Udine is an important city in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It is dominated by the hill on which the ancient castle stands, now home to the civic museums. Udine is also the city of the famous painter Tiepolo: to admire his works of art; it is essential to visit the Galleries of the Patriarchal Palace and admire the Assumption on the ceiling of the “Oratorio della Purità,” in Piazza Duomo.
Piazza della Libertà
Defined as “the most beautiful Venetian square on the mainland,” Piazza della Libertà is the most monumental square in the city, the perfect place to start your visit to Udine. On the square, located on different levels, there are two loggias, one facing the other.
Loggia del Lionello
The “Loggia del Lionello,” which houses the Palazzo Comunale (the Town Hall), was built between 1400 and 1500, when the government of Venice took office in Udine, replacing the temporal power of the Patriarchate of Aquileia. The Loggia was destroyed by fire in 1876 and was then rebuilt as the original. Made in Venetian Gothic style, the loggia has pointed arches and the typical pink and white marble bands. Among the arches, there are six letters that make up the Latin name of Udine, “Utinum.” It is worth walking inside the loggia, both to enjoy the splendid view of Piazza Libertà with the Loggia di San Giovanni and the top of the Castle from a privileged height, and to admire some works under the loggia, such as the Madonna and Child by Pordenone or the statue representing the homeland of Friuli, a work of art by Andrea Flaibani.
Loggia di San Giovanni
In front of the Loggia del Lionello, there is the “Loggia di San Giovanni,” recognizable by the Tower with the Clock, one of the best-known symbols of Udine. Built-in 1533, the Loggia di San Giovanni, with adjoining Tempietto, closes piazza della Libertà on the side of the slope towards the Castle hill. Currently, the temple has become the Pantheon of the Fallen in War, and, together with the Loggia, it has undergone numerous restoration works that have brought it back to its former glory.
The Clock Tower, built by Giovanni da Udine in 1527 in place of the medieval tower that allowed access to the Castle, has on its top the two Moors who strike the hours: two copper statues made in 1850, and a statue with the lion of San Marco.
In the Piazza della Libertà, we also find a beautiful fountain of 1542, the neoclassical statue of Peace built after the Treaty of Campoformio of 1797, the statue of Justice of 1614, which commemorates the place of capital executions, the statues of the two giants Hercules and Caco, so loved by the people of Udine.
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti
Matteotti Square is considered the living room of the city and is certainly the most loved square by both Friulians and tourists. In the middle of the square stands a beautiful fountain and marvelous arcaded houses that surround the open space, some of which still show some ancient frescoes on their facades or have precious carved wooden ceilings inside. In the center, there is a 16th-century fountain, and numerous bars with outdoor tables have sprung up around the square, making this place the ideal meeting point at various times of the day.
Lantern of Diogenes
On the side of the square, next to the church of San Giacomo, there is an ancient well: in Udine, there are many wells, both public and private, and some can still be seen walking around the city. Built-in the 15th century, this well is probably the most famous one and is called the “Lantern of Diogenes” due to its particular shape. In fact, it has the traditional shape with an octagonal base, but on it, four columns have been made surmounted by a slab – also octagonal – on which rests a fifth column on which, in turn, rests a capital. On the surface, there are coats of arms and decorative motifs.
One of the most typical features of Udine is the presence of canals, that is, small streams that run through the city and, in particular, the historic center. Many sections have been buried since the 1950s, but many are still visible, and some of them have been enhanced in recent years. The canals that cross the city are two: that of Udine and that of Palma. Furthermore, most of the streets in the historic center of Udine are enhanced by arcades. Mercatovecchio Street, flanked by the arcades, has always been the commercial street of the city and is ideal for a walk in the center. Among the most beautiful buildings there are the Sabbadini House, from the 16th century, and the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà, from the 17th century. Furthermore, Udine still retains 13 of the ancient gates that allowed you to enter the city and were distributed along the surrounding walls.
Udine’s cathedral is a large three-nave church dating back to 1335 and dedicated to Santa Maria Annunziata. It underwent several renovations and extensions during the following centuries. The facade has a style between Romanesque and Gothic. The bell tower, built-in 1442, has an octagonal shape. The interior of the cathedral is Baroque and, among the many works of art, it also preserves some by Gianbattista Tiepolo: on the right aisle, the altar with the altarpiece of the Holy Trinity, the altarpiece depicting Saints Ermacora and Fortunato and, finally, that of the Blessed Sacrament, all decorated with frescoes by Tiepolo, who also paints the altarpiece with the Resurrection above the tabernacle.
Oratory of Purity
Next to the Cathedral is the Oratory of Purity: the building is not flashy and is only open during religious services. Giambattista Tiepolo, together with his son Giandomenico, was in charge of the decoration of the church: his father painted the main altarpiece, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and the ceiling fresco, dedicated to the Assumption. His son Giandomenico, on the other hand, painted the walls of the church with eight biblical scenes. Visits to the Oratory of Purity are carried out on request.
