At first, you may think of it as one of the many towns that there are in the province of Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, in northern Italy. Spilimbergo is a small town with typical Italians and a typical Italian setting that is no different from any of the nearby towns, and not particularly a common tourist destination to be awed by the architectural delights of the Italian culture. With a little over 12.000 inhabitants and an area of a little over 71.88 km², this off the beaten track destination doesn’t seem to lure tourists in.
Well, imagine getting stuck in such a place.. for a week.. not necessarily something to look forward to. But “the gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands” once said Sir Richard Burton. And so I chose to believe him!
The road to Spilimbergo is a 1 hour ride by car from Marco Polo or Treviso airports. Because of its close proximity to the Austrian border, your first encounter will be with the ghost Alps rising high too far to reach and yet so close that the scenery gives goosebumps all over. For a person that has never in her conscious life seen mountains, this view is worth millions.
At the entrance to the town, there’s a mosaic welcome sign giving you a hint of what Spilimbergo is widely known for. Holding the title of the “city of art and mosaic birthplace”, the town is home to an internationally-famous Mosaic School that attracts students from everywhere – Russia, China, etc.
You will see the reflection of the craft on many houses with mosaic outdoor décor.
Other than that, yes, Spilimbergo is a small town with typical Italians and a typical Italian setting.
Mornings, people use to enjoy breakfast on their balconies overlooking the narrow streets of the town. Usually, that will be an espresso and a brioche. A mid-afternoon snack is as important meal of the day as breakfast. They’ll go out and enjoy their appetizers usually served with Aperol Spritz or Traminer. And dinners they like to enjoy with family. The cult of family is highly cherished, I noticed. Whether they dine in or out, they try to spend more time with their beloved. A typical dinner would be pasta, aubergine lasagna (a-ma-zing!), or seafood, or so this is what I was treated with during my stay. I cannot recommend more the restaurant Trattoria Donolo.
It’s not uncommon for them to eat gelato (ice-cream) sometimes twice per day, because yes, they have the best, most authentic gelato I’ve ever tried.
Venier Arte Dolce is the tastiest gelateria in the town. They make and serve their own gelato. My favorite taste so far is coffee mousse. Their lemon ice-cream is also amazing.
I’ve always said this, and I’ll repeat myself – Italians have the best cuisine in the world! Amin.
If during the working week I had the chance to live like a local, at the weekend, the last days of my stay, I turned into a tourist and explored the town and its myriad of beautiful places.
Il Duomo di Santa Maria Maggiore was build in the 14th century and features frescos of the apses painted with scenes from the Old and the New Testament, the Evangelists, the Baptismal Font by Pilacorte (1492) and more. It is the only cathedral in Friuli that has seven characteristic rosettes.
Palazzo di Sopra and Borgo Valbruna is nowadays home of the Town Hall. We managed to visit it during the open garden days where we could enjoy the beautiful rose bushes, an exhibition of paintings and hand-made crafts. The garden is overlooking the town and the nearby region, a beautiful sight that brings calmness within.
Palazzo Dipinto, now private property, a castle built in the 11th century that combines many different architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance, featuring beautiful frescoes by Andrea Bellunello.
River Tagliamento lies at the outskirts of the town, a braided river of European importance flowing from the Alps and known as “one of the last morphologically intact rivers in the Alps”. The regional government and programmes like WWF are fighting to protect this highly endangered ecosystem. Its waters are of an incredible mix of colors, emerald green and turquoise, a sight that will leave you breathless. Though out of the city, I simply had to include it here.
In such a place is where you realize the whole majesty of Mother Nature, and how small and insignificant, and yet destructive, we are.
I had a very good time in Spilimbergo, and I hope to go back the soonest possible. By the end of the trip, lots of thoughts were running through my mind. When I first got there, being used to the city hussle, I wouldn’t comprehend how people, especially the younger generation, could live there. There’s little you could do in terms of fun and going out for late-night drinks or party, but somehow people are happy, maybe even happier than us living in big cities. They know the worth of the word family, they don’t rush, they just enjoy life as it is. They don’t take the surrounding nature for granted, they embrace it and learn to live in alignment.