Pordenone and its Province: a Land of Fine Wines, Green Rivers and Blue Mountains.

Pordenone is the main town of the province bearing the same name (since 1968), in northeast Italy. Pordenone is one of the four main cities within the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, the other three being Udine, Gorizia and Trieste. The name comes from Latin Portus Naonis, meaning port on the Noncello (Latin Naon) River.

The territory of Pordenone is located in the lowlands of the Po-Venetian Valley, south of the Carnian Alps and near the Alpine foothills of Friuli. The lowlands of Pordenone are characterized by an abundance of water and the phenomenon of resurgence (risorgive). Covering quite a variety of landscapes from mountain to coast, the province does contain some prime sites of natural interest, and other sights such as art towns and places renowned for their local products; some of such sites are listed below.

Places of Natural Beauty and Cultural Interest Within the Province of Pordenone

The Pradis Ravine: an Inexplicable Beauty that Deserves a Visit

Water is the true star of this place: the Pradis Ravine, with its strength, offers breathtaking scenery. Flowing through the Karst landscape, it has carved underground caverns, gorges and amazing canyons. The enchanting emerald green colour of the Cosa stream has given shape to these inlets, where the remains of prehistoric animals and men have been found. By descending the 207 steps to reach the bottom of the Pradis ravine and upon crossing a small bridge, you will reach a wooden crucifix, which is the work of Maestro Gatto di Travesio. The powerful waters transform into a waterfall, and the reflections of light that penetrate into the canyon fill the place with an inexplicable air of beauty that make it well worth a visit.

Erto and Casso: the Westernmost Village in Friuli

Vajont is the name of a small river that flows through the valley where the municipality of Erto and Casso lies. The dam is sadly notorious for the landslide from Monte Toc, which caused the overtopping of the reservoir, thus creating the immense wave that brought massive flood and destruction and a death toll of around 2,000 on the night of October, 9th, 1963. The infinite silence of the valley keeps watch over the agonising cries of those who lost their lives in the disaster; a reconstruction of the event can be found in the exhibition on the tragedy just a few steps away from the dam. The houses in Erto are protected by the Superintendent of the Arts because of their being highly typical, alongside with those found in Casso, which spectacularly reach towards the sky. On Good Friday, a famous sacred representation of the Via Crucis is also held here. 

Cordovado, Part of the “Italian Most Beautiful Villages” Network

This small town’s harmonious architecture shows the mark of an ancient history. Beyond the tower time seems to have stopped in the Middle Ages, with the age-old cobbled streets and the stone buildings, carriers of ancient memories. Cordovado’s 13th century history is brought back to life each year when it is commemorated in period costumes. Outside the centre, elegant old houses and the still intact parish church surround the town as if in an affectionate embrace. Cordovado is part of the “Italian Most Beautiful Villages” network since 2004.

Frisanco and Poffabro: a Magical Heritage

Prafabrum’ means the blacksmith’s lawn. This small hamlet has the shape of a quaint little nativity scene: at Christmas time the homes, streets and windowsills are filled with scores of nativity scenes skilfully crafted by the residents. This characteristic – along with the simplicity of the houses in bare stone and wood – make this hamlet one of the most beautiful in Italy (also part of the “Italian Most Beautiful Villages” network). Poffabro is made even more atmospheric by the stupendous mountains and the uncontaminated nature that surround it. In Frisanco, of particular interest is the museum that hosts an exhibition of miniature buildings, sampled on those that can be seen in the valley. Frisanco and Poffabro display a magical heritage that must indeed be preserved.

Barcis: a Suggestive Setting for Culture and Folk Events

“This beautiful lake with its light blue colour, with its crown of mountains all around it, cannot but make everyone feel like this is their own place – therefore universal; and universal is poetry; universal is this beauty that makes a person who has never been here before say: ‘what a beautiful place’”. This is how literary and art critic Vittorio Sgarbi sang his praise to Barcis, where the national poetry competition ‘Malattia della Vallata’ (the ‘malady of the valley’) is held each year in July. On a different note, the former Malnisio hydroelectric plant was built near here in 1905 and was in operation until 1988; thanks to this plant, Venice had its first public electric lighting. Since 2006, the Malnisio plant has been home to the Plant and Scientific Imagery Museum – an interactive and multimedia science museum.