The cathedral museum of Udine
On the left side of the church, from the Baptistery built-in 1348, you enter the Cathedral Museum, set up in the oldest part of the building. Here you can admire two very precious cycles of frescoes by Vitale da Bologna. The frescoes are dedicated to scenes from the Old and New Testament and to the Life, Miracles, and Funeral of San Nicolò in the chapel of the same name dedicated to the saint.
The museum also preserves the marble ark supported by five statues with the remains of the patriarch Bertrando: the funeral monument was commissioned by the patriarch himself in 1348 for the basilica of Aquileia with the intention of preserving the relics of the martyrs Ermacora and Fortunato, but it was instead brought to Udine in 1353 to house the patriarch’s body.
Diocesan Museum and Tiepolo Galleries
The Archbishop’s Palace, the seat of the Diocesan Museum, houses some of the most grandiose frescoes by Gianbattista Tiepolo. The artist decorated the ceiling of the grand staircase, built-in 1725, with the “Fall of the rebel angels”; the Red Room, the seat of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, with “The Judgment of Solomon” and the Guest Gallery, where guests were welcomed awaiting the hearing in the adjacent throne room, with some episodes from the life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Also not to be missed are the remaining rooms: that of the throne where you can admire 116 portraits that tell two thousand years of history of the Udine and Aquileian churches, the yellow room with its splendid stuccos, the Palatine chapel, the blue room, and the suggestive library. Finally, in the exhibition rooms, you can admire the collections of wooden sculptures from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century and the art gallery.
Museum of Modern and Contemporary House Cavazzini
Cavazzini House is the headquarters of the Gallery of Modern Art in Udine. It possesses about four thousand works, including paintings, sculptures, and drawings. The building, after the renovation completed in 2010, brought to light precious original frescoes that have been enhanced by a skillful work of restoration and that visitors to the gallery can admire during their visit to the museum. During the architectural restoration work, important archaeological finds and settlements dating back to different eras came to light. In the rooms of the building, polychrome wooden ceilings, frescoes, and decorations from the 15th century were discovered. Fifteenth-century decorations with a “profane” subject have also emerged, which provide much information on the type of interior decorations of buildings and civic dwellings. The complex consists of three buildings that are articulated around three internal courtyards; the main nucleus is the Casa Colombatti – Cavazzini, of sixteenth-century origin. Finally, the presence, on the first floor, of the Cavazzini apartment is of particular value. The splendid apartment, furnished with period furniture, has been restored and can be visited.
Udine Castle is one of the main monuments of the city and is located on top of a hill, 138 meters above sea level, in the city center. It is currently the seat of the Civic Museums. Built-in 983, it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1511 and was restored after the 1976 earthquake. The castle has no medieval shape but is more like a large palace. The castle is accessed from the Arch of Bollani, and the climb starts right next to the Loggia di San Giovanni. You can decide to walk the Loggia del Lippomano and observe the glimpses of the castle from the splendid openings of the Gothic arches or climb the steep staircase.
The Castle is the ideal place for a stroll on a sunny day. The square on the hill during clear days is the perfect place from which to admire the mountains of the arc of the Eastern Alps: here there is also a metal plate on which the names of the mountains in front of them are engraved, to help recognize all the peaks to those who observe them from there. From here, you can admire the symbol of the city: the golden Angel that stands out from the bell tower of the ancient church of Santa Maria in Castello, the first parish church of Udine.
The square of the Castle houses a refreshment place and several benches where you can stop to rest and admire the view. In the summer, the square in front of the Castle also becomes a suggestive location for concerts and theatrical performances, and the fireworks are launched from here on the last day of the year.
The Museums of the Castle houses an Art Gallery inaugurated in 1906, which was then enriched over the years thanks to donations, as well as purchases. The gallery winds along 13 rooms: from the painting of the fourteenth century to the mid-1800s, the works of art by Vitale Da Bologna, Domenico da Tolmezzo, Vittore Carpaccio, Il Pordenone, Pomponio Amalteo, Antonio Carneo, and many other Venetian and Friulian artists show a cross-section of history and art of Friuli. There are paintings by Caravaggio and Carpaccio, as well as some extraordinary works of art by Tiepolo. The Museum of Photography has recently been completely renovated.
Church of Saint Francis
The Church of Saint Francis is one of the oldest churches in the city, as it was built in 1266. Today the church is deconsecrated and used as a venue for temporary events and exhibitions. The bell tower is in Romanesque style. The interior is the first example of Cistercian architecture in Friuli: the nave has an exposed wooden ceiling, and the large mullioned windows on the walls are covered with frescoes. In the central chapel, the “Lignum Vitae,” a crucifix almost twelve meters high, is depicted in a fresco.
Piazza XX Settembre
XX Settembre Square today houses the fruit, vegetable, fish, and typical products market. Among the many interesting buildings stands out the “Venetian House,” built-in Gothic style, with mullioned windows and three-light windows that adorn the walls and, in particular, the facade. The nineteenth-century “Antivari-Kechler Palace” overlooks the opposite side of the square.
Udine is also a convenient starting point for those who want to visit Friuli Venezia Giulia and take day excursions, as it is located one hour away from the sea, one hour from the Carnia or Travisiano mountains, one hour from Pordenone, and one hour from Trieste.
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