Tiepolo's city is an elegant and joyful borderland. Discover Udine like a local and experience Friuli's charm from a different perspective.
They call it the Venice of the mainland for a good reason. More than one. Elegant loggias, palaces inlaid with mullioned windows, beautiful porticoes, water courses crisscrossing the city: every detail seems like a reminder of the long bond that once bound Udine to La Serenissima.
Today, this lovely city in Friuli is a centre on a human scale with an international vocation that makes it modern and attentive to change, though proud of its traditions and regional influence.
Here is what to do in Udine like a Local.
Discover Udine like a local
Casa Cavazzini, the magnificent 16th-century complex that Gae Aulenti turned into Udine's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts, symbolises the modernity and enthusiasm reverberating in the Friulian city.
Suppose you want to discover the traditional local culture to which it is still profoundly attached. In that case, the Friuli Ethnographic Museum will help you better understand how this ancient borderland is exceptionally proud of its roots.
In addition to the magnificence of its arcades (including the splendid Lionello and San Giovanni loggias in the Venetian Piazza della Libertà), the masterpieces of Tiepolo and a castle that doesn't resemble a castle, there is so much more to see and do. Here are some tips for visiting Udine like a local would tell you to do. Discover them all.
7. Strolling in via Mercatovecchio
Ask a citizen to show you the most beautiful street in his city, and he will probably direct you to this one, the oldest and busiest of all. Discovering this storied corner will be an excellent way to visit Udine like a local because it definitely is the city's heart.
The central Via Mercatovecchio stands out for the charm of its tall, narrow buildings, the liveliness that crosses it every day, and the long history that has trampled its pavement (which, by the way, got a makeover in 2020).
Come here for a shopping session, strolling under its arcades and photographing the details that stand out on the building façades. One in particular? Casa Sabbadini, at number 24. In addition to a fresco depicting Jupiter between the first-floor windows, it still features the rings used in the past to affix the finish line pole during the city's Palio.
6. Discovering all the names of Piazza Matteotti
One of the most famous squares in the city has three names. And if you want to visit Udine like a local, you'd better memorise them.
As you ask for directions to the large square with the fountain in the centre and the church with the clock, you'll be told to head to Piazza San Giacomo. Or Piazza delle Erbe. Or Piazza Matteotti. Even though the moniker may differ, the place is always the same.
Noisy, lively, and full of interesting details, from the façade of the church of San Giacomo to the small terraces embellishing the buildings all around, this square is a pleasure to experience both in the morning and in the evening.
Famous for being Udine's salotto and its oldest piazza, it's the perfect place to hang around with the locals and share an aperitivo in one of its many open-air venues. If you are lucky enough to find a free seat, take the opportunity to order a tajut and persut crud, nothing more than a glass of wine and some prosciutto (which can only be San Daniele DOP, a renowned regional speciality).
5. Organising a picnic at the park
While in Udine like a local you can't miss a gentle pause in the green areas around the city centre. Whether you want to take a walk, go for a jog, jot down some travel notes or consult Visit Italy for ideas and inspiration, you'll find plenty of parks ideal for a pleasant diversion from the urban tour.
Then, after visiting the Patriarchal Palace and admiring Tiepolo's famous frescoes, head to the nearby Ricasoli Garden for a moment of relaxation among exotic plants and friendly swans.
Cosy and secluded, the recently restored Torso gardens in Via del Sale are a small delight to relax for a few minutes.
Not far from the Ossuary Temple, a monumental tribute to the memory of those who fell in the war, you'll find the large Moretti Park and, at the foot of the castle, a garden with a very unusual shape— Piazza Primo Maggio, with small sunburst paths leading to the central fountain.
The delightful gardens of Palazzo Morpurgo, in the heart of the historic centre, are beautiful when blooming blossoms colour the flowerbeds around the nymph statue.
4. Shopping in Udine like a local
Where? In Piazza XX Settembre, on Saturday mornings. The Udinesi frequent the market around the square to buy local products, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables. You'll love it for its warm and dynamic atmosphere.
Full of kiosks and people intent on chatting and closing deals, the mercato is located in a pedestrian area long used as a car park. After some renovation, this historic space returned to serve as a market like in the 19th century, when it was known as 'marčhât dai grans'.
Looking around, you'll notice exquisite buildings such as the 19th-century Antivari-Kechler palace and the Casa Veneziana, the only house in town with an original floral Gothic façade.
This elegant 15th-century dwelling, a former property of the Montegnacco family, used to be located in Via Rialto, a street famous for being Udine's first Venetian nucleus. After the demolition in 1910, it was rebuilt in the 1920s in Piazza XX Settembre.
3. Take a trip to a starry city
As well as visiting Udine like a local, take a trip to explore the diverse Friulian countryside. Between long golden beaches and lush wooded landscapes lies an infinity of nuances synthesised in towns and villages full of history.
The starry city mentioned in the title? A surprising national monument: Palmanova, a fortified town founded by the Republic of Venice in the 16th century. Legendary is its peculiar plan, reproducing a perfect nine-pointed star. Palmanova is also part of a great UNESCO serial site: learn more about it.
Another characteristic destination is halfway between Udine and Gorizia. It's called Aiello del Friuli and is famous for an image that has been popping up everywhere in the town for the last thirty years. Here, you will find a large number of sundials, all different in shape and size. Children will love it.
2. Discovering what the irrigation ditches are
Udine sees the passage of peculiar small waterways that embellish the landscape and give it a picturesque feel: le rogge. These artificial canals lead the Torre river's waters to Udine and Cividale.
In the past, this characteristic architectural heritage was fundamental to the development of the city and the economy of the area it helped to enrich. Visually, too: the water flowing through the buildings and streets of the historic centre creates a romantic and original atmosphere.
Some sections are particularly eye-catching, such as the glimpses in Vicolo Molin Nascosto, Via Zanon, Via Giuseppe Verdi, Piazza Patriarcato or Borgo Mercatovecchio. Bear in mind that the torrent route is not limited to the city boundaries. For example, you'll find a gentle itinerary through the Friulian nature in the Passeggiata delle Roggia, a striking trail for hikers and bikers that starts from Via Molin Nuovo and lead to the town of Reana del Rojale.
1. Eating in an osteria
A meeting place where you can share a good glass of wine with friends before lunch or dinner. After all, Friuli is a land with a rich wine-growing tradition, with ten DOC and four DOCG areas.
To experience Udine like a local, stop at an osteria, and savour the Friuli tradition in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. This is the temple par excellence where the ritual of the tajut is a must for the people of Udine.
There is plenty of rustic and cheerful places in the city centre. The atmosphere is the same year after year, even in the most trendy taverns: no frills, just substance. Almost as if to symbolise the link with tradition, you'll often find an old domestic fireplace, 'il fogolâr', in the centre of the room. Some osterie keep lovely ones in plain sight: admire them as the host guide you on fantastic drinking adventures.