Andreis is a village situated in the lower part of the Dolomiti Friulane Regional Park, in the Pre-Alps of Friuli. Even though the village is interesting in its own right, its immediate vicinities also offer some other impressive sights.
To begin with, Andreis – a quite tightly-knit cluster of old houses – offers some fascinating examples of vernacular architecture: most houses are old, and were built at different times; some even date back to the 17th century. The main material is stone, but they are also clad in wood, and display an original – very unusual, but harmonious – system of external balconies that served, in each building, as a link between the different levels (a variation on the prototype of the typical vernacular house of the Pre-Alps of Friuli).
The village looks pretty and orderly, as most of the houses were restored thanks to the park and regional funding, within the “Albergo Diffuso” framework.
In the Ethnographic Museum of Rural Art and Culture, situated near the main square, one can admire various objects and tools; in particular, notice the reconstruction of a typical Andreis house, the blacksmith's forge, the bone tobacco-boxes and combs, the beautiful Easter rattles (“cràceles” in the language of Friuli), the working of “scarpetes” (a local type of shoes) and many other things – but check the opening times, as they are seasonal and quite restricted.
A typical trattoria on the main square, next to the church, can complement your visit, allowing you to acquaint yourself with the local cuisine – or just a tasting of cheeses and hams, all accompanied by the hearty wines of Friuli.
After exploring the village, just at a stone’s throw from its centre, here are a few suggestions for you to spend an enjoyable day around Andreis.
Interesting Walks and Excursions in the Andreis Area
Firstly, a path will take you in about 20 minutes’ from the centre of Andreis to the Chiesa di San Daniele (St. Daniel’s Church), from which a view opens up on the village on one side, and on an interesting and unusual scenario on the other: from here, in fact, you can catch a remarkable sight of the so-called Periadriatic Fault – which is an important tectonic fault (fold-fault) crossing the whole region of Friuli, from East to West. The fault's slip plane caused an over-thrust of Main Dolomite, and thus exposed rocks belonging to different periods and levels; the subsequent friction has generated an intense fracturing that looks like a loose mass of detritus in which you will notice smooth, reflecting surfaces.
Even if you were to choose to ignore the complex geological history behind it altogether, this view of tormented rocks is sublime (in the original sense of the word – “awe-inspiring”) and captivating in its own right, and will not fail to impress, giving you an insight into the dramatic and highly complex geological history behind these mountains. In fact, the fault can be seen from quite a long distance, and it is impossible to miss it, as it seems like a bare rocky formation overlooking the meadows of the village, situated just below the steep woods of Monte Raut (2,025 m) – but the walk to San Daniele Church will bring you that much closer, allowing the best view on it.
On the way back, you may want to stop and greet the residents of the Rescue Centre, an oasis where birds of prey that are found wounded – and thus either unable to fly or to fend for themselves – are kept in a protected environment and, however sad their story may be, here they come at least to lead a peaceful life, as well as serving an educational purpose. In the village there is also a pleasant Park Visitor Centre.
Barcis and the Forra del Cellina
Just a few minutes’ drive away from Andreis, the resort of Barcis is a location where you may want to come and spend some quiet time, to unwind along the tranquil shores of its 3-kilometre long lake.
Nearby is also another geological attraction: the Forra del Cellina (Cellina river gorge). This is an astounding work of art of nature and man together: if the river had to force its way down to the plain by eroding the massive banks of rocks which blocked its course, much later man followed in its steps. It was only at the beginning of the 1900s, in fact, that a road was created – with painstaking effort – inside the gorge; as a result, this went to break the isolation in which these communities had lived for centuries. Historically, there was no direct route along the river: it was considered too dangerous, and any connection with the plains of Friuli had to involve crossing mountain passes – which meant, one way or another, quite a long journey, often impossible to afford in the winter months because of high snow.
The area has now become a Nature Reserve (which is part of the Dolomiti Friulane Regional Park), and the long dismissed feat of engineering that is the old road has been turned into a trail that can only be accessed on foot or by bicycle during the summer months. Should you wish to visit, you will have to come equipped with a helmet, or rent one for a modest fee at the entrance of the old road, either at the extremity of Barcis lake, or by the other entrance at Molassa – a few kilometers downstream.
The main rocks of the reserve being carbonates, this accounts for the many typical karstic formations that show the work of water erosion. In any event, to walk along the massive rock boulders that rise vertically on both sides of the river is the most astonishing experience you can have in this area, and one that will give you once again an interesting insight on the complex geology that went to form these mountains.