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New meets old in Italy

Luc Pols
Special to the Daily/Luc Pols The view from Cividale, Italy.
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Editor’s note: Luc Pols is on a five-week trip through Europe, hitting Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and more. Each week, he is filing a report on his travels and sending them back to us along with photos of the journey.

In these first days in Italy, I learn about Udine and its neighboring town Cividale. During a walking tour of Udine, I see new buildings tastefully mixed in with marvelous old architecture, including a 17th century castle that now functions as a museum. The 19th century City Hall is magnificent, as well as the old outdoor union meeting place that is open on three sides, and the only wall boasts frescoes. These buildings are a stone throw from a small modern shopping center, which is built to not clash with the antique.

I venture alone from Udine to Cividale, about 14 km away. On the train ride there, I spot vineyards, small villages and farmland. This train runs on diesel fuel, and it has its own pump in the station, which seems to be the only 20th (or is it 19th ) century amenity. I feel I have traversed back in time about 500 years. This little town, where Julius Ceasar used to live, is an absolute gem. I visit an old chapel, Longobard Temple, which can be traced back to the 8th century, but is probably even older than that. I go into a house from the Middle Ages, which is still inhabited and even has a jewelry store on the ground floor. I admire the Diavolo (devil) Bridge, so named because it only has one support pillar in the middle. The old Duomo, church, is, as always, centrally located in the village. Around it is the old town, which winds its way along the original city wall within viewing distance of the snow capped mountains.

This town just oozes charm. During lunch on the main square I sip excellent local wine for just 1 Euro a glass. Another restaurant, which is named after Julius Ceasar and is across the street from the Duomo, has been here since 1683. They must be doing something right.Next, I head to Trieste, right on the Adriatic Sea. It’s built against the mountains – talk about a setting. Its home to various marinas, and I imagine this place buzzing with sail boats, yachts and sunbathing people from April to October. A beautiful main square, with City Hall at its center, has outdoor cafes virtually around the whole perimeter, and while the square is not too busy today, the summer time must be absolutely delightful here with hundreds of people milling about and enjoying a cappuccino or sipping the local wines.

My day in Venice, it pours. But we come here for the Picasso exhibition from his 1946-1948 Antibes years. While the weather makes enjoying the town itself rather difficult, the exhibition is definitely worth the 1.5 hour train ride, and in any case, we will be back here in two weeks to enjoy the famous Venice Carnival with its abundance of masks and costumes.

Next week it’s off to the Czech Republic, where I will visit towns somewhat off the beaten track .


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