Cividale del Friuli makes a great Friuli Venezia Giulia day trip! It has plenty of history, in a great location, and it’s easy to explore in a day.
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One of our latest goals, particularly with the travel restrictions and lockdowns of the past year, has been to focus our explorations on local day trips. Friuli Venezia Giulia doesn’t often make American tourists’ lists, but it’s a region full of beauty, local food, and unique history.
Today, I’m focusing on Cividale del Friuli! The land on which Cividale sits has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, playing host to Celts, Romans, Hapsburgs, and at least four different Italian people groups. You can see bits of each of these cultures in the city, from the buildings to the food.
Cividale del Friuli wears its history on its sleeve, meaning you don’t have to spend hours in a museum to get a sense of the place. To that end, walking the historic part of town is great. It has a bit of a unique architectural style – the influence of all those empires of centuries past. Cividale has a lot of history in plain sight – historic buildings housing everyday shops and even the ruins of a Roman bath leading to a hair salon.
Cividale does an amazing job of celebrating its history. Many buildings feature signs describing what occupied this spot in years past, and tell the local stories. These are in Italian, English, and German, making it easy to follow!
Things to do in Cividale del Friuli
If you’ve seen a photo of Cividale, it probably was of the epic bridge! Called Ponte del Diavolo (The Devil’s Bridge), the legend says that the townspeople made a deal with the devil to build it: he would construct it, but he’d receive the soul of whoever crossed it first. When finished, they sent an animal (the most popular seems to be pig or dog) across, and the devil had to content himself with the animal. But legend says you can still hear grunts or noises around the base of the bridge at night.
Cividale del Friuli has two major churches: the Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta sits in the middle of town, and the Oratorio di Santa Maria in Valle overlooks the Natisone river. Entry into the Duomo is free entry if there’s not a service going on, and the Oratorio is when it’s unlocked (which is inconsistent, but possible).
The National Archeological Museum of Cividale del Friuli has relics from each of the empires that passed through over the centuries, and the basement houses the ruins of the previous palace from the 8th century.
Ristorante Antico Leon D’oro
My number one restaurant in Cividale is Ristorante Antico Leon D’oro. It’s a delicious restaurant with a homey vibe. It’s popular with locals, so make a reservation if you want to eat here.
Frico is a traditional dish in FVG, but especially in this area, so make sure to order it. It a disc of potatoes and local cheese, usually served family-style with a side of grilled polenta. It’s delicious and filling, often served in place of a meat dish.
We also decided to be adventurous and tried a new local delicacy – snails! I’d tried French versions before, half the fun of these was trying to get them out of the shells with the special tongs. Topped with a pesto, they basically tasted like pesto and butter. What’s not to like?
Wine in Cividale del Friuli
Cividale del Friuli sits on the edge of one of FVG’s best wine regions, so there are tons of great local sips! I highly recommend using Cividale as a jumping-off point to explore Colli Orientali.
If you want to try a few while you’re still in town, head to Enoteca L’elefante. There is nothing so perfect as sitting in the piazza with a glass of local wine, watching the evening passagiata. If you ask, they’ll bring you a variety of local options to try, so you don’t have to go in with a good understanding of what to look for. They’re also a stuzzicheria, or snack bar/appetizer spot, so perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up!
Cividale del Friuli is just over two hours’ drive from Venice and 80 minutes from Aviano AB, so it makes a great day trip!
Want to stay overnight? We loved B&B Dai Toscans – reasonably priced in a historic building with an excellent location! Our room had a balcony overlooking the street and it was so lovely to sit and watch the passersby. We like using it as a hub for winery weekends in the area too.