TRIESTE PROVINCE

GORIZIA PROVINCE

UDINE PROVINCE

UDINE

CARNIA

TARVISIO

VENZONE

GEMONA

BORDANO

SAN DANIELE

CIVIDALE

VILLA MANIN

AQUILEIA

MARANO LAGUNARE

PORDENONE PROVINCE

 

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Udine Province

Venzone

Driving north from Udine, you will find a charming, medieval-walled city—the only one in Friuli—situated unexpectedly at the side of the highway. In Roman times, Venzone was an important post along the ancient Via Giulia Augusta, the last bit of civilization before entering the rough territory of Carnia. Although the town was partially rebuilt following the 1976 earthquakes that devastated its Duomo, Venzone retains much of its medieval character. Stark, gray stone buildings and cobbled streets blend with the surrounding rocky mountains, while an imposing double wall serves to fortify the town against the incursions of contemporary life.

Across from the pointed campanile of Venzone’s Duomo sits the 13th-century Cappella Cimiteriale di San Michele. This tiny, round crypt houses the result of a peculiar natural phenomenon—corpses mummified by a rare parasitic mold that covered the bodies and blocked decomposition. While the exact age of the mummies has not been determined, the oldest—named Gobbo, meaning “hunchback”—was discovered in 1647 during construction work on the Duomo. Twenty-one mummies were originally uncovered, although only fifteen were salvaged intact from the ruins of the 1976 earthquakes. Five are currently on display, including Gobbo, a mother and daughter, and two noblemen.

Venzone and nearby Gemona were at the epicenter of the 1976 earthquakes. Many structures, including the Duomo, were painstakingly renovated using original stones that were salvaged from the rubble.

 

Festa della Zucca

The Festa della Zucca occurs annually on the fourth weekend of October in the tiny town of Venzone. Although pumpkins may be the most familiar squash, gourds of all shapes, colors, and sizes are featured in this festival of food, art, music, and dancing. Every year, a contest awards prizes for the largest, heaviest, longest, most beautiful, and most unusual squash. In addition, children participate in a pumpkin-carving contest, while chefs demonstrate their skill in carving intricate floral designs.

The Festa della Zucca not only celebrates the pumpkin, but also transports Venzone back in time. Public squares are illuminated by torches, townspeople dress in medieval costume, and jugglers and fire-eaters perform in the streets. Delegations from Austria, Germany, and Slovenia are presented, and following an ancient Austrian ceremony, the people elect an honorary “Archduke of Pumpkins.” Most importantly, the town’s taverns and restaurants celebrate the squash with special tasting-menus that include dishes such as pumpkin soup, frico con la zucca, gnocchi di zucca, puréed squash, and pumpkin cake.