Piancavallo: Village of Igloos and Sportsmans Paradise

From igloos to skiing and trekking; from snowboard to mountain biking: Piancavallo offers plenty of opportunities for all these activities – and more. Wrapped in its white velvety mantle in winter and in greenery during the summer, Piancavallo is the tourist destination par excellence in the province of Pordenone. A paradise for skiers, it has many slopes with perfect snow where you can enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snowboarding; its slopes have also played host to World Cup competitions. The igloo village on the summit of Monte Tremol is remarkable, while in summer thousands of pathways lend themselves to hiking and mountain-biking, and to the discovery of Alpine refuges and dairy houses (‘malghe’), where cheese is still being traditionally produced to this day.

Polcenigo: a Little Piece of Heaven for Nature Lovers

You will find here a synergy of urban and natural elements with the capacity to fascinate by their simplicity; the true queen of this amazing territory, however, is Nature. Lying gently around the Gorgazzo stream and the Livenza springs, the locality of Polcenigo, once known as ‘pulcher vicus’, excites and amazes for its slow-flowing waters and its play of colours, changing with the seasons. The Karst spring known as el buso (‘the hole’) is a favourite spot for divers and speleologists. For over three hundred years now, on the first Sunday in September, the ‘Sagra del Sest’ has been held here: this is a Basket Festival dedicated to wickerwork, cane and raffia artisan products (in spring 2014, Polcenigo also hosted its first ever Land Art exhibition).

Maniago: the Town of Cutlery Factories

The origins of blacksmithing in Maniago date back to 1453. This important tradition continues to our day, and in 1988 the Museum of Blacksmiths Art and Cutlery Works was opened to the public: gleaming in the sunlight, here are the sharp blades forged by the skilful hands of the blacksmiths who made weaponry for the troops of the Serenissima (as the Republic of Venice was once known) in the Middle Ages. Now modern technology has replaced fire and bellows, but Maniago remains the undisputed manufacturing capital of knives and accessories for the kitchen: even Braveheart’s sabres came from these workshops! The rampant lion of Saint Mark – painted by Amalteo on the Palazzo d’Attimis – dominates the central square, where is also the Cathedral (1488), dedicated to San Mauro.

Valvasone: an Old Town Surrounded by a Typical ‘roggia’

The town of Valvasone is a jewel of urban living and architecture: an old village surrounded by a typical irrigation ditch (‘roggia’), also part of “the most beautiful villages in Italy” network. Some of Valvasone's more important symbols are the Duomo and the castle. The old manor, where Napoleon was once a guest, still ‘guards’ over the houses and lanes that have maintained intact all their splendour. Of great value is the 16th century monumental pipe organ, which is found in the Cathedral, and that was greatly appreciated also by Bach. In mid-September the Medieval atmosphere comes back to life during an historic re-enactment in costume.

Spilimbergo, an Atmospheric Walled Medieval Town

A walled town of Medieval origin where three circles of walls can be seen to this day Spilimbergo expresses its own grandeur in the many buildings of fine architecture that can still be found in the town centre, such as the castle and the Cathedral, which lie inside the first perimeter of walls. It is also the capital of mosaic art: Spilimbergo, in fact – thanks to the activities of a school that, in its kind, is unique in the world is known as the “town of mosaics”. In July the town also hosts the ‘Folkfest’ – one of the largest folk Festivals in southern Europe. In mid-August time comes to a standstill for the 15th century re-enactment of the Macia – an ancient measurement unit.

Casarsa della Delizia: the Town of Wine

This is the native land to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s mother and adopted town to him – the unforgotten artist and poet to whom the community opened its arms in the 1940s and 1950s, before Pasolini moved to Rome. His home and the annexed academy in Casarsa are open to visitors. The pages and verses of the poet still echo in the air, along with his descriptions of some of the most fascinating and evocative places in town, such as Versutta. Casarsa, included among other towns of wine (read below), is headquarters to one of the most prestigious wine growers’ social Co-ops of the area, established at the time of the ‘masari’ (land keepers), when wine was considered equivalent to money. All this passion for wine is expressed in the Wine Festival, held here in late April, which has been taking place for more than a decade now (for more on this, read below).

