Saturday, October 3, 2009

Aquileia and Grado

Aquileia was founded by the Romans around 180 BC as a frontier fortress along the Natisone River and was intended to protect the Veneti during the Illyrian Wars. The ancient buildings of Aquileia served as stone quarries for centuries and no edifices of the Roman period remain above ground. Excavations have revealed one street and the north-west angle of the town walls, while the National Archaeological Museum (one of the most important museums of Ancient Rome in the world) contains over 2,000 inscriptions, statues and other antiquities, as well as glasses of local production and a numismatics collection. The site of Aquileia, believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Via Sacra, the archeological path, begins with the entrance which is a high brick gate and fence designed to protect the ancient ruins. Immediately upon entering the gate, the remains of the port structures are visible on the right side of the river. Il Foro (the Forum) stands facing the main road that runs between Aquileia and Grado.

Grado is reached by a causeway running across the lagoons of the Adriatic and is known commonly as L'Isola del Sole ("The Sunny Island"). Grado is also famous for being a spa town. On a clear day like today, stunning views of Trieste, Slovenia, and Croatia can be seen.

The Basilica of Sant Eufemia has an octagonal Baptistry and dates from 579, with a simple hut fa├žade and a bell tower from the 15th century on the right side, which is surmounted by a statue portraying St. Michael and known as the Anzolo (1462). The interior has a nave and two aisles. The main point of interest is the mosaic pavement from the 6th century, restored in 1946-48.

Many shops, bars, and restuarants are located in the pedestrian-only center. We dined at Pescada, one of the many resturants boasting a menu of fresh seafood. The prosecco coupled with spaghetti alla vongole and calamari fritti with salsa angordolce was an excellent choice! A scoop of gelato from one of the many gelatarias lining the harbor was the perfect way to end the day.