by Helena Zonta
Here are some suggestions on what to do in Grado, when you’re looking for the perfect one-day getaway from Trieste.
- Start with a cup of coffee in the porto Mandracchio – the old port of Grado, with its characteristic Y shape, where fishing boats and yachts glisten in the sun, their reflection fusing with that of the cafes, bars, restaurants and shops that surround them. There is a healthy hustle and bustle all day, and if you get here very early in the morning you’ll see the fishermen coming in from the lagoon and unloading the fresh catch of the day.
- Wander through the pedestrian historic city centre – the “città vecchia” – and get lost in its maze of romantic, mysterious small streets and alleys – calle, where old stone houses with green shutters and bars on the windows display a lovely mix of cacti, blooming flowers, various shells and patron saint figurines.
- Pick a table in the sun in one of the many excellent restaurants on the main pedestrian street, and some local favorites, like sardoni in savor [marinated sardines], fritto misto [a mix of fried fish, squid and shrimp] and a glass of chilled Friulano – and just enjoy! You’ll feel the dolce vita coursing through your veins.
- When you’ve had enough sun and want to stretch your legs, cool off in the shade of early Christian buildings, starting from the Campo dei Patriarchi, where you’ll fsee the Patriarchina cross, and the magnificent Grado Cathedral – the Basilica of Sant’Eufemia, which since its consecration in 579 AD has never ceased to celebrate religious services and has carried out its work continually since the 6th century.
Next to the Basilica you’ll see the medieval church tower, with its iconic 3-metre high angel weathervane – Anzolo San Michele – a gift from Venice and one of the symbols of Grado.
The adjacent Baptistry is a work of great historical and artistic value, from the latter half of the 6th century AD, characterized by its typical octagonal shape.The adjoining Lapidary has a spectacular collection of artifacts with works dating back to Roman times, the early Christian and early medieval period. Only a few steps away is the oldest church in Grado – the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie – built on the site of a Paleo-Christian basilica, from the first half of the 5th century AD. Proceed through the centre to the remains of the Paleo-Christian Basilica della Corte, which date back to the 4th century AD, where you can see sections of paving, made of mosaics, several sarcophaguses and the building walls.
- After that, head straight for the beach – breathe in the rejuvenating sea air, get as much vitamin D as possible, and admire the breathtaking horizons walking along the “diga” – the splendid “promenade” along the Lungomare Nazario Sauro, built in the 18th century by Venetians, linking the Imperatore Beach in the east with the Costa Azzurra Beach in the west.
- Make sure you bring a jar for all the marvelous shells you’ll collect on the beach – it’s a wondrous cornucopia of so many different frutti di mare.
And if you wait for the afternoon low tide you’ll be able to bring home a lovely dinner of fresh caught molluscs like vongole, canestrelli, cappalungi, fasolari, garagoli, lumachini, murici, tartufi di mare, and telline.
They are easy pickings when the sea ebbs away, and very tasty when cooked in a bit of white wine, a few cloves of garlic and a touch of parsley.
- The biggest spectacle of all is the sunset. I love watching it from the Costa Azzura beach, because I can see on one side the mountains coloured by the mesmerizing kaleidoscope of the sun setting over the horizon on the other side.