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Area:
  • 56,81 sq. km
Altitude:
  • 113 m a.s.l.
Population:
  • 94,759
Town Hall:
  • Via Lionello, 1
  • 33100 - Udine (UD)
Neighbourhoods:
  • Baldasseria Bassa, Beivars, Cormor Alto, Cormor Basso, Cussignacco, Godia, Laipacco, Rizzi, San Gottardo
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Udine does not open itself to the visitors’ eyes immediately; it rather leaves them the pleasure of discovering its bashful or maybe jealous face, hidden inside palaces and churches, in picturesque views that have retained their charm untouched, behind streets and squares where strolling at ease is still possible, in a human dimension that makes you feel at home. Once visitors accept that Udine is a quiet and neat provincial town, then they will find such pleasant surprises it would have been difficult to imagine. From Piazza Libertà (former Contarena and Piazza del vino, then Vittorio Emanuele II) that many have defined ‘the most Venetian in Italy’, apart from St Mark’s square in Venice, of course, a harmonious ensemble of Renaissance buildings and monuments, the visitors’ itinerary sets off to discover the artistic places of the city. The Square is the heart of Udine: at the foot of Castle Hill, closed on one side by the Loggia di S. Giovanni, the Loggia del Lionello and by modest houses, and resulting from century-old changes operated in an originally small space, it stands out for the pleasant and unusual town planning solutions it puts forward. The outstanding monument in the square is the Loggia di S. Giovanni, for whose building in 1533, on a model by Bernardino da Morcote, many town planning and practical difficulties had to be overcome, since it had to end on the hillside and it should have adjoined the already existing clock tower. Bernardino managed to devise a successful work abreast with the time but nonetheless an integral part of the existing context: a Loggia by Brunelleschi’s clarity, marked by the wide monumental arch giving access to the church of S. Giovanni. The loggia incorporates the Clock Tower, built in ‘Roman’ forms (but inspired to the clock Tower in St Mark’s square) by Giovanni da Udine in 1527, with two moors striking the hours on the bell. Originally made of wood (actually, in ancient documents they are called ‘gigantes lignei’- wooden giants), the moors were replaced by copper ones in 1852. On the ramparts are other monuments, among which the Renaissance fountain, stern and dignified in its beauty, created by Master Cipriano in 1542 but designed by Giovanni Carrara from Bergamo; the column of St Mark, erected in 1539; the column of Justice, erected in 1614, with statue by Girolamo Paleario; the two statues of Hercules and Cacus that people in Udine familiarly call Florean and Venturin, attributed to sculptor Angelo de Putti from Padua. They are 17th-century and their history is quite peculiar: they were originally made to embellish the courtyard at Palazzo Torriani once rising where present-day Piazza XX Settembre is, but since in 1716 the Council of Ten had accused Count Lucio Antonio della Torre of wickedness, banned him from the State of Veneto and decreed Palazzo Torriani to be demolished, the statues however were saved and moved to Piazza Contarena. After the fall of the Serenissima in 1797, Lucio Sigismondo della Torre won the action he had brought against the municipality of Udine, the statues were returned to his property and he donated them to the city on condition that the whole episode was recorded in an inscription which is now still visible (dated 1798) on the pedestals. On the ramparts there is also the Monument to Peace: erected in 1819 by architect Valentino Presani and intended for being placed in Campoformido to celebrate the Treaty, it was instead donated to the city of Udine by Emperor Francis I. The base showing bas-reliefs of cuirasses, arms and shields, is the work of Michele Zuliani, while the coldly Neoclassical statue symbolizing peace was made by the Piemonte artist Giovanni Battista Comolli. On the opposite side of the square is the Loggia Comunale, called ‘del Lionello’ as it was erected in 1448 on a design by Nicolò Lionello at the behest of the Republic of Venice aiming at asserting its power over Udine. The building is in the tradition of Venetian palaces with loggia: supported by columns on the ground floor, it shows a luminist inversion of full and empty spaces, even more marked by Pietro Bagatellas idea in the 17th century to open the loggia completely, whereas Lionello had only designed a small opening on the ground floor. The façade is decorated with alternated rows of white and pink stone, with the presence of multiple lancet windows on the first floor which contribute to the building refined and sober elegance. The Loggia is one with the palace housing the town hall offices, majestic work by architect Raimondo D’Aronco from Gemona built between 1909 and 1930 ca. to replace the previous 16th-century building that was popularly thought to have been built by Jacopo Sansovino. This sumptuous palace by the ingenious solutions is the living tribute to DAroncos artistic creed, as he was one of the leading exponents of Liberty style. The seventeen allegorical statues outside the palace, all more than two and a half metres tall, are by Aurelio Mistruzzi; inside, Valerio Franco is the artist of bas-reliefs and Alberto Calligaris made the imposing wrought iron railings. The massive arch towered by the Venetian Lion leading from Piazza Libertà to the Castle was designed in 1556 by Andrea Palladio in honour of lieutenant Domenico Bollani. By walking through the lovely Loggia del Lippomano (1487), consisting in four long covered stretches connected