The beauties of the FVG
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Cividale is one of the most fascinating and ancient towns in Friuli: history has stratified Celtic, Roman, Longobard and Renaissance evidence on its stones. Behind it are the Natisone Valleys, the route of ancient trade with central Europe, from which the Gallo Carni descended in the 3rd BC. Here in 50 B.C., Caesar founded Forum Iulii, where the Lombards settled in the 6th century AD, choosing it as the capital of their first duchy in Italy. And always here during the Middle Ages the Patriarch, feudal lord of Friuli, received his investiture. Cividale gave its name to Friuli. Its name, Forum Iulii, extended to the entire territory over which it dominated in Roman times and which is still called Friuli. Cividale , when you can, is to walk around, to discover the traces of its past, evident in the painted facades of the houses that overlook narrow alleys, in the ancient squares, in the houses of the villages, built on the rocks overhanging the Natisone. For now a short video by Antonio Devetag to understand the fascinating history of our neighbour. The oldest part, the heart of the Longobard city, extends from Piazza del Duomo to the banks of the Natisone, a charming tangle of cobbled streets and quiet little squares flanked by old stone houses: it is the Gastaldaga (now Borgo Brossana), a district directly belonging to the king: Before visiting it, it's worth crossing the Devil's Bridge which crosses the river in one of its most beautiful spots to enjoy the view of the old houses which - leaning against each other - overhang towards its deep blue-green waters. Right at the beginning of the Gastaldaga, in via Monastero Maggiore, there is the Celtic Hypogeum. Dug into the rock, it is a complex of artificial caves in which you go down steep stairs: used in Roman times as a prison, it was probably originally a Celtic funerary site.

Continuing further on, up to the banks of the Natisone, you reach the oratory of S. Maria in Valle. Attached to the Monastery Maggiore and universally known as the Lombard small temple, it is a small architectural masterpiece embellished with white stuccoes of the 8th century: six figures of women, tall and hieratic (the procession of virgins and martyrs) advance in procession towards a small window from which light enters. Below, vine shoots bent by the weight of the bunches, frame an arch. Having passed miraculously unharmed through the centuries, echoing what must have been the extraordinary original decoration of the small temple, the stuccoes are a unique testimony to the refinement of Longobard art. Below are traces of Byzantine frescoes from the 14th century and carved wooden stalls from the mid-16th century. In what was once the sacristy, frescoes detached from the inside of the building have been placed. Longobard masterpieces.

Other important evidence of the Longobard period can be found in the Duomo and in the National Archaeological Museum, which houses among other things very rare pieces of Longobard goldsmithery. Overlooking the square of the same name (where the ancient Roman forum once stood), the Duomo is an imposing 15th-century building: among the works of art kept inside, the main altarpiece of Pellegrino II, a precious gilded silver goldsmith's work from the end of the 12th century, stands out. Attached to the Cathedral is the Christian Museum, where important early medieval sculptures and bas-reliefs are kept, including the baptistery of Callisto and the altar of Ratchis, two absolute masterpieces of Longobard sculpture, dating back to the 8th century. Octagonal aedicule with elegant columns, the baptistery of Callisto is so-called because there is an inscription that praises the patriarch Callisto (730-756). The altar of Ratchis is instead dedicated to Ratchis, duke of Cividale and king of the Longobards, who died a Benedictine monk: on the front facade is carved the Triumph of Christ, on the others the Visitation and Adoration of the Magi. Also on Piazza del Duomo are the Town Hall (15th century, but renovated several times) and the National Archaeological Museum, housed in the Palazzo dei Provveditori Veneti, built at the end of the 16th century to a design attributed to Andrea Palladio, where important archaeological finds from all over Friuli and the surrounding areas are on display (including Roman and early Christian floor mosaics and a remarkable lapidary collection from Roman to Romanesque times). The main floor is entirely dedicated to the Lombards: the material is chronologically ordered and starts from the artefacts of the first settlements of this people in Forum Iulii, found in the most ancient necropolis of S.Giovanni and Cella (VI-VII century). ): among other things, a collection of gold coins, the sarcophagus and the trousseau of the so-called Duke Gisulfo (found in 1874 in Piazza Diacono), precious goldsmith's work, including the characteristic Lombard fibulae and crosses, the peace of the Duke Bear, an astile cross from Invillino, silver reliquaries from the treasure of the Cathedral. To visit in the centre is also the church of S.Francesco, with frescoes from the 14th to the 16th century, one of the most significant examples of gothic architecture in Friuli. If in Gastaldaga time seems to have almost stopped, moving away from Natisone the narrow streets come alive with shops, cafes, restaurants, up to Piazza Paolo Diacono, the town's open-air lounge and stage for summer shows, overlooked by the very popular Longobard Café. Under the arcades that surround it, or in the alleyways that branch off from it, pastry shops sell gubane and štruki and terracotta craft shops decorated with flowers, traditional scarpèts, wood-carved objects, loom fabrics. Shopping also in Corso Mazzini, Via de Rubeis, Via Ristori.

Antonio Devetag