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One of the best kept secrets in Europe..Discover the Italian region of Friuli

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — With its mountains, valleys, beaches and lakes, this region has one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in Italy, but few people – including Italians – know anything about it.

Is the reason due to its unseen location on the country’s northeastern borders with Slovenia and Austria? Or maybe because of his history with invasions? Including the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or perhaps because of the many languages ​​spoken locally by the population?

This region hardly feels like part of Italy.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Despite being home to stunning seaside towns such as Trieste, the Friuli region is less known and less visited than other Italian regions., plain_textCredit: FotoGablitz/iStock Editorial/Getty Images

Although Friuli Venezia Giulia stretches from the snow-capped Alps of the Dolomites to the sun-drenched waters of the northern Adriatic, it doesn’t experience the same crowds that leave some parts of Italy weary during the summer.

However, locals say, it’s just as worth a visit as the rest of Italy.

“Unlike other Italian regions, our location is not advertised, and we are not close to the concept of mass tourism,” says local tour guide Roberta Bressan.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
The giant Grotta Gigante cave is one of the largest tourist caves in the world., plain_textCredit: Fabio Di Natale/Adobe Stock

“Our territory is small in size, and travelers must discover it little by little, and it includes a constellation of beautiful small towns and different traditions,” she continues.

The stunning scenery is one of the most important features of the area.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
The annual Barcolana Regatta brings hundreds of boats to the bay city of Trieste., plain_textCredit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

With 13 nature reserves, and the pristine Friulian Dolomites, the region attracts tourists seeking to commune with nature or explore the outdoors.

Local travel blogger Luca Vivan says it’s “a great green spot, where you can go cycling and trekking in the Dolomites, and kayaking along mountain springs and rocky tunnels with fluorescent blue waters.”

Alpine peaks surround the green valleys of Friuli which, on clear days, offer views all the way down to the coast.

Labyrinths of caves and valleys, with waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers, dot the vast karstic limestone plateau at the foothills.

Outdoor activities are held throughout the year.

Warmer weather brings excursions such as paragliding, kayaking through clear turquoise rivers, sailing, windsurfing, and rock climbing.

In winter, there are opportunities for skiing in the cozy resorts of Tarvisio and Tolmzzo.

Geological wonders include an underwater cave in Lake Gorgazo, with its stunning tropical blues and greens.

Golden beaches

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Trieste, the capital of Friuli, is sometimes known as Italy’s mini-Vienna, as its Austro-Hungarian heritage is reflected in its architecture., plain_textCredit: Alexander Spatari/Moment RF/Getty Images

There are trekking trails that trace dinosaur footprints and skeletons in the rocks, and ancient shepherd’s roads link sleepy hamlets.

But Friuli is also an attractive sunbathing destination.

For example, the beach town of Grado, a miniature Venice, is a popular holiday resort in Friuli, while Lignano Sabbiadoro is a long peninsula of golden beaches.

Trieste has an exceptionally separate beach, the origins of which go back several centuries.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
In winter, you can ski in the cozy resorts of Friuli such as Tarvisio and Tolmzzo., plain_textCredit: Leonardo Mangia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Trieste is a destination in itself, and the capital of Friuli is sometimes known as Italy’s mini-Vienna, as its Austro-Hungarian heritage is reflected in the majestic Central European architecture.

The city also boasts one of the largest squares in Europe, such as Piazza Unità d’Italia, overlooking the sea and lined with elegant palaces that showcase the opulent imperial grandeur of the past – with historic cafés, which have long attracted artists and writers, such as Irishman James Joyce.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Bissarri is an Alpine village famous for the huge craftsmen’s clocks that adorn its alleys, plain_textCredit: Nicola Simeoni/407388210/Nicola Simeoni – stock.adobe.com

The smaller towns of Friuli are also worth exploring. For example, the city of Udine is like a miniature Venice with its lavish gardens. As for the city of Gorizia, located on the border with Slovenia, it is known as Italian Salzburg.

The UNESCO-listed town of Cividale del Friuli has a picturesque medieval center overlooking the Natison River.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
The region is known for fine wines, especially elegant, fragrant whites, plain_textCredit: Bosca78/E+/Getty Images

For archeology enthusiasts, there is Aquileia, the ancient Roman capital of Friuli, which has a magnificent basilica that features massive floor mosaics from the early Christian era depicting symbolic animals and the tree of life.

The region boasts an impressive array of impressive castles and forts that harken back to its rich and powerful past.

The Friuli region is one of the most distinguished wine-making regions in Italy.

Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia
The town of Grado in Friuli is like a miniature Venice, plain_textCredit: xbrchx/iStockphoto/Getty Images

Classic Friuli dishes include a pork and vegetable stew called “jota”, handmade peaches, ravioli filled with chocolate and cinnamon, and potato cake with fried “Montasio” cheese and onions.

The Italians call Friuli’s cuisine “mare e monti”, meaning sea and mountains, as the landscape of seafood, vegetables and meat delicacies is just as varied and stunning as the surrounding landscape.

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