by short flights of stairs, with a continuous row of trefoil arches, the church of S. Maria is reached, the oldest in town built between the 12th and 13th centuries, except for the façade rebuilt after the 1511 earthquake. The nave and two aisles inside, divided by wide full arches, boast a remarkable cycle of Romanesque frescoes (probably 13th century) in the right absidiole, showing the Deposition in the conch and figures of Apostles and sacred scenes in the hemicycle and wall. The church stands between the beautiful 16th-century bell tower with an angel-shaped weather vane and the Casa della Confraternita, a medieval building restored in 1930. Further behind, dominating the whole, is the imposing Renaissance Castle, built in its present structure after 1511 on the ruins of the previous building destroyed by the earthquake. The prestigious seat of the Aquileia Patriarchs in the Middle Ages and the residence of the Venetian governors after 1420, the building of the Castle began in 1517 on a design by architect Giovanni Fontana and was continued in 1547 by Giovanni da Udine, who gave it a definitely 16thcentury outlook and added the grand staircase. The Castle has, however, an imposing structure, underlined by the series of large and small windows and balconies and embellished in the central body with three arches with columns and pilasters closely reminiscent, though in their Lombard version, of Roman triumphal arches. Inside is the spectacular Parliament Hall where wall frescoes celebrate Venices grandeur and virtues (The Battle of Malgariti, Curtius throwing himself in the chasm, Death of Cato Uticensis, Siege of Aquileia by Maximinus the Thracian, allegorical scenes) executed in the second half of the 16th century by Pomponio Amalteo and Giovanni Battista Grassi; the ceiling panels carry allegorical paintings. In the 1800s, under Austria, the Castle was used in turns as barracks, prison, law courts, town hall, and it was in its dungeons that Silvio Pellico and other Italian patriots were prisoners. From its height, the Castle has witnessed, and Udines citizens too, the great events of history, as the entrance of the ‘Savoia’ Light Horse squads on 3 November 1918 or the arrival of the allied troops on 1 May 1945 and today it houses the Towns Museums. Strolling along the oldest districts in town, prestigious buildings may be seen: in Mercatovecchio, one of the most characteristic streets in town, the severe palace of Monte di Pietà (-pawnbrokers- mid-17th cent.) has the chapel of S. Maria with Giulio Quaglios frescoes on the background of decorative stucco work (1694) and a lovely marble altar attributed to Giovanni Comin with marble statues by Enrico Merengo. The ancient buildings fronting onto nearby Piazza di Mercatonuovo (dating to the 15th century) are often very refined with their softly decorated single- or triple-lancet windows or ornamental frescoes. On the square raised area stand an 1487 column with Our Lady statue and the 16th-century fountain by Giovanni da Udine. On one side the square is closed by the church of S. Giacomo with its 16th-century façade, and the 18th-century Cappella delle Anime (All Souls Chapel). The oratory of Purità, beside the Duomo, is worth a visit, to see the place where both Giambattista Tiepolo and his son Domenico left their works in 1759, the former with the vault fresco (Assumption) and altarpiece (Virgin), the latter with eight monochrome scenes on the walls portraying episodes from the Old Testament and the Gospels. Close-by, the church of S. Francesco, today a venue for temporary exhibitions, is one of the oldest in Udine, with early 14th-century frescoes in the apses; the church of Carmine, in Borgo Aquileia, with a wide late 1600s fresco on the ceiling; the church of S. Chiara, in Borgo Gemona, exquisitely elegant with its marble altars and Giulio Quaglio’s frescoes, made in 1699 inside a stucco decoration framework; the basilica of S. Maria delle Grazie , a renown sanctuary preserving a much worshipped image of Virgin with Child, a 14th-century painting on wood in an imitation of the Byzantine style brought to Udine by Lieutenant Giovanni Emo in 1479. This church contains may other works of art, among which the 1522 painting on wood by Luca Monverde on the high altar, four paintings by Domenico Tintoretto, two by Giuseppe Diziani and several ex-voto and jewels, including the so-called Devil’s Mask, a precious 15th-century armour on which a curious popular story is told. The basilica opens onto Giardin Grande, the wide green below the Castle already mentioned in the 14th century when it belonged to the Patriarchs, where Boccaccio set one of his tales, defining it a ‘garden full of green grass and flowers and leafy trees’. Among palaces, which are generally measured 17th- and 18th-century buildings, at least a few must be mentioned, in particular: Palladio’s Palazzo Antonini (1556), strong and gentle at the same time, now housing the Bank of Italy; Palazzo Antonini – Belgrado, the seat of the Provincial Board, with a large hall frescoed by Giulio Quaglio (1698), Palazzo Strassoldo, at Via Vittorio Veneto, frescoed by Giulio Quaglio (1692) as the Palazzo della Porta (now the Archiepiscopal Palace, 1692), Palazzo di Maniago at Via Poscolle (1695) and Palazzo Braida at Via Aquileia (1696); Palazzo di Brazzà, which belonged to the family of famous explorer Pietro Savorgnan di Brazzà who discovered Congo, with frescoes by Andrea Urbani; Palazzo Caiselli, at Piazza S. Cristoforo, with frescoes by Marino Urbani and Giambattista Canal, and finally Palazzo Valvason Morpurgo at via Savorgnana, with a spectacular cycle of frescoes by Giambattista Canal (1805).

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