From the beach it takes only half an hour to reach a group of cities and villages in the hinterland that will surprise you with rich history, romantic corners and a wide offer of local food and wine. We are talking about Portogruaro, Concordia Sagittaria, Summaga and Pramaggiore. They are little towns situated few kilometres far from each other, perfect to enrich your holiday at the beach with a pleasant day trip.
Drive along the SP74 following the directions to Lugugnana di Portogruaro. Continue until you arrive in Concordia Sagittaria, once there park the car in one of the parking spaces of the city and walk. Your first destination is the big Cathedral standing majestic in the heart of the town. Nearby you can also visit the frescoed Medieval Baptistery [Piazza della Cattedrale, Concordia Sagittaria].
The Cathedral in front of you is pretty recent because its construction dates back to 1466: go inside and explore it starting from the entrance. Could you imagine that the font that you see on the left is an old marble fountain of I century that was used to embellish the garden of a Roman Domus? Just a little curiosity that testifies that this place origin is event more ancient: actually the first Basilica dates back to IV century. In fact 338-390 a.C. is the year of the blessing of the first church built on this site, the basilica apostolorum, erected on the remains of an old Roman house, maybe the meeting place of the first Christian community of the area. This first Basilica was destroyed one century later due to barbaric invasions, fires, but especially frequent floods.
If on one hand the floods were the main reason that caused the downfall of the city, on the other hand we have to thank the floods [together with the features of the local soil] if today we can see the stratification of the terrain and the buildings that during the centuries followed one another. You will see with your eyes this and many other interesting things if you decide to visit the archaeological site on the basement. You can have a preview of what to expect if you gaze over the balustrade in the main square: rocks, columns and sarcophagus are standing there; but the best show is downstairs where you will stand on an ancient mosaic and walk between the rests of the old Basilica.
You’ll be surprised to discover that Concordia Sagittaria – this small town of Northern-East Italy – centuries ago was an important centre along the Annia road – the road connecting Adria and Aquileia – and that here worked an important factory of arrows [in Latin sagitta means arrow, for this reason the name Concordia Sagittaria]. Since the city was so important at that age, you cannot expect that the archaeological finds of the Basilica are the only ones in Concordia Sagittaria: walking between the houses or along the bicycle path you will bump into the ancient thermal baths, the ruins of an old Roman house, the finds of the old bridge and the ancient theatre.
In Concordia every rock sweats its Roman legacy! 2 or 3 hours should be passed from your arrival in town: restore your strength with a coffee or a cold drink at a bar near the town hall, that’s the opportunity to relax watching the slow flow of Lemene river and appreciate today modern city.
Association Rufino Turranio together with association Dimensione Cultura organizes upon request guided tours to the archaeological site, to the museums of Concordia Sagittaria and the nearby cities [info www.rufinoturranio.it].
Get in the car and in a couple of minutes you will be in Portogruaro. This noble town has a more recent history compared to the neighboured Concordia Sagittaria. Portogruaro was founded in the Middle Ages and it grew and become important during the supremacy of Venice Republic.
You can notice influences of both periods if you look at the buildings and palaces of the old city centre. You can find free parking lots situated near the city centre in Piazza Castello, Borgo Sant’Agnese and Via Cadorna [near the city stadium]. In the past Portogruaro was surrounded by walls and towers that protected the city. Nowadays only three towers still exist: San Giovanni tower, Sant’Agnese tower and San Gottardo tower. Enter the city centre passing over one of them and walk under the arcades watching the buildings dating back to the Venetian age: admire the windows embellished with flowers and the frescoes brought back to light during the recent restorations.
Reach the unique Town hall that has Ghibelline battlements, glance the tower bell [yes, it is leaning for real!] and then keep walking till you reach St. Andrea watermills. That’s Portogruaro most romantic corner, where buildings mirror in the green waters of Lemene River and water roars between the watermill’s blades [for visits to the Town Hall and watermills visit the city website www.comune.portogruaro.ve.it]. Every Thursday morning takes place in the old city centre the city market: take it into consideration if you are planning your visit to Portogruaro.
It might be time to have lunch, or at least time for the happy hour! Stop in one of the wine bars situated in the old city centre and drink a spritz or a glass of wine mixing with locals: near San Giovanni tower there is the osteria “A l’ombra de la tore” which is also a good restaurant just in case you need to grab a bite [info and reservations +39 0421 71080, place agreed with Europacard]. Sit down with your family and have a pleasant lunch under the San Giovanni tower shadow. Or behind the Town Hall square, you could taste a typical Venetian meal at Antica Locanda and wine bar “Al Campanile” [info e reservations +39 0421 74997, agreed with Europa Card]. After a good coffee you are ready to explore the city.
Starting from the watermills line the river following the pedestrian path: you’ll reach the Museo Archeologico Concordiese [Via Seminario, 26, tel. +39 0421 72674] where many finds coming from Concordia Sagittaria archaeological site are kept. Instead, if you think that you have your fill of culture for today, you can go to Parco della Pace, the public park that is just few steps far. Relax under the trees while kids have fun on the seesaws.
Batteries reloaded? Get in the car and drive to Summaga, a small town situated in the middle of the countryside. Between the fields you will find a gem: the Benedictine Abbey dating back to the XI Century. Leave the car in the church parking lot and go inside because it’s definitely worthy. Look up and stare at the frescoes lasting to the time passing by. They even say that Templars had something to do with this abbey… Goodness knows what this walls and columns would tell if they could speak!
Leave the semi-darkness of the church but, before leaving Summaga to reach Pramaggiore, have a tasty stop by Summaga dairy [Via San Benedetto, 7, tel. +39 0421 205197 www.latteriasummaga.com, place agreed with Europacard]. Here you can buy local cheese to bring back home! Moreover kids [and greedy adults] should not miss the artisanal ice cream sold here.
Road of the DOC wines of Lison-Pramaggiore
Still some kilometres by car and you are in an area important for the making of DOC wine. You should have noticed that because the rows of vines are now a landscape constant feature. The triangle formed by the cities of Lison, Pramaggiore and Annone Veneto is famous for the production of red wines [like Cabernet and Merlot], but also white wines [like Verduzzo and Tai]. In the city centre of Pramaggiore stands a big rectangular building: it’s the National Wine Exhibition, inside it are kept bottles of wine coming from wineries from all over Italy and every year takes place here the prizing of the best local wines.
If you want to visit the Wine Exhibition to taste and buy the best wines of the region, from 1st June to 30th October the wine shop is open in following days and hours: Tuesday morning 10 am-12 pm – Thursday afternoon 4-6pm. The wine shop is always open by appointment calling +39 347 2384250. If you want to taste good local wine directly from the producer you should drive along the road of the DOC wines of Lison-Pramaggiore and stop in one of the many wineries of the area for a tasting. But don’t exaggerate because you have to get back in the car and return to the beach from where you departed this morning!
Would you like an impartial advice? Buy some bottles of wine and take home the flavour of this land, so that you can taste it whenever you want. Looking for information about the wineries open for tastings and bottle selling? You find the complete list on www.stradadeivini.it.
Credits Valentina Paro, Diarioinviaggio.it