The Province of Gorizia is located in the southeast of Friuli Venezia Giulia, bordering with Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea. This small area embraces diverse environments and landscapes, as well as many historic and artistic remains bearing the influence of the Germanic, Slavic and Latin cultures.
The coastline is dominated by the wonderful Grado lagoon, an internationally-renowned touristic destination, with its golden beaches and charming canals that glide among the islands and islets.
This pristine environment is composed of two wildlife areas, making it an ideal habitat for a wide variety of bird species, namely the Valle Cavanata and Foce dell'Isonzo Nature Reserves where, in addition to the birds, Camargue horses live wild. The rich Isonzo Valley is renowned for its excellent wine production and offers a vast expanse of vineyards, picturesque small towns and spectacular views.
One of the most peculiar sceneries of both Province and Region is that of the Karst plateau, with calcareous rock and rocky tarrain covered with vibrant and colorful Mediterranean vegetation. The Karst is an area of remarkable naturalistic value. Not only, but it was also the theatre for ferocious battles during the First World War, leaving indelible traces including trenches, communication tunnels and fortified areas.
Another peculiar landscape is the Collio, land of outstanding Friuli wines: it is a series of hills covered by vines, dotted with small villages like Oslavia, Dolegna del Collio and Cormons.
The area's characteristics are evidence of an uneasy past and the coexistence of different cultures. It is truly unique, bringing together innumerable elements into one beautiful mosaic.
Gorizia is the first stop on a route to discover the area. It is a “border town” and meeting point for different ethnic groups, preserving in its elegant architecture traces of the Habsburg history and their long dominion.
This town's rich and diversified artistic heritage can be seen in Medieval Castle with its charming small village, the Cathedral and the Provincial Museums - which enhance many aspects of the local culture. There is also a First World War Museum. The modern Piazza Europa - an urban space in common between Gorizia and Nova Gorica - has a symbolic value, representing the coexistence of two cities and the overcoming of conflicts.
Grado is the ideal destination for beach holidays. It is known as the “golden island” for its clean water and the beauty of its lagoon. It has a unique landscape, dotted by the typical fishermen’s barns, mostly in disuse nowadays. The old city center of Grado is truly fascinating, with large and small squares in Venetian style. It has wonderful early Christian churches, full of decorations.
Monfalcone is renowned for its shipyards and trading port. Moreover, it has many surprises for tourists: the fortress, located on the hillside of the city and the Gulf of Panzano where the pretty Bagni di Panzano and Marina Julia face the sea.
Gradisca d’Isonzo is also well worth a visit. It is an ancient fortified city with strong Venetian and Austrian influences. Some of the ancient walls are preserved along with valuable religious buildings and elegant Baroque palaces.
From the Karst one may follow archaeological routes leading to prehistoric ruins such as the castellieri - ancient urban centers located on the hillsides enclosed by walls that nowadays are practically destroyed - visible from different areas like Ronchi dei Legionari, Monfalcone and the lake of Doberdò.
In the Karst area there are plenty of traces of the First World War: trenches in Monte San Michele and war memorials like Redipuglia, where one hundred thousand of the fallen are buried.
In the heart of Collio, Cormons is well worth a visit. It is an ancient Habsburg town with a beautiful 18th century cathedral and other interesting monuments.
The Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Barbana is also an important religious destination, located on a wonderful small island in the Grado lagoon.
The variety of sceneries in Gorizia Province creates countless pleasant opportunities and spaces in which to do everything from hiking and cycling to riding - in the Isonzo Valley, the hills of the Collio, and past vineyards and small villages.
Grado and its coast are ideal relaxation and leisure spots: go sailing and practisce other aquatic sports, or play some golf or tennis. Whether you're a beach goer or more of a fan of the spa, seawater and sand baths await you (try the treatments at Terme Marine of Grado).
The nature reserves of the lagoon area are a haven for birdwatchers, while the caves and depressions of the Karst of Gorizia offer exciting speleology itineraries. Gourmands can follow the Strada del Vino e Ciliegie, the wine and cherries route in the area of Collio, with stopovers at farms, orchards, vineyards and wineries for tasting and drinking the fruits of the land.
The Province also boasts many a traditional event: one of the most spectacular celebrations is the Perdon di Barbana ceremony, a fascinating parade of boats from Grado to the Sanctuary of St. Mary on Barbana Island (held early summer).
The sèime - of Celtic origins - are Epiphany bonfires made almost everywhere in the Isonzo area. The building of the bonfires is said to lead to good things for the new year. Then, look for the International Folklore Concert and Parade in Gorizia (in August), the Espomego Commodity Dxhibition in Gorizia (April-May) and Grado's canoe race (in April).
Finally, you can lick your chops at one of the many sagre or food fairs, for instance the Grape Festival in Cormons (in September) and the Regional Sparkling Wines Exhibition and Contest in Gradisca d'Isonzo.
Traditional dishes of the Province of Gorizia are based on seafood and Mittel European traditions. A typical Grado dish is the exquisite boreto alla graisana, a fish broth. Further inland, flavors are stronger, thanks to Slav and Austrian influences.
Traditional dishes include gnocchi bread dumplings with speck ham, liver or semolina dumplings with broth, kaiserfleish (smoked pork loin with sauerkraut), goulash, game, potatoes “in tecia” (sauté with onions) and brovada - prepared with thin sliced turnips, marinated and then cooked.
Typical to Gradisca is the Jota, a soup made with beans, potatoes, pork rinds, smoked pork ribs and sauerkraut.
Saving room for dessert? Try the gubana goriziana, putizza, pinza (traditional flatbread) and palatschinken (apricot jam and chocolate omelettes).
Finally, among the D.O.C. wines produced in the Collio and Isonzo area are Cabernet, Merlot, Refosco (full-bodied) and the excellent Pinot white.