Showing posts with label Friuli Venezia Giulia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friuli Venezia Giulia. Show all posts

26 October 2016

Trieste becomes part of Italy

Fascinating city retains influences from past rulers

The harbour of Trieste in 1885, when it was still under the control of Austria
The harbour of Trieste in 1885, when it was still under
the control of Austria
The beautiful seaport of Trieste officially became part of the Italian Republic on this day in 1954.

Trieste is now the capital of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, one of the most prosperous areas of Italy.

The city lies towards the end of a narrow strip of land situated between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia and it is also just 30 kilometres north of Croatia.

Trieste has been disputed territory for thousands of years and throughout its history has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of the Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures.

Remnants of Trieste's Roman past are still visible
Remnants of Trieste's Roman
past are still visible
It became part of the Roman Republic in 177 BC and was granted the status of a Roman colony by Julius Caesar in 51 BC.

In 788 Trieste was conquered by Charlemagne on behalf of the French but by the 13th century was being occupied by the Venetian Republic.

Austria made the city part of the Habsburg domains in the 14th century but it was then conquered again by Venice. The Hapsburgs recovered Trieste in the 16th century and made it an important port and a commercial hub.

Trieste fell into French hands during the time of Napoleon but then became part of Austrian territory again.

Italy annexed Trieste at the end of the First World War after finishing on the winning side. By the 1930s, thousands of the resident Slovenians had left Trieste to go and live in either Yugoslavia or South America.

During the Second World War the city was occupied by German troops but after briefly being occupied by communist Yugoslavia it was taken back by the Allies in 1945 and came under a joint British and US military administration.

Trieste today is a busy city of many dimensions
Trieste today is a busy city of many dimensions
In 1947 the Paris Peace Treaty established Trieste as free territory. It was divided into two zones, one governed by American troops and one by Yugoslav troops. In 1954 the city of Trieste and part of the zone governed by the Americans was given back to Italy and the territory in the other zone was given to Yugoslavia.

The final border with Yugoslavia was settled in 1975 with the Treaty of Osimo and this is now the present day border between Italy and Slovenia.

Today, Trieste is a lively and cosmopolitan city and a major centre for trade and ship building.

In 2012, Lonely Planet called Trieste ‘the world’s most underrated travel destination’.

Inside one of Trieste's typical cafés
Inside one of Trieste's typical cafés
It is a fascinating place to visit because of the Venetian, Slovenian, Austrian and Hungarian influences in the architecture, culture and cuisine.

As well as Italian, the local dialect Triestino is spoken along with Slovenian, German and Hungarian.

If you stroll along the sea front you experience the atmosphere of being in a major Italian port and there are many excellent fish restaurants to try. Away from the sea you will find restaurants serving traditional Italian, Friulian, Slovenian, Hungarian and Austrian dishes.

Look out for Tocai Friulano, sometimes just labelled Friulano, which is a good quality, local white wine.

Travel tip:

When in Trieste, visit one of the typical coffee houses that date back to the Hapsburg era, such as Caffe Tommaseo, the oldest café in the city. Or, find out why Irish writer James Joyce enjoyed living in Trieste for so many years by dropping into his favourite bar, Caffe Pirona.

Trieste's Canal Grande has echoes of Venice
Trieste's Canal Grande has echoes of Venice
Travel tip:

You could imagine yourself to be in Venice if you linger at a table outside one of the bars or restaurants at the side of Canal Grande, an inlet in the centre of Trieste with moorings for small crafts that is reminiscent of the Grand Canal.

More reading

Writer from Trieste immortalised by James Joyce in his epic novel Ulysses

The fall of the Republic of Venice


9 October 2016

Vajont Dam Disaster

Catastrophic flood may have killed 2,500

The Vajont Dam, pictured before the disaster of 1963, was considered a triumph of  engineering.
The Vajont Dam, pictured before the disaster of 1963, was
considered a triumph of  engineering.
Prone to earthquakes because of its unfortunate geology, Italy has suffered many natural disasters over the centuries, yet the horrific catastrophe that took place on this day 53 years ago in an Alpine valley about 100km north of Venice, killing perhaps as many as 2,500 people, was to a significant extent man-made.

The Vajont Dam Disaster of October 9, 1963 happened when a section of a mountain straddling the border of the Veneto and Fruili-Venezia Giulia regions in the Fruilian Dolomites collapsed in a massive landslide, dumping 260 million cubic metres of forest, earth and rock into a deep, narrow reservoir created to generate hydroelectric power for Italy's industrial northern cities.

The chunk of Monte Toc that came away after days of heavy rain was the size of a small town yet within moments it was moving towards the water at 100km per hour (62mph) and hit the surface of the reservoir in less than a minute.

The effect was almost unimaginable.  Within seconds, 50 million cubic metres of water was displaced, creating a tsunami that rose to 250m high.  The dam held, but the colossal volume of water had nowhere to go but over the top and into the Piave valley below.

Where the village of Longarone had stood, all that  remained was mud and debris.
Where the village of Longarone had stood, all that
 remained was mud and debris.
The landslide was timed at 10.39pm.  In the valley, dotted with villages, many residents were already in bed, others locking up, some making their way home.  They had no chance of escape.  The only warning was a rumbling in the distance, accompanied by a sudden, strengthening wind, that rapidly turned into a deafening roar.