San Vito al Tagliamento and its ‘Salon’

The main square of San Vito, Piazza del Popolo – set between the Raimonda and Scaramuccia towers, and adorned with the frescoes painted on the elegant buildings that overlook it – is like a ‘salon’ to this town, and the beating heart of a community which is still enclosed by the old moat. Each year – in the first week of June – Piazza del Popolo is also being transformed into a huge flower garden. The history of the local farmers’ culture, which is typical of the entire province, is brought to life in a museum located inside the elegant Palazzo Altan. The ancient loggia has been home to a wonderful small proscenium-style theatre (‘Teatro all’Italiana’) since the 18th century. The town is near the Tagliamento, which is the most important river in Friuli: 170 km long, it has a basin of 3,000 square km. Thanks to the uniqueness of its ecosystems as a whole, the Tagliamento is also known as the ‘king of Alpine rivers’.

Sesto al Reghena, Home to a Historic Benedictine Abbey

Cradle of temporal power over all of western Friuli thanks to the presence of the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Maria in Sylvis, the municipality of Sesto al Reghena has maintained its old charm and mystery intact throughout the centuries. The abundantly flowing crystalline waters were also a source of great inspiration to the poet and writer Ippolito Nievo, who dedicated some verses to the fountain in Venchiaredo (the town is located on the historic trail dedicated to this 19th century local poet and writer who had risen to national renown). In Stalis, instead, the old mill’s waterwheel is still activated by the waters of the Lemene river.

Sacile, Garden of the Serenissima

The elegant Venetian architectures of this town are being reflected in the clear and transparent waters of the Livenza river: its bridges and enchanting lanes give Sacile a special charm that justify the definition of “Garden of the Serenissima”, as the town is also called. But perhaps Sacile is best known as every August it hosts the centuries’ old “Sagra degli Osei” – the ‘Bird Fair’: one of the oldest village fairs in Italy. The “Sagra degli Osei” is a birdsong contest and fair that takes place every year on the first Sunday after the National holiday of ‘Ferragosto’ (August 15th); the first edition of the Sagra’ dates back to 1273 – it counts therefore among the most ancient known town festivals in Italy. The national Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) is still being ‘crowned’ during the event, and a prize is awarded to the best bird-call imitator.

Pordenone and its Province: for the Love of Wine

Wine (…) is a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grape were growing; how the sun was shining that summer or if it rained… what the weather was like. I think about all those people who tended and picked the grapes (…). I love how wine continues to evolve, how every time I open a bottle it’s going to taste different than if I had opened it on another day. Because a bottle of wine is actually alive”. 

A Land and its Genesis

Millions of years ago the high plains of Friuli – looking over to the line of the mountains, and in the shelter of the Alpine foothills – were shaped by the floods of the Meduna, Cellina, Livenza and Tagliamento, and the landscape was characterized by these rivers. Huge amounts of chalk and Dolomite material were torn off the mountains by the violence of water and swept down into the rivers; then, they followed on along the riverbeds. Therefore, the whole plain is made of alluvial soil, which is of a coarser texture on the northern, upper section of the plains, and getting finer and finer as the rivers flow along their courses: a rugged, unwelcoming terrain – unfit for cultivation, one would think. Nevertheless, this is a lucky land, as the very same high mountains that surround it shelter the area from the cold northerly winds, while the lower ones act as a barrier to the damp air currents coming from the south and the sea – thus bringing rain. And then there is the sea itself: the beneficial influence of the Adriatic mitigates the temperatures, reducing the extremes and concurring to the creation of a particular climate. One last element must be added to definitely accomplish the magic of this land: rocks. The rivers’ waters sink into the ground, leaving stones on the surface: white, smooth pebbles – at times wonderfully round – are the characteristic of this soil, and become the mark of its excellence. They contribute to heighten the temperature range between night and day, thus facilitating the tilling of these lands – and it is here that grapevine grows at its best, giving aroma-rich grapes and elegant, fragrant wines.

The Enological Tradition

Local viticulture boasts a rich, complex and ancient history; its origins date back to at least the early Roman settlements. These lands have never been ungenerous with wine, even if they have experienced different, alternate historical and human events. As a matter of fact, grape growing in this area went through 2000 years of history unchanged; it was not until the beginning of the last century that it underwent a big change. The reasons for that are to be ascribed to a complex number of causes and situations, and not just a general renewing impulse. From the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, different grapevine diseases – to which war conflicts are to be added – caused destruction to such an extent that the whole grape growing process had to be reviewed. Irrigation works carried out over large areas represented a factor of expansion and development, as more and more land could be ‘conquered’ for cultivating grapes. Other factors were the installation of new, more rational machines; the adoption of state-of-the-art growing techniques; the selection of the most suitable grape varieties to be grown in the area and, finally, the vision of a lot of producers – counting mainly on quality, and thus enhancing their products while contributing to the diffusion of their knowledge.     

