Friuli Venezia Julia
Under the Italian constitution, this region has Udine as its provincial capital; its borders are with the Veneto Region , Austria and Jugoslavia and it counts many important urban centres which differ amongst one another for history and tradition, such as; Gorizia, Trieste and Pordenone.
The economy is predominantly agricultural in the valleys and hill-side areas, in the pre-alpine and semi-woodland, semi-pastoral regions in the mountainous area which – prior to industrial development – experienced high levels of worker migration due to the inability of local resources to provide for all its inhabitants.
In its modern-day agriculture, corn, which is the dominant cereal, is widely produced; and along with this are grape-growing and the production of forage. In the mountainous area, the cattle rearing, which is still practised using transhumance methods, produces high-yielding dairy cattle.
This is a region with a complex history determined by its geographical location, as well as by the impact of two world wars which disrupted the area in the first half of the twentieth century. It is a region in which various cultures converge: it is enough to consider the linguistic landscape of the region with its large number of dialects, each distinct from one another, including the “ladano” which survives with the most ancient characteristics, and “friulano” dialects, the latter, by now, elevated to the dignity of a language in its own right. Austrian, Slavic and German influences can be attested in the customs and habits of the population which maintain age-old traditions in all aspects of life, including, naturally, cuisine, which, although simple, is also somewhat varied. Triste is often thought of as the centre of Mittel-European culture and remains today something of a cradle for this; a culture which has always distinguished itself for a marked openness towards differing European cultures.
On the other hand, the region is also made up of three differing geographical areas; from the mountainous Carnie area, and the hillsides of the Friuli dotted with vines, to the dry Carso region, which, almost by way of nature’s whim, acts as a frame for the splendid gulf of Trieste.
Beyond its commercial food produce, the region also offers a wide variety in the manner of food preparation, as much in the everyday cuisine as in that reserved for special or family celebrations, owing to the arrival of such customs and habits from neighbouring Vienna, Budapest and Prague. With reference to desserts, a regular staple of Trieste, a city in which the tradition of the “sacher” cake and the “dobos” is alive and well in the pastry-shops and cafès and where the already relaxed tempo of the life of the Trieste people is regulated by pauses and the civilized exchange of ideas.
For a complete change of atmosphere, one need only travel but a few miles to be completely immersed in the daily life of the Carso area. This area is also typical for its ‘osmize’, country houses that were granted a concession by Maria Teresa of Austria which allowed, by simply displaying a leafy branch in the doorway, to sell food, and food only, produced in the countryside to passers-by.
Beyond the mouth of the Timavo river and the star-like town of Palmanova, Friuli presents yet another facet of its varied self: the Friuli of rolling hillsides and wonderful white wines, grappa and high-quality distilled spirits, the oasis of San Daniele and its famed cured hams, not to mention the little kingdom of Sauris, domain of a smoked ham which is considered to be without equal. It is a region also of fruits and vegetables, not forgetting the fame of the sausages and salamis and the cheeses which have the majestic touch of “frico”, a perfect example of the virtues of Friulian housekeeping, a recipe which uses only the leftovers of cheeses to transform them into a dish that is superb in its simplicity.
This is a region unlike any other in Italy, characterised not only by its geographical features but also by the historical events which have shaped so strongly the life of its inhabitants, and, perhaps, also, because no other region has seen such a convergence of so varied and so incisive influences.