Ok, let’s talk about our favorite area of Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Nestled at the very northeastern tip of Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia doesn’t end up on most people’s itineraries when planning their trip to Italy. It’s a hike from Rome and the Amalfi Coast and just far enough away from Milan and Venice to make it difficult to include on the list of must-dos. But I’m here to try to convince you that including this area for your first (or at least your second!) trip to Italy is worth going a little out of your way!
It’s right across the border from Slovenia and has some of the same landscape, weather, and wine varietals as its neighbor. And as you may have already read, we have a little bit of a crush on Slovenia. So it’s no wonder that we absolutely loved this slightly-less known area of Italy.
And two years later, the day we spent in Friuli Venezia Giulia has stayed planted in our minds as one of our favorite days in Europe.
To convinve you that this part of Italy is worth a detour or tacking on to your itinerary, I will recap the highlights of our perfect day in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
We had an amazing walk through the wine making process at Specogna, ate the best steak of our lives at Al Postiglione, and ended the day at a festival in the medieval town of Cividale del Friuli.
Azienda Agricola Specogna
There is a place that receives gentle northern winds from the Julian Alps and also benefits from the sea breeze from the Adriatic Sea, and that place is Specogna, just southeast of the capital Udine in Corno di Rosazzo.
The clouds lingering from the morning rain chased us as we drove from Aquileia along many picturesque lanes and roundabouts lined on both sides with vines and olive trees. On the way up a long windy road that will feel like a long driveway, you will arrive at the agricultural farm of Specogna.
So, we didn’t exactly do wine tasting in Friuli correctly. We didn’t make a reservation ahead of time, and unfortunately you cannot necessarily assume that a winery will be open and available to visitors on a given day. Thankfully, when we called Specogna, we spoke to Violetta and she welcomed us to come by for a tasting.
But not you – you will be smarter! You will call the lovely folks at Vignaioli Specogna (and anywhere else you want to go to) ahead of time to avoid missing out on the places you have your heart set on visiting.
We totally lucked out by having the opportunity to taste wine at Specogna. We had heard that the wine in this region was coveted and we were excited to try it because the wine of Friuli Venezia Giulia is difficult to find in the United States.
Upon arrival, Violetta greeted us and sat us down at the end of a very large, banquet-style wooden table. Specogna is a family affair, and has been since 1963, as many successful ventures are when they are passionate about the products they produce. Violetta is the girlfriend (now wife, congratulations!) to Cristian Specogna, one of the brothers running the vineyard in the third generation of the Specogna business. She was a great hostess that made us feel totally at ease talking about the different wines, the history and plots of the vineyards, and their cultivation of the land.
Specogna owes much of its lineup of unique and premium quality wines to the fact that the vines in this little corner of the world grow in soil that is in perfect condition for cultivating grapes.
It doesn’t come easily, however, and Specogna is constantly working to understand how they can work with the land and the newest technologies in balance to create phenomenal wines.
The Friuli region specializes in white wines, and we enjoyed trying some of the regions specialties, including the Friuliano, Pinot Grigio, and Ribolla Gialla. The Pinot Grigio especially surprised us because of how different it was to any Pinot Grigio we had tried before. So many times Pinot Grigio is made into a sickeningly sweet wine in the US — basically a wine for people who don’t want to drink wine. Thankfully Violetta understood where we were coming from since she explained that has been known to happen with Prosecco in Italy. No worries, there is no mass-produced wine here!
On top of treating us to a lineup of their wines, Violetta sliced up some prosciutto (only the best, San Daniele of course!) Friulano, the region’s flagship wine, pairs absolutely perfectly with San Daniele prosciutto. If you aren’t familiar, this prosciutto is one of the most celebrated Italian cold cuts, made exclusively on the hilltops of San Daniele in Udine. We felt totally spoiled.
One of the best parts of the tasting? Violetta ensured that we had a wine glass especially suited to each wine we tried. The passion for the wine showed through in the details of the tasting. Talk about doing it right!
The morning had been cloudy and rainy, and the landscape leading up to the vineyard was covered mist. We had no idea of the view right outside the door. By the time we were done with our tasting, the fog had lifted, and we stepped onto the terrace to see the beautiful rolling hills as the clouds began to depart.