Some Figures

The ‘Friuli Vineyard’ – that is, the land planted with vines in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region – covers a total surface area in the excess of 20,000 ha, with an overall production of 1,3 million hectoliters. With the D.O.C. quality marks of Friuli Grave and Lison-Pramaggiore (covering the province of Venice, straddling into the south-eastern side of the Pordenone province); with the I.G.T. (Typical Geographical Indication) marks befalling the province (the regional “Venezia Giuliamark, the interregional “Le Venezie” mark, and the “Alto Livenza” Pordenone mark); and, finally, with the newly obtained Prosecco interregional D.O.C. quality mark, about 715,000 hectolitres of wine are bring produced in the Pordenone province (that is, in the area between the Tagliamento and Livenza rivers) yearly. Of this production, 65% is bottled, and to be tasted all over the world. The picture of Friuli vineyards that emerges shows that only about 10% of the area (750 ha) is in the hills, while 90% is in the plains. White wines prevail, with 64% of the total production, and Pinot Bianco as the first vineyard (50% of the total production), followed by Chardonnay, Friulano and Sauvignon. Among the red wines, Merlot dominates with 46%, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso          

Organoleptic properties

Still white wines are fresh, fruity and savoury; they are of a more or less intense straw yellow colour, and have a good acidity. Still red wines are more harmonic and perfumed when young, full-bodied and structured with age, of a more or less ruby red colour, tending towards garnet shades with age. Sparkling wines display a thin, persistent bead and fresh fragrances; they are fruity, well balanced, and feature a good acidity, medium body and a slightly acid flavor, at times reduced by a small amount of pleasant residual sugar. ‘Spumante’ wines have very well defined characteristics; they feature a more or less intense yellow colour and a fine, persistent bead. Fragrances are very complex and have a perfect, optimal intensity; they are fruity and mineral to the taste; their aroma is elegant, thin, well-structured, at times with some residual sugar. ‘Superior’ typology features products identified by a higher structure, while ‘Reserve’ typology has more complex fragrances and bodies, which are often the result given by specific wood ageing.

Ancient Native Varieties of Vines

Native varieties are ancient vines, which initially seemed to have been swallowed up by the re-growth of bramble and scrub due to man’s negligence, and were later brought back to life and respected almost as if they were archaeological finds. The rediscovering of these vines in some farms – mainly in the Spilimbergo area – contributed to stroke the interest of the press, of experts, operators of the field or simple wine lovers. After long and patient research, some vine stocks were brought back to flourish, such as Piculit neri (Black Piculit – perhaps that very vinum pucinum which was on every Roman table); the Sciaglìn (probably from the ‘schiavoline’ grape family); the Forgiarìn (named after Forgaria, a village of Friuli from where – in the past centuries – famous vine pruners emigrated to Hungary and Romania); the Cividìn (this wine is already mentioned in documents of the 17th/18th centuries as one of the most appreciated wines at wedding dinners); the Cjanòrie (originally from Gemona) and the Ucelùt (belonging to the so-called ‘bird grapes’).

At the Roots of Wine: the Rootstock Vines of Rauscedo

The vocation of this land is also made more evident by the presence of an area that has literally linked its name with the “roots of wine”: the rootstock vines of Rauscedo (an outlaying village within the municipality of San Giorgio della Richinvelda), where more than 250 vine growers produce over 70 million young vines a year, which are then exported all over the world. Rootstocks are very young vine plants, already grafted and ready to be planted. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Phylloxera affected European vines, bringing grape producers to their knees. The solution was found in grafting European varieties on American ones, whose roots would not be affected by the Phylloxera disease. It was seemingly an army officer during WW2 (it is not clear whether he was Italian or Austrian) who taught some farmers from Rauscedo the table grafting techniques applied to grapevine, which are still being used now. Nowadays, 500 million vines are produced all over the world, of which 360 million (72%) are in Europe, while 140 are in the rest of the world. Italy is at the top with 100 million; Friuli-Venezia Giulia contributes for over 65%; 40% of the production is exported, and a lot of credit for that has to be given to the nurserymen from Rauscedo – the village at the “roots of wine”.

