At the point in which Italy, Austria and Slovenia meet, majestic mountain peaks lie in wait, proffering up innumerable paths that unwind for miles and miles and sometimes run through a forest of 23,000 hectares. From the heights of these peaks the topography swoops down into an extreme dip, that is into Val Resia, inhabited by an ancient Slavic community as well as by curious myths and luminous lakes.
An itinerary that begins in the Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia's northeast makes stops in the towns of Moggio Udinese, Malborghetto, Pontebba, and Tarvisio, and arrives in Carnia, brushing past the slopes of Jof di Montasio and the summits in Val Resia.
Moggio Udinese is a borgo located around an ancient Benedictine Abbey, whose 15th-Century cloister can be visited, along with the Abbey Church of San Gallo, consecrated in 1119.
In Pontebba – where the Italian-Austrian border stood before the First World War – is the Romanesque Abbey Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The Church is a receptacle for the splendid, 1500s Flügelalatar (altarpiece).
A visit to Malborghetto calls for a visit to the Palazzo Veneziano - also from the 1500s - and, subsequently, a trek up to Monte Santo di Lussari to see the Sanctuary dei Tre Popoli (or "of the three populations") and the infinite view from the top.
An authentic crossroads on the border of Austria and Slovenia, Tarvisio’s is an ancient soul that belies its modern appearance: it has thus adapted itself to today’s thirst for shopping and for tastings – of specialties born of a Friulian, Carinthian and Slovenian cultural fusion.
From here you can easily get to Lake Fusine and take on a few enchanting tours nearby, and to Val Saisera with its imposing mountains.
Cave del Predil also rises up in these borderlands; once miners’ country, today it is home to the Minerary Traditions Museum, also the beginning of a mineral trailway 1.24 miles long - to partly train and partly walk – that leads to a large cleft in which Lake Predil appears. The Lake seems to be both near and far at the same time, gleaming like a pearl within the mountains and welcoming those who would kayak or maybe even sail it.
For those that prefer to gear up for an active vacation in the fresh mountain air, Friuli Venezia Giulia is nothing if not a concentration of thrilling activities and experiences.
For instance, mountain bike your way through the pastures around Montasio: leave from Sella Nevea on a 6.2-mile route (both asphalted and off-road) that inclines at a maximum gradient of 18 percent. The highest point is at the fork in the road before the Di Brazzà mountain refuge, while facing it is the Canin Massif that forces mountain-bikers to take on more than a few hairpin turns on their way down.
Not only, but it is also possible to journey around the Alpine Huts of Forni di Sopra, passing along forested slopes, mule tracks and fields along the 13 miles of dirt paths in the Dolomites of Forni.
For canoe and rafting lovers, Valle dell'Isonzo is your paradise, thanks to its carbonate rocks and rains that have sculpted the highest concentration of wild chasms and crevasses, waterfalls, large diving holes filled with crystalline water, and natural, precipitous slides.
Forni di Sopra and Sella Nevea, on the other hand, host numerous rock-climbing environments, the highest wall (at 6,562 ft) of which is situated on Monte Campanile (in Val Montanaia).
And in the Adventure Park of Sella Nevea you can swing like Tarzan among ropes and hanging bridges – the Italians even have made this activity an action verb: Tarzaning!
Finally, Prato in Val Resia is ideal for strolling, trekking or hiking the evocative pathways within its Julian PreAlps Natural Park.
Options for excursions and simple strolls are endless here, particularly those running towards the Alpine Hut zone, where visitors can observe artisans working and acquire some of the delicious local butters and cheeses for their own. The Via delle Malghe, marked by brown signs, departs from Prato Carnico but can be accessed at different points so that trekkers can choose the portion they prefer to travel. Visitors that spend several days along the Via can stay overnight in the casere, the area's typical dwellings, rather suited as agritourisms.
The Regata Isontina, a traditional kayak, canoe and raft descent event along the Isonzo River, has been held every first Sunday in September since 1986.
Of Friuli-Venezia’s enogastronomic productions, Montasio reigns supreme: a cheese aged so as to lend it a full-bodied taste, it has been produced in Friuli – specifically in the pastures of Jof di Montasio – since 1200. Yet it is only from the 13th Century that more refined techniques on the part of the monks of the Abbey of Moggio Udinese led to the expansion of the cheese’s zone of production to the plains. A 1775-dated price list refers to Montasio as having been marketed with Prosciutto di San Daniele.