The force behind the surge of water was such that its initial impact with the valley floor after its 250m descent through the narrow Vajont gorge left a crater 60m (200ft) deep and 80m across.

As the water rushed onwards into the Piave valley, it pushed along a pocket of air generating more energy than was created by the atomic bomb that flattened Hiroshima. It was so powerful that most of the victims were found naked, their clothes ripped off them by the blast.

Within a matter of minutes, the villages of Longarone, Pirago, Rivalta, Villanova and Faè had been wiped from the map and 80 per cent of their inhabitants were dead, accounting for around 2,000 of the fatalities.

Others died in villages further downstream, as well as on the opposite side of the reservoir to the landslide, where another huge wave swept up the hillside.

It is estimated that more than half those killed were never found, their bodies buried too deep to be recovered under the vast mud plain that the water left behind.  Others were carried for miles along the Piave River, some possibly into the Adriatic.

The collapse of the mountain filled in almost  half of the reservoir in minutes
The collapse of the mountain filled in almost
half of the reservoir in minutes
A cemetery exists at Fortogna, which commemor- ates all those known to have died, although the headstones - identical blocks of marble in uniform rows - do not necessarily correspond with the remains buried immediately underneath. In many cases there are no remains at all.  To the dismay of relatives, flowers and personal memorials are not permitted to be left.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Italian government and the two authorities involved with the construction of the dam - the Adriatic Energy Corporation (Societa Adriatica di Elettrica) and, at a later stage, the National Entity for Electricity (Ente nazionale per l'energia elettrica) - attributed the catastrophe to natural causes. Journalists who suggested otherwise were accused of "undermining public order".

Later, however, it emerged that many warnings about the instability of the site chosen had been ignored and the project had been allowed to continue despite a number of landslides over a period of four years before the disaster.

A number of engineers eventually went on trial and some were convicted of negligence but the sentences handed out were seen by many as too lenient.  The government was urged to sue the Adriatic Energy Corporation for compensation but in the end decided against it.

Among events held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 2013, a stage of the Giro d'Italia cycle race finished in the municipality of Erto e Casso on the northern side of the reservoir, with the next stage starting in Longarone.

Longarone was completely rebuilt as a modern village
Longarone was completely rebuilt as a modern village
Travel tip:

Nowadays, the largely undamaged Vajont Dam - itself a triumph of engineering, at 262m (860ft) the tallest in the world at the time of construction - is open to the public and a small memorial chapel has been built.  The rebuilt village of Longarone contains a memorial church designed by one of Italy's most influential 20th century architects, Giovanni Michelucci.

Travel tip:

The most important city in the upper Piave valley, situated about 30km south of Longarone, is Belluno, a former Alpine Town of the Year, where there has been a settlement of some kind since around 220BC.  Subsequently it passed into the hands of the Romans.  The sarcophagus of Caius Flavius Hosilius and his wife Domitia can be found in the church of Santo Stefano, which was built on the site of a Roman cemetery.


25 January 2016

Friuli earthquake

First of two disasters to rock Italy in the same year

Tolmezzo in Friuli Venezia Giulia was said to have been close to the epicentre of the 1348 earthquake
Tolmezzo in Friuli Venezia Giulia was said to have
been close to the epicentre of the 1348 earthquake
A devastating earthquake hit the area now known as Friuli Venezia Giulia on this day in 1348.

With a seismic intensity believed to be the equivalent of 6.9 on the Richter scale, the effects of the quake were felt right across Europe.

According to contemporary sources, houses and churches collapsed and there were numerous casualties. It was recorded that even as far away as Rome, buildings had been damaged.

The epicentre is believed to have been north of Udine to the east of the small towns of Tolmezzo, Venzone and Gemona.

The earthquake happened on 25 January early in the afternoon and its effects were immediately felt in Udine, where the castle and cathedral were both damaged.

In Austria the town of Villach was later hit by a landslide caused by the earthquake. Buildings in Carniola, part of present day Slovenia, and in Vicenza, Verona and Venice were also damaged.

It was recorded that the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was damaged by the earthquake and an ancient tower nearby developed a permanent tilt. Aftershocks were felt in different parts of Italy for several weeks.

Later in the same year, the Black Death, or bubonic plague, swept through Italy and was reported to have killed off large numbers of the populations of Florence, Venice, Pisa and Naples.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome was damaged by the earthquake
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome
was damaged by the earthquake
At the time the two disasters were believed to be connected and people interpreted them as Acts of God, sent to punish them for their sins and over indulgence.

Travel tip:

Udine, the main city in Friuli, is not far from Italy’s border with Slovenia but has some distinct Venetian influences. In the principal square, Piazza della Libertà, there are beautiful 15th century Venetian-style buildings, such as the candy striped town hall, Loggia del Lionello and the clock tower, Torre dell’Orologio, which resembles the one in Piazza San Marco in Venice. 

Travel tip:

Tolmezzo, to the north of Udine, is an historic town at the foot of a mountain. It had been a settlement even before it was taken over by the Romans but it did not become part of the Kingdom of Italy till 1866. There are interesting old streets to explore and the 18th century Duomo di San Martino contains 16th century art treasures. The town’s Museo delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari has a collection illustrating the life, traditions and early farming methods of the area.