The Controlled Denomination of Origin (D.O.C.)

The D.O.C. Controlled Denomination of Origin (‘Denominazione d’Origine Controllata’) – adopted by the E.U. – guarantees that the grapes of certified wines come from recommended geographical areas of production; moreover, the D.O.C. certification is given exclusively to those wines that are produced in compliance with a very precise set of production standards (procedural guidelines), which guarantee excellence and identification. In the Pordenone province operate three tutelary consortiums, whose target is the safeguard and promotion of qualified wines.

Tutelary Consortium for the ‘Friuli Grave’ Wines

The ‘Grave’ production area extends over a surface of about 7,500 hectares, and straddles both sides of the Tagliamento river, between the provinces of Pordenone and Udine. The white wines belonging to the ‘Friuli Grave’ quality designation are Chardonnay, Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon, Traminer and Vedruzzo Friulano. The red wines are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Nero and Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso.

Volunteer Tutelary Consortium for D.O.C. Lison-Pramaggiore Wines

The Lison-Pramaggiore production area extends from the eastern side of the Venice province to six municipality in western Friuli, all belonging to the province of Pordenone; namely: Chions, Cordovado, Pravisdomini and parts of Morsano al Tagliamento, Sesto al Reghena and Azzano Decimo. The Lison-Pramaggiore D.O.C. wines are: Bianco (50% Tai), Cabernet, Carmenère, Chardonnay, Malbech, Merlot, Refosco Passito, Refosco Peduncolo Rosso, Rosso (50% Merlot), also Riserva, Sauvignon, Spumante, Verduzzo and Verduzzo Passito.

Tutelary Consortium for D.O.C. Prosecco

The production area for D.O.C. Prosecco is situated in the north-eastern part of Italy, and more precisely in the territories befalling 5 provinces of the Veneto region and 4 provinces of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in one of the most beautiful corners of the Italian Peninsula.

Wine Tourism in the Province of Pordenone 

If your objective is to be won over by the products of Bacchus and you are in the Pordenone area, do not miss the province’s official portal on tourism (with an excellent website), which will stir your curiosity with interesting itineraries and events, all dedicated to wine and food. Point your finger at an area, or start from a map or a location you already know, and you will easily be guided towards places of art, itineraries or pleasant monuments to visit, with plenty of curious anecdotes regarding the area of your choice; moreover, you can look for scheduled events on the days of your visit.

The “Wine Route” and Pordenone Flavours

The “Wine Routes” are new circuit of excellence for a quality experience: the entrepreneurs of the province of Pordenone have networked to promote, value and make the most of the wines and food products of their area through wine and food tourism, with an eye also to the environmental, historical and cultural values that constitute the identity of the region. Numerous services are offered: firms that are always open (in shifts) and do not need prior booking for visiting; information about available services and relative quotations; visits and wine tastings in wineries; artisan workshops; wine shops and restaurants; events in the province; sensory experiences; tourist offers and itineraries along the Wine Roads with marked routes; media communication. Pordenone Wine and the “Flavour Road” aim to present wine tourism with an edge!

Casarsa della Delizia: the Town of Wine

This is the hometown to the unforgotten Pier Paolo Pasolini’s mother and adopted town to him – the author whose pages described some of the most fascinating and evocative places in town, such as Versutta. Included among the towns of wine, Casarsa hosts one of the most famous wine growers’ social Co-ops of the area, established at the time of the ‘masari’ (land keepers), when wine was considered equivalent to money. All this passion for wine is expressed in the Wine Festival, held here in April, which has been taking place for more than ten years now.

The Corkscrews of the Maniago District           

The province of Pordenone boasts an excellence even in the wine’s final phase, at the end of the long route that goes from the vineyard to the table – that is, when wine is poured from the bottle into the glass: a difficult passage indeed, if you do not have a utensil called ‘corkscrew’! Thanks to the Maniago District – a land of ancient traditions in the field of artisan cutlery – the province of Pordenone is also the top Italian producer of blades and accessories, covering 50% of the country’s requirements.

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