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Study Holidays

Udine and Trieste: 15–21 October 2012

The north-eastern tip of Italy — the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia — though not much visited by tourists, is home to several remarkably interesting cities. Many of them are set against a thrilling backdrop of mountains; this includes Udine, our centre for the study week. Yet the sea is never far away. As the port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Trieste was a busy hub of maritime business, the great contact point between central Europe, the Balkans and Italy, and a multi-cultural melting pot. In “FVG” four languages are commonly spoken. The region has borders with Austria and Slovenia, so two of these are German and Slovenian; the other two are Italian and Furlan, the official language of Friuli that is taught in schools, though it has several different local dialects.

Udine is one of several cities that lay claim to having the most beautiful central square in Italy. The Piazza Libertà is famous for the harmony and beauty of its varied architecture, much of it Venetian in style, but overall an ensemble entirely unique to itself. A steep walk up to a viewpoint of the mountains passes the city art gallery, which houses works by Carpaccio, Palma il Giovane and Tiepolo. But the city’s greatest works of art are the frescoed rooms by Tiepolo in the Archbishop’s Palace, Old Testament scenes depicted in his usual colourful and dramatic manner. Udine is a proud, prosperous historic town with busy squares and good shops. Our four-star hotel is a short walk from the centre.

A twenty-minute train journey will take us to Cividale del Friuli, which in the sixth century became the capital of the first Lombard Duchy. Three extraordinary relics of this phase in the history of Italy remain, each one unique. The Tempietto Longobardo was mostly destroyed in an earthquake in 1222, but in a tiny atmospheric chapel overlooking the Natisone river there remains a strange stucco arch flanked by six female figures, mysterious relics of an all but lost civilisation. Other fragments of the Lombard age are the Altar of Ratchis and the Baptistry of Callisto, both in the Museo Cristiano; in the nearly archaeological museum the Lombards are brought to life in a permanent exhibition, which included example of their massive gold jewellery.

The city of Aquileia, like Trieste, was a meeting point between east and west. In 10bc when the emperor Augustus received Herod the Great here it was the fourth largest city in Italy, after Rome, Milan and Capua. In 452 it was sacked by Attila, but in the early eleventh century it became once again a patriarchate, and its huge basilica was rebuilt in 1031. In the early twentieth century, a vast and colourful mosaic pavement – part of the early fourth-century basilica – was discovered buried under the floor of the nave. The weird mixture of Christian and pagan iconography is unique, as is its size – this is the largest antique pavement known. Unsurprisingly, the archaeological museum of Aquileia has a magnificent collection of Roman remains of all kinds, but particularly notable is the display of delicate glassware.

Old Trieste contains many fragments of its Roman past. The cathedral of San Giusto is built around Roman remains; it sits on a hill overlooking the city from where there are good views of the Borgo Teresiano, the eighteenth-century neo-classical city centre created by the Hapsburg Empress Maria Teresa, more reminiscent of Vienna than nearby Venice, Trieste’s rival for the Adriatic trade. There is no other city like this in Italy; indeed Trieste did not become part of Italy till 1918. We will explore both the small medieval quarter of the old city, and the new town with its boulevards, port and grandiose Austrian squares.

There are not many hotels in Udine. We will be using a four-star hotel near the city centre; its public rooms and bedrooms are all modern, and it has a restaurant. Accompanying us on our visits around Friuli Venezia Giulia will be Barbara Zucchia, an Udinese and an official guide to the area. Her English is excellent. Tour organiser will be Martin Gray.

Some suggested pre-holiday reading:

   Jan Morris: Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere (2001)

   Mark Thompson: The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915–1919 (2008)

Guideline prices:

  Per person, single use of double room: £1,200

  Per person, sharing a double room: £1,095

These prices do not include the cost of your flight, but cover the following:

six nights bed and breakfast in a four-star hotel in central Udine;

two evening meals;

entrance fees to museums, galleries and churches;

a day trip to Trieste by private coach;

a day trip to Aquileia by private coach;

a day trip to Cividale by train;

services of a local guide;

services of a tour organiser;

coach transfers between an Italian airport and the hotel.

When enough people have subscribed to the holiday, suitable flights will be chosen and tickets on these can be bought over the Internet or from a designated travel agent. Further information about these arrangements will be supplied on receipt of your booking form, and when the group has become viable.