UDINE, 71km northwest of Trieste, is the provincial capital and radically different to its larger sister city. Framed by mountains and hemmed in by sombre suburbs, the oval-shaped historic centre retains much of its Venetian charm. In many ways Udine harks back to the Venetian Republic, for which it was one of the most important cities, though, its canals, called roggie, are little more than rivulets compared to those in Venice. In addition to grand architecture, the churches and galleries here also boast scores of fine works by Giambattista Tiepolo, whose airy brilliance evokes the city’s easy-going atmosphere. Two days is enough time to experience Udine’s charms, though you may also want to factor in a visit to nearby San Daniele del Friuli to sample some of Italy’s best prosciutto in its hometown.
Along with Cividale, Udine was one of the frontier towns of imperial Rome but it was not until the thirteenth century that it started to become a regional centre. Patriarch Bertoldo di Andechs (1218–51) can be seen as the father of Udine – he established two markets (the old market in Via Mercatovecchio, and the new one in Piazza Matteotti, still a marketplace), moved the patriarchate from Cividale to the castle of Udine and set up a city council. In 1362 the dukes of Austria acquired the place by treaty, but not for long: Venice, now hungry for territory, captured Udine in 1420 after several assaults and sieges. The city was ruled by Venetian governors for almost four hundred years – until 1797, when the Venetian Republic surrendered to Napoleon. These days it’s a centre of Friulian nationalism.