Friuli Venezia Giulia Weekend Getaway

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Photo credits Helena Zonta
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by Helena & Massimiliano Zonta

One of the great things about Trieste is that when you need a short break there are many exciting possibilities for a change of scenery, all within a short distance. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

One of my favorite places for a weekend getaway, during all seasons, is the beautiful area around Tarvisio. A few weeks ago my family and I packed our bags and drove to a lovely little house, in Rutte Piccolo, right outside of Tarvisio. We spent a great weekend, surrounded by lots of crystal white snow and the impressive Mangart mountains.  

Photo credits Helena Zonta

Tarvisio is only a 2 hour drive from TriesteLocated in Valcanalebetween the Carnic Alps and the Karawankas range in the north, and the Julian Alps in the south, it has always been very important. Since Roman times it has been at the crossroads of ancient trade routes, across the Alps to Venice. From the 14th century it also became significant because of nearby ore mines, in Cave del Predil, and ironworks, in Fusine in Valromana.

Photo credits Helena Zonta

It was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, overwhelmingly German and Slovenian. Since then it has been part of Italy, so Italian is the main language, but most of the people there are still trilingual, as it is a tri-state area. Tarvisio is the Italian name; it’s Tarvis in German and Friulian, and Trbiž in Slovenian.

Photo credits Helena Zonta

The town is famous for many reasons. One of them is Monte Lussari, with its ancient shrine, overlooking the town and the valley. The church dates back to the 14th century, and is believed to have been the place of many miracles. Thus many pilgrims – pellegrini – have visited it throughout the centuries, while today the Sentiero del Pellegrino – the Pilgrim Path, is a favorite for trekking lovers. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

Around the shrine there are very good mountain restaurants, called rifugi. One of my favorite things to eat in these restaurants is Wienerschnitzel, while my sister always orders gnocchi con ragu.

Photo credits Helena Zonta

Tarvisio is also great for skiing – it has beautiful slopes, pure powder snow and spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. One of the most famous ski runs is on Monte Lussari – the exciting Di Prampero ski run, which hosts the annual Gran Premio Italia in men’s alpine skiing, every 3rd weekend of January. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

Close to Tarvisio there are the magnificent Laghi di Fusine, the Fusine lakes – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. There are two lakes, both of such a light color that you can see the reflection of the glorious mountains. They are ice cold, even during the summer. In fact, it’s one of the coldest places in Italy, all year long.

Photo credits Helena Zonta

While in the summer you can rent row boats and explore, during the winter both lakes have a very thick layer of ice. There are beautiful paths and trails all around the lakes – whichever one you take and wherever you go it will be amazing. In winter the trails can be a bit rough, because of all the snow, but we managed to walk all around, and have a picnic. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

Also close to Tarvisio is Cave del Predil. It is called that way because it formed around the Raibl mine (cave), which was opened in the 14th century. It was one of the most important lead and zinc mines in Europe, with a network of 120 km of tunnels, spread over 19 levels, 520 meters deep. However, it was closed in 1990, and has since then been converted into the Museum of Mining Tradition, housed in the former headquarters of the mine.

Photo credits Helena Zonta

You can visit some of the spaces inside, either on foot or aboard an electric train. You can discover the materials, items and history of the site, but also learn about the miners, the settlement, the everyday life, and the beautiful valley and surrounding mountains. Nowadays the town is depopulated and looks abandoned, but the mine is really cool – it looks straight out of a James Bond movie. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

Closeby is the Lago del Predil – a beautiful mountain lake, located in a high valley of the Julian Alps, on the border with Slovenia. The water is clear and cold, of an intense green-blue color. According to legend, many centuries ago instead of the lake there was a small village.

Photo credits Helena Zonta

The inhabitants were insensitive, selfish people and during a cold winter night refused hospitality to a woman and her child, traveling from far away. Only a poor family offered them refuge and comfort. The next morning the entire village was submerged by the lake, except for a small island, right in the middle of the lake, where the house of the hospitable family was. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

I especially loved going to Lago del Predil this year, because there was no one there, so we were all alone, enjoying the wonderful snow and playing on the ice. Nearby, on the way to Sella Nevea, there is a frozen stream, where we found enormous icicles and walked along the snow-covered riverbed. 

Photo credits Helena Zonta

I have been to these wonderful places a few times over the past years, both in the summer and winter, and they are always really fascinating – both when they are covered with pure and perfect snow, or when everything is amazingly green and fresh! 

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Helena Zonta
Helena is a writer, copywriter, consultant, and entrepreneur, with a wealth of experience in research, analysis and writing, communication, negotiation and mediation, international relations, project management, teaching and training, and business development. Among other projects, she worked for the United Nations, in Pristina and Belgrade, for several years. Following the birth of her two children, she went into private consulting. She divides her time between Belgrade and Trieste, and is at present writing two books about living in Trieste – one in English, and one in Serbian

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