting pot!
Most road signs in Friuli province are in two languages: I thought the other must be Slovenian, but it’s a local Friulian language of its own with a Serbo-Croatian-looking alphabet. The topography is wildly varied: the region is more than 40% mountains, but also has a chain of low-lying barrier islands along one part of its coast, dramatic cliffs along another portion, and gentle hills and picturesque rivers throughout the center. The three provinces are so distinct and autonomous that the name of the region retains all their names: Friuli, Venezia, and Giulia.
Any first impression that Friuli-Venezia Giulia is like Slovenia to the east, or like Austria to the north, or even like the Veneto to the west, is too simplistic. Certainly this region of Italy and its neighbors have influenced each other, and its history of being ruled now by the city-state of Venice, now by the Hapsburgs has made an impact. It doesn’t take long, however, to get a strong sense that Friuli-Venezia Giulia has reacted to being something of a rope in a global game of tug-of-war by sticking resolutely and fiercely to its own separate and autonomous identity.
The push and pull of history hasn’t made Friuli-Venezia Giulia like anywhere else: it has heightened the region’s sense that it is its own place, and can’t be reduced to shorthand or assumptions about where else it’s like. It’s Friuli, it’s Venezia, it’s Giulia; it’s mountains and beaches and caves and vineyards; it’s itself, and every distinction, evey syllable, is an important part of what defines this place.
Not a soup or a stew with flavors and aromas mixed and blended, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is more like an antipasti platter of distinct items — but no less appealing or delicious for this autonomy and insistence that distinctions not be lost. We came quickly to love Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s variety, surprises, and clear sense of itself. We hope as we share some of our stories, recipes, and wine discoveries that we can impart a sense of what fascinated us, and why we can’t wait to return.
You can find all the articles from our Friuli-Venezia Giulia series at this link. Enjoy reading!!