I have a certain love affair with Italy. After visiting Venice and Rome last year, I can’t seem to stop thinking about returning, even just packing all my stuff up and moving there, never to come back. I don’t think I’m alone in this but for me it’s a bit more than just enjoying the people, the food, the wine, and the culture, it’s a big part of who I am – Just ask Andrew what he thinks about the stereotypical things I do – So when my parents were visiting last week, we decided to take a trip to Venice, being that it’s so close. But before that, we were going to make a pit stop to a place that’s not only a part of me, but a part of my mom and her family. Cividale del Friuli. It’s a small village about 20 min from Udine, Italy and another 1 1/2 hours from Venice. The town is close to where my great-grandparents grew up in the Italian countryside. They would walk there to get their mail. And it’s where some of my mom’s side of her family still lives today.
The town has a lot of history, dating as far back as 50BC, when Julius Caesar founded it as part of the Roman Empire. From there, the history and who occupied it goes on and on. We started the trip making our way around the handful of town squares and churches.
All the buildings were so colorful. Each was so different. The narrow roads wound their way from one square to the next. Some homes had laundry hanging between buildings, others had all their shutters open and flowers in boxes along the windows. Our first stop was to the Monastero di Santa Maria in Valle. The Monastery was founded in the seventh century AD. It was a beautiful place and very peaceful.
From there we walked around to the Tempietto Longobardo, which was built somewhere around 760. The temple itself is quite small. It would probably be the size of a large living room in a house. The illustrations drawn on the stucco of the building are very faint but beautiful. Inside there are about 2 dozen wood-carved chairs along the walls and what looks like desks around the inner part. After exiting the temple we were able to walk along the Natisone river. The landscape was incredible.
From there we walked to the Ponte del Diavolo. Like many devil’s bridges in Europe, this one doesn’t go without a story. After years of constant failures to build this bridge, the Cividalesi made a deal with the devil. He would help build the bridge in exchange for the soul of the first person to walk across it. When the bridge was completed, the people of Cividale, mocking the devil, sent a cat (or dog depending on the version) across the bridge. Since then, the bridge has stayed put.
We continued our walk around the town before hitting the road on our way to Venice. But I could tell neither my mom nor I wanted to leave.
The visit to Cividale has been one of the most meaningful and enjoyable trips I’ve made here in Europe. I would love to be able to go back and spend some more time and see family. It was so special being able to see my mom remember so many great memories of her grandparents. And, I too, could hear my great-grandma’s voice in all the people we saw around town. It had a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity, almost like being home.