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Cycling tourism

Giro d'Italia

Stage 19 | Marano Lagunare - Santuario di Castelmonte

Duration
1 day
Difficulty
Hard
Best Period

May, June, July

The sea kisses the land, and the marsh is formed. The past meets the present and wonder is born. Here is a cycling route that is not only a travel opportunity, but also a bit of a love story. Get ready to pedal and be enchanted

 

Nature in a nutshell

Would you ever guess that reed beds are becoming increasingly rare and precious? That’s right, and one of the largest can be found here, in the Foci dello Stella Nature Reserve, a protected area of around 1,377 hectares between the mainland and the Adriatic Sea. A place made even more special by a variety of rare bird species, including the red heron, the royal swan and the marsh harrier. Heading north, the route enters the Bassa Friulana, an alluvial plain characterised by a vast water network, to which rivers such as the Tagliamento, Livenza and Isonzo contribute. Finally, the Julian Pre-Alps Regional Nature Park, with Mount Canin, the 2,587 metres peak on the border between the province of Udine and Slovenia: in the background there’re green valleys, etched by waterfalls and turbulent watercourses.

 

On the saddle through Friuli Venezia Giulia

From the Adriatic coast you ride northbound, around the city of Udine and down along the river Torre to the Julian Pre-Alps. Along this route, partly inspired by stage nineteen of the Giro d’Italia 2022, you enjoy everything: the sea and the mountains, nature and history, sporting feats and spirituality. This proves that cycling is not only a mean of transport, but also an amplifier of experiences and memories to take home. Ready to set off?

In the sanctuary for birdwatching

giro d italia 19 marano lagunare

In the sanctuary for birdwatching

Should I stay or should I go? It’s quite an obvious question, considering that the itinerary starts from a beguiling and suspended in time place like Marano Lagunare. Military garrison when it was under the Venetian Republic, fishing village in the nineteenth century, tourist jewel today. This, in short, is the history of this delightful little town between Lignano Sabbiadoro and the Grado lagoon, whose architecture is reminiscent of the Serenissima. The historic centre is a tangle of colourful little houses, alleyways, small squares and buildings displaying bas-reliefs, stone faces, coats of arms. But in the nearby there’s another wonder to be discovered: the Foci dello Stella Nature Reserve, which can only be reached by boat. And it is worth it, because it is a birdwatcher’s paradise: among the dense reed thicket you can spot the red heron, the marsh harrier and various passerines. On top of that, at the mouth of the river there is a village of casoni, the reed and wooden buildings used by fishermen. All of them are oriented westward to find shelter from the bora and tramontana winds.

In the sanctuary of history

giro d italia 19 ponte del diavolo

Back on the saddle, you immediately turn your back to the sea. The route heads north and runs across the low Friulian plain on flat, uncomplicated roads. You pass through Mortegnano, with its record-breaking bell tower (113 metres high, the highest in Italy), then Fagagna, where a visit to the Museo Cjase Cocel is highly recommended: it showcases the past life of farmers from the end of the Nineteenth Century till the Mid-Twentieth Century. Once in Tarcento, the route we suggest heads southwards, rolls above the Torre River and then veers towards Cividale del Friuli. This a must-see city, where everything is steeped in history. Founded by Julius Caesar under the name Forum Iulii in 568 A.D., it became the first Lombard Duchy in Italy, as an extraordinary, perfectly preserved architecture testifies. This is the Lombard Temple, included in the Unesco site The Lombards in Italy. Places of power (568-774 AD). Before leaving, there is yet another symbolic place worth admiring: the Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge), built in stone in 1442, with its two gigantic arches spanning the Natisone River.

In the sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary

giro d italia 19 castelmonte

In the final part of the route a long climb leads from Cividale del Friuli up to the Sanctuary of Castelmonte, Prepotto. Are you ready to ride a rather testing 9 kilometres with gradients that reach 15 per cent at points? You will be rewarded by arriving at one of the oldest Marian sanctuaries in northern Italy. Originally there was a Roman outpost here. Everything that followed is surrounded by legends. The most widely accepted hypothesis is that it was founded by some Christian Roman soldiers from the garrison of Cividale or by peasants who had taken refuge atop the mountain to escape the barbarians from the east. The point is that the sanctuary is a must-see. The Madonna and Child, a 15th century painted limestone sculpture that weighs over four quintals, is a piece of art that you won’t forget.

By the RCS Sport editorial staff

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