Cividale del Friuli is a picturesque small town in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of north-eastern Italy, whose Longobard itinerary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Set on the edge of the Natisone river, the town not only dates back to Roman times, but it also has Celtic ruins that you can visit. Magnetic and rich in history, Cividale is one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Walking through the streets of the old town and breathing in the scents of the place, you will discover corners of rare beauty, narrow streets and ancient squares, enjoying a special atmosphere, full of suggestions. Cividale has jewelry that are not found elsewhere and maybe the most notably is the Tempietto Longobardo, one of the most extraordinary early medieval western architecture.
Our journey to discover Cividale del Friuli starts from the Ponte del Diavolo, one of the symbols of the village. The bridge crosses the Natisone River with its two bold arches leaning on one single support column on a rock jutting out of the river. It dates back to the 15th century and its name comes from a nice tale; an ancient legend indeed tells that this bridge was "donated" to Cividale by the devil in person. Legends aside the historic Ponte del Diavolo offers its visitors a breathtaking view of the plateau that surrounds Cividale.
With just a few steps, you can reach the charming center of Cividale del Friuli and start to discover the city from the heart of the historical center, piazza del Duomo. Your eyes are immediately captured by the imposing Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, whose luminous facade in white stone the clear signs of his moments of building. Inside you will find the entrance of the Museo Cristiano, in which there are some precious masterpieces of the Longobard sculpture, among them in particular the Ara di Ratchis, dedicated to the homonymous king of the Longobards, duke of Cividale and the Battistero di Callisto, an octagonal aedicule, adorned of wonderful sculptured decorations, that goes back to the half of VIII century. On the outside, in the public square of the Duomo, there is the de Nordis Palace, constructed in late '400, and the imposing Palazzo dei Provveditori Veneti, that encloses like a scenographical background the east side of the square. Builded in the 1565, on a plan of Palladium, it accommodates the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, an archaeological museum dedicated to finds from within and around Cividale.
Not far away, behind the Church of Saint Giovanni Battista, there is Saint Biagio square, on which, beyond the small Church of Saint Biagio, it opens an hanging passage, between the charme of the green on walls, it leads to the most famous Tempietto Longobardo, higher expression of the high western Middle Ages. In front of the building of the VIII century, the wonderful landscape on the Natisone River that flows between the deep and steep walls. Via Monastero Maggiore, with characteristic and irregular cobbled paving, leads directly to the Ipogeo Celtico, curious and interesting unit of artificial coves, dug out in differen levels and reachabled by steep and evocative flight of steps.
After these principal sights, the main pleasure of Cividale is simply strolling around the compact centre with its charming medieval atmosphere. Our tour to discover Cividale del Friuli can not end without having visited Piazza Paolo Diacono, named after an eighth century Lombard writer and historian, which, in the summer, lights up with music, colors and shows. There's a small tourist information office here, offering maps, leaflets and organised guided tours on summer weekends. The centrepiece of the irregularly-shaped square is a fountain featuring Diana and four lion's heads. It's a picturesque spot, and there are several café-bars with outside tables where you can sit and soak up the agreeably small-town atmosphere, tasting local wines and salami, including the famous San Daniele ham.
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