ETGroup Blog

Palmanova, Aquileia and Grado

North-Eastern Italy is a land rich of beauties: besides the wide and golden beach of Bibione and Lignano where you sunbathe and build sand castles, in the surroundings there are plenty of others villages rich in history and culture.

Today we bring you in a time travel: we go eastern through an itinerary between the archaeological treasures of Aquileia, crossing the city-fortress of Palmanova. We will end the day in Grado between history, nature and good food. Come on board!


Enter the highway by the toll both of Latisana and drive till Palmanova: exit the highway and in a couple of kilometres you will see the bastions of the incredible city-fortress of Palmanova.
Palmanova is intriguing because its map has the shape of a star with 9 tips and 3 concentric walls. It was built at the end of 1500 by Venetians to defend and protect the area, especially from Turks invasions.

[In 1970 Palmanova was declared National Monument: it is one of the best-preserved examples of Renaissance military architecture.]

Enter the city crossing one of the three monumental doors – Porta Aquileia, Porta Udine or Porta Cividale. It’s not important which one you will choose because all the roads carry you to Piazza Grande, the main square. Piazza Grande has a hexagonal shape and the most important buildings of Palmanova look at it, first of all the Dome of SS. Redentore and its tower bell.
Visit its internals before carrying on. Kids will ask for sure to play at the little playground corner situated on the square, just in front of the church: let them have some fun, you are on holiday!

[Palmanova tower bell is short and stocky if you compare it to the traditional tower bells of the area; that’s because the city was a military fortress so the tower bell could not stand out against the other buildings in order to avoid being a target for enemies.]

Walking along the streets of this gem of military engineering the curiosity will grow and you could be interested in discovering the city history: in that case you have to visit the Civico Museo Storico (Borgo Udine, 4, tel. +39 0432 929106) because it will help you cast light on the magic and unique atmosphere that wraps Palmanova.

Otherwise, if you want to learn more about the city military history go to Porta Cividale where Museo Storico Militare is situated [Piazza Grande, 21, tel. + 39 0432 928175 (Mon-Fri) – + 39 0432 923535 (Sat-Sun-holidays)]. In this museum are kept weapons, uniforms and warlike finds of different ages till the Second World War.
Also interesting are the bastions: near the Military Museum starts the path that carries to discover the city defensive walls. Kids will learn new strange terms like falsabraga, rivellino and baluardo and many other interesting things about Renaissance, while they will act like soldiers guarding the walls. Ensure to wear comfortable sport shoes because the path could sometimes be slippery.

[Two important historical reconstructions take place in Palmanova: on the second Sunday of July the celebration of SS. Redentore recalls the richness of the Venetian age, on the first weekend of September the historical reconstruction “Palma alle armi” remembers the siege of the city made by Hapsburg.]

When you have finished playing the part of the soldier you can go back to the car and continue the time travel that will bring you back of other centuries to the Romans era in the beautiful Aquileia. This was the fourth most important Italian city in the period of greatest expansion of the Roman Empire; imagine how big, lively and multicultural it was.
Leave the car in the pay and display parking lot situated in Via Iulia Augusta and continue by foot. If you’d like you can stop at the information point of TurismoFVG and rent an audio guide and also a bike to move quickly between the archaeological sites. There is also a beautiful bicycle path that you can safely ride with the kids.

[TurismoFVG information centre is open everyday 9-13 and 14-18 – Via Iulia Augusta, tel. + 39 0431 919491] First stop of your time travel in Aquileia is the Basilica [Piazza Capitolo 1, tel. +39 0431 919719,] and its incredible mosaic floor that will leave you speechless!

But wait a minute, can you hear this sound? It’s your stomach asking for help! In the old city centre there are many pizzerie and fish restaurants (fresh fish coming from the nearby Grado) that are exactly what you need. Go and choose, you have plenty of choice!
At the end of your meal leave a little space for a dessert: we suggest you a sweet break at Pasticceria Mosaico [], a pastry shop overlooking the Basilica square: they produce greedy cakes and krapfens!
In between bites, while children run after each other in the big courtyard, look in front of you the 73 m. tall tower bell. It stands still and unflappable above the square, like it is protecting it: the tower bell was built with the stones that composed the old Roman amphitheatre and for long time in Middle Ages it had a sighting function.

Enter in the Basilica (don’t miss it for any reason in the world): the one you see dates back to 1031 but the lowered mosaic floor is older, from IV century. That’s the widest mosaic floor in the occidental Christian world. Between the intricate designs you can recognize symbols and elements described in the Bible like the 4 seasons, the Victory, Giona’s story, the Good
Shepherd and many animals: challenge the kids to discover the most beautiful designs!
Once you are outside the Basilica again, enjoy a walk in the surroundings without a particular destination. You will see everywhere archaeological sites: the old market, the ancient walls, the burial sites, and rests of Roman houses. At your arrival you probably saw the two biggest and more interesting sites: the Roman Forum with the high colonnade, and the ancient river port situated where in the past the river flowed.

[On the third week of June takes place in Aquileia an historical reconstruction that lasts 3 days that remembers moments of everyday life during the epoch of city foundation and the battles between Romans and Celts. Take part if you want to make your time travel even more realistic!]

Credits Valentina Paro,


Leave Aquileia behind and continue your trip to Grado, also called “Island of the Sun”: like a tightrope walker drive along the road that crosses the lagoon (SR 352), it will give you beautiful sights over the surrounding landscape. You will see flying seagulls or migrant birds like herons and maybe little boats or kayaks sliding fast on the water kissed by the breaze.
Park you car and walk to the old city centre crossing narrow streets and breathing the history, tradition and the omnipresent sea perfume. Visit Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie, the most ancient church in Grado, and Basilica di Sant’Eufemia hiding a beautiful mosaic floor [per informazioni Infopoint FVG Grado, Viale D. Alighieri 66, Tel. +39 0431 877111].

[Important religious centre in Grado is the Virgin Mary Sanctuary “Santa Maria di Barbana”, situated in the namesake island. Boat connections to the island leave frequently from Canale della Schiusa in Grado. For information: Sanctuary +39 0431 80453 – Boating society of Grado +39 0431 80115 ]

Follow the saltiness scent till your sight meets the blue of the sea on the seafront Diga Nazario Sauro. One step after the other reach the beach and end this day of travels in time and history diving in the water, playing and relaxing on the delicate golden beach of the “Island of the Sun”.

[Grado lagoon is 90 km² wide: it hides amazing natural landscapes that deserve to be discovered, if possible dedicating them a whole day. Unique nature oasis is the Riserva Regionale della foce dell’Isonzo (Regional Reserve of Isonzo Mouth) whose reference point is Cona Island that can be reached from the mainland. For info]



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