Small Towns, Big Art

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On Monday we drove through vineyards and then flatland and fields, many covered with poppies to the southwest corner of Friuli, where it borders the Veneto. Mondays can be slim pickings for tourists in rural Italy, with much closed up tight. But churches are usually open. We first visited the 12th century Abbey Santa Maria in Sylvis, in the town of Sesta al Reghena. The Abbey has been added to over the years, but retains frescoes from the 13th and 14th centuries. The church was painted in pale greens and rose, it is quite lovely. Outside are the stone foundations of the 8th century church originally here.

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We also stopped in nearby Cordovado, a town with a charming old core, tiny and largely consisting of one street with old houses, a small castello, and town gates. Just about deserted on a Monday morning.

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In Valvasone we found two churches with beautiful renaissance-era organs and partially restored frescoes, and arcaded old houses lining the streets. So quiet. Where are the people?

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Lunch was at La Baita, a highway truck stop type place, where everyone but us were obviously regulars. Two courses and side dish for 11 euros (2 choices, verbal menu) I had homemade gnocchi then a caprese salad with grilled eggplant. Home style food. Parked next to us was an ape with a load of grape starts, we’ve seen people in the vineyards planting them this week.

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We spent some time strolling through Pordenone, a large and lively town.  Finally, a town with open shops, loads of people, a bustling air. We first stopped into the Chiesa del Christo, chatting outside until it opened with a young man waiting for Confession. He appeared quite anxious and was prepared to wait for the priest. I couldn’t help wondering, what a nice young guy, what he had done? Inside were several 14th century frescoes, including an interesting one  of Christ, with symbols of all the activities not permitted on Sundays.

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The street lead to a gorgeous corso of 15th and 16th century palaces, many still covered in faded frescoes. There are lots of attractive shops and cafes on the ground floors, a pedestrian zone, and several interesting museums (sadly closed on Monday). This is a delightful town, with people riding bikes, eating in cafes, and going about their business.

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We stopped for a gelato, (pink grapefruit, very refreshing) and then headed for home.

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