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Udine is a town in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, north-eastern Italy and is in the very heart of Europe. Udine has a long and interesting history, and – like much of Italy's far north-east – it isn't wholly Italian. Close to the borders with Austria and Slovenia, and between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, Udine is a town with many flavours. It has been Venetian, and Austrian, and as well as Italian you will also find signs written in Slovenian and a local language, Friulano.
Bust most of all Udine is charming little city with a distinctly Venetian flavor which can be noted in its squares and ancient buildings in Piazza Libertà, defined as "the most beautiful Venetian square on the mainland" where the Loggia del Lionello reminds you of the Doge's Palace and the clock tower bears the lion of St. Mark and two moors to Piazza Matteotti which, all surrounded by porticos, seems to be an open-air lounge; here you can observe the slideshow of ancient and colourful historical buildings which impart the spirit of Udine.
In the centre of the historic old town, rised on an hill from which you can see the whole city and the mountains all around is the wonderful Castle of Udine. This beautiful structure was created in 1517 but wasn’t completed until 50 years after. Today it is the site of the Civic Museums, comprising the Archaeological Museum, the Drawings and Prints Gallery, the Museum of Photography, the Photographic Archive and the Ancient Art Gallery, with precious paintings from the 1500s to 1800s. Next to the castle is the church of Santa Maria del Castello probably the oldest in Udine, dating back to the Lombard era. It has been renovated many times over the centuries: the facade, for example, was entirely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1511. Its three naves preserve an atmosphere of silence and contemplation.
Two are the main squares of the city: Piazza della Liberta’ and Piazza Matteotti. Piazza della Liberta’ is the oldest square in Udine and has held an important place in the history of the city for hundreds of years. The square is full of fantastic structures including the Loggia del Lionello, considered to be a symbol of the city and a fine example of Venetian Gothic style architecture, surely one of the best preserved examples in this region of Italy, the Torre dell’Orologio, built by Giovanni da Udine in 1527 and the Arco Bollani, a commemorative arc built in 1556 by the architect Andrea Palladio. Furthermore, within the square itself are several ornate monuments, marble statues and fountains. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas of Udine and is a great place to see some historical architecture.
The second square is Piazza Matteotti, one of the main open public spaces in Udine with some fantastic architecture and a bright atmosphere. Located in the centre of the historic old town, this square was originally built during the 13th century when the town was given market rights. Surronded by picturesque old buildings, and lined with cafes and bars, it's a prime spot for meeting up with friends. The square's artistic highlight is the baroque Chiesa di San Giacomo, with its stunning white façade and a central bell tower. Making a loop north of the piazza, you'll pass along some of Udine's prettiest streets and palaces, including Palazzo Antonini, designed by Palladio. There are several good places to eat and drink in this area, many of them popular with the local university crowd. At the western side of the square there is an ornate column that depicts the Virgin Mary with child. Furthermore, the Chiesa di San Giacomo has a stunning white façade and is a central structure in the square. There is also an opulent fountain and the other structures are painted in a variety of colours.
Back on the tourist trail, Udine's cathedral, the Duomo, is worth a visit. This delightful cathedral is a majestic example of Gothic style, built in year 1236 and consecrated with the title of Santa Maria Annunziata, the Cathedral is the result of joint work of Venetian and German artistis, even unknown to us. Although this cathedral was constructed in the 13th century, it still retains its original beauty and splendor.
The local traditional aperitivo is called a tajut, and one of the best places to enjoy this is Piazza Matteotti. Around this square, and up the neighbouring Via Sarpi and Via Zanon you'll find a good choice of osterie for anything from a glass of local Friulano wine to a full meal. Udine is a pleasant, friendly place with a very rich and varied calendar of cultural events, from July to September there are innumerable Summer events in the city, offering opportunities for entertainment and amusement for all tastes. Don't miss the internationally acclaimed Far East Cinema Festival in April (http://www.fareastfilm.com/) and the food and wine extravaganza that is Friuli DOC held in September (https://www.friuli-doc.it/it/).
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