Cividale is a tiny town, not far from my home city Udine. Despite its small dimensions and tranquility, it a little jewel that offers to the visitors the beauty of its history. From the Romans, to the Longobards, the Carolingians, the Republic of Venice, to the Austrian Empire, Cividale has been an important political and commercial centre for the region Friuli Venezia-Giulia throughout the ages and its past kings and sirs have left some amazing traces of their lives.
Thus it is surely worth a half-day visit.
How to get there:
Getting to Cividale is quite easy.
From Udine it is only a 25-30 minutes drive towards the east. Once you reach the town you’ll easily find a parking spot, either next to Piazza Foro Giulio Cesare, or on Via Borgo di Ponte, once you have crossed the bridge on the river Natisone,
If you don’t have a car or prefer not driving there, you can take a train from Udine to Cividale: there is one journey per hour (and one every half-hour early morning, lunch time and evening) and it only takes 20 minutes. From the train station to the centre it’s only a 10-minutes walk.
Where to stay:
Of course I haven’t tried any accommodation there, but I would suggest you to check this website where you’ll be able to find many options, including hotels, bed&breakfasts and some agritourism surrounding the town.
What to see and do:
Cividale offers many things to do: you could wonder in the nearby mountains, swim in the freezer waters of the uphill Nation, or visit the many monuments of the town. While there with some friends we limited the amount of things, so what we’re suggesting here is just a small selection. There are many more and you could really spend a couple of days in town.
Ponte del Diavolo: the Devil’s Bridge is one of the symbols of Cividale. The legend tells that given the importance of the construction of the bridge, in order to connect the two sides of the deep river Natisone, the devil facilitated the construction of the bridge in exchange of the soul of the first person passing through. But the inhabitants of Cividale mocked the devil, sending through the new passage an animal, dog or cat according to the versions.
The bridge in itself lies on two huge arches with the central pillar resting on a natural rock. The construction has lost its original charge given the addition of a concrete parapet, but the view of the town from the left bank of the river takes you back to Medieval times. And while crossing the bridge, you’ll be amazed by the incredibly transparent colours of the rivers, which change depending on the weather and the surrounding greenery.
Ipogeo Celtico: at n. 2 of Via Monastero Maggiore, through a tiny door (you can ask the keys next door, at the Bar Ipogeo), you’ll enter a deep cavity along the rocky bank of the river Natisone. Although the function of this construction, constituted of 3 main rooms in different levels and forms, is still unclear, it is believed that it might have been used as a funeral complex, given the presence of three carved masks, similar to the so-called têtes coupées (Celtic masks) typical of southern France. Other researcher have speculated that this artificial cavern could have been a Jewish miqveh, a ritual bath, used by the Jewish community of Cividale between the 13th and the 17th centuries.
Monastero di Santa Maria in Valle e Tempietto Longobardo (Mon-Fri summer 10-13 and 15-18 / winter 10-13 and 14-17; Sat-Sun-Public Holidays summer 10-18 / winter 10-17): if you follow along Via Monastero Maggiore you’ll soon reach this monastery, originally built in the 7th century and later renovated and extended various times. Apart from the central cloister and garden, which are on oasis of piece, from this building you can enter the jewel of Cividale: the Tempietto Longobardo. This is a small oratory, built in late Longobard era, during the 9th century, originally used as palatine chapel of the royal court of the town, and later as nuns’ oratory. What is most striking is the decoration, outcome of fine and skilled hands, that were able to use and connect different artistic trends and techniques: marble floors and architraves, stucco-works, frescos, painted inscriptions, mosaics. We couldn’t take pictures, since these would ruin the already very delicate decorations, so you’ll just have to go and see the magnificence of this place.
Dome and Town-hall: these two building face each other in the very centre of the town. Apart from their architecture, which is result of various restorations and alterations throughout time (the dome was built between the 5th and the 18th century, while the town-hall between 1296 and 1588), what is mostly interesting for me is the contrast of colours: the first totally white and the second with its red bricks.
What to eat and drink:
You have to try a couple of places in Cividale, that not only are typical of the town, but that also offer some gorgeous food.
The first is the Osteria alla Terrazza, where I would suggest you to have a standing aperitif of local wine with some great appetizers of typical Friulian dishes, enjoying the tiny pedestrian lane, and then buying some of the things you’ve had at the opposite shop (of the same owner) to take home.
The second one is the Bar Trattoria al Campanile, one of the must of the town. Here you can have anything and you’ll be sure to get the best. Remember of course to try the Potato Frico, a crispy sphere of pan-cooked cheese and potatoes: a joy for the eyes and papillae.