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Udine Province


hair bundlesIn the center of Udine, the winged lion of Saint Mark perches atop a lofty column, surveying what was once Venetian territory. A lacy, pink palazzo dominates the square, while two bronze moors strike the hour above a blue and gold clock tower. Everywhere you look, the city’s streets reveal clues to its Venetian past. In fact, there are even a few canals flowing through town. Along with most of Friuli and parts of Venezia Giulia, Udine was conquered by Venice in 1420 and remained under Venetian rule until Napoleon’s 1797 invasion. To demonstrate the city’s allegiance to the lagoon republic known as “La Serenissima,” architects were instructed to replicate certain Venetian buildings and monuments.

It is no coincidence then that the two columns that tower over Piazza della Libertà bear a striking resemblance to those in Venice’s Piazza San Marco. The first is crowned by the symbol of the Venetian Republic, the winged lion of Saint Mark. Although Saint Theodore stands atop the second column in Venice, Udine honors judicial might with a female statue holding a sword and the scales of justice. Also in the piazza are the statues of Hercules and Cacus, known locally as Florean and Venturin.

Lining the elevated piazza is the Porticato di San Giovanni, a long stretch of arcades in the center of which nestles Udine’s most recognizable monument, the Torre dell’Orologio, or “clock tower.” Inspired by the zodiac signs on Venice’s famous clock, a golden sun radiates from a brilliant blue clock face, while the winged lion makes another appearance below the clock. Adjacent to the Torre dell’Orologio, a large, domed arch houses the Tempietto di San Giovanni. Originally designed as a church, this structure provided shelter for wounded soldiers during Napoleon’s invasion and the subsequent struggle for liberation. In the spirit of victory after Italy’s unification, the chapel was transformed into a war memorial.

Across the piazza is the Loggia del Lionello, a small-scale version of Venice’s Palazzo Ducale. Adorned with filigree and statuettes, the pink- and white-striped building is supported by a graceful Gothic arcade and features the characteristic trilobed, arched windows.

Osteria Al Vecchio Stallo

One of the oldest restaurants in Udine, Osteria Al Vecchio Stallo is housed in a 17th-century building that once served as a stable and rest stop for deliverymen. Until the arrival of automobiles, goods were transported long distances via horse and cart. Carters would stop midway along their journey for a meal and a respite. Leaving their horses to be cared for in the stable, they would then continue their route using new horses. On the way back, the borrowed horses would be returned for the original ones. In the early 1900s, the stall was closed and converted into a section of the dining room. The osteria persisted with marginal success for decades, then saw a revitalization in 1985 under new management by the three Mancini brothers—Enzo, Maurizio, and Mario. Their objective was to preserve the traditional cuisine of Friuli, while giving it the elegance and style that modern tastes have come to expect. Al Vecchio Stallo exudes the warmth and hospitality so characteristic of Friulians, making guests feel just like family.

The dining room retains the atmosphere of an old-world tavern—wood-beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, red-checked tablecloths, and walls cluttered with colorful paintings, newspaper clippings, period photographs of Udine, and memorabilia of all sorts. In warm weather, diners can sit outside in the courtyard under a canopy of grapevines. The food is simple—what some might describe as peasant fare—but still tasty and completely satisfying. The prices are inexpensive, a huge bargain for such generous portions. Their stinco di maiale (braised pork shank) is gigantic, as are the sardines in sarde in saor. Chef Mario Mancini rotates his menu daily, some dishes being served only on certain days, such as savory, herb-filled cjalsòns on Sundays or creamy, salty baccalà on Fridays. For dessert, order the gubana—it comes soaked in grappa.