We were blown away by the view, and we couldn’t help thinking that if we had all day we would be more than happy to sit on that terrace and soak in the expansive view of the terraced vineyards with a glass of Specogna wine in our hands. Any of them would do!
We brought home a bottle of the Friuliano, Pinot Grigio, and the 2011 Ramandolo, a dessert wine from their sister winery Toblar. Dessert wine is not usually our style, but we were infatuated with the color and complexity. The Ramandolo is still sitting in our wine cabinet, waiting for the right opportunity to be opened!
Set in the hills of Rocca Bernarda, Specogna fashions the grapes of this region in a way that makes you realize there is still so much left to discover in the world of wine.
Many thanks to Violetta and the Specogna family for showing us warm hospitality and foremost for introducing us to the magnificent wines of Friuli Venezia Giulia. We can’t wait to go back!
We left Specogna just in time to jet off to our lunch reservation. Just a short drive up the road, we continued our day of enjoying the what the area had to offer, this time with one of our most favorite meals of all time at Ristorante Al Postiglione.
“Ristorante Al Postiglione,” which translates to Restaurant at Postiglione, is an old farmhouse at the top of a hill that was converted into a restaurant. Part of the Perusini estate, Postiglione is a love story between the vines and the gastronomy of the Friuli region.
Even without the incredible food and wine, the restaurant charms enough on its own with the beautiful view off its terrace overlooking the valley below.
But trust me, you will come here for the food!
We got a kick out of them misspelling my husband’s name for reserving the table and joked that “Celeb” was short for celebrity. Or perhaps it was Caleb’s bad (nonexistent?) Italian when he was making the reservation… either way, with the quality of the food here, everyone will feel like a celebrity.
Peach caprese was perfect paired with the estate’s Standard Bearer, the Ribolla Gialla.
All good meals should involve a pasta course and this was no exception. The local sausage added a nice Friulian twist to this Italian classic.
Do not come here if you are a vegetarian. I repeat: do not come here. Save the steak for me instead!
The steak was some of the best of our lives. It was cooked over a wood fireplace and needed nothing else but a sprinkle of fine olive oil and sea salt. The combination with the rosso del Postiglione was divine.
Would they serve well done steak even if you asked? It probably wouldn’t compute with the chef…or they would just totally ignore you and cook your steak correctly.
The terrace of the restaurant boasts a view of the bed and breakfast for the estate in the distance. Hopefully we will be back soon to stay there and enjoy the treats of Al Postiglione every day.
The desserts were full of fresh favors, light and refreshing. Perfect way to begin to recover from the copious amounts of steak.
This meal entered into our annuals of highly memorable adventures in European eating. Some people may enjoy spending three hours watching a long movie or sporting event. My idea of three hours of perfection involve pasta, steak, wine and a beautiful restaurant with a view in this corner of Italy.
Cividale Del Friuli
After drinking all that wine and eating all that food, we were ready to take a walk. The perfect place for that is in Cividale del Friuli. While the town has a prestigious history after being founded in 50 B.C. by Julius Caesar, the main attraction of the town now is the restaurants, views, picturesque bridges, and people-watching.
By accident, but fortunate for us, the town was celebrating Palio di San Donato, their annual medieval festival. The three day festival is all about bringing 14th century Cividale del Friuli to life with musicians, jousters, religious blessings, knights, maidens, and tournaments.
Even after stuffing ourselves we had to hold ourselves back from stalls lining the streets with medieval-inspired food and drinks. The infusion of local celebration and history was an ideal way to end our perfect day in Friuli before heading back to our agriturismo.
Can’t end this blog post without noting how we started our day! We began our day walking through the Roman ruins at Aquileia, a small town that used to be one of the world’s largest cities. The cathedral, located in the main square, has some of the most intricate and breathtaking mosaics that we have ever seen. No pictures were allowed at either location, so you will have to go for yourself!
Has Friuli-Venezia Giulia made it on to your bucketlist for Italy? If you have already been, where did you go?