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Friuli (IPA: /friˈu(ː)li/, /ˈfri(ː)uli/; Friulian: , , ) is an area of northeastern Italy with its own particular cultural and historical identity. It comprises the major part of the autonomous region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, i.e. the province (administrative provinces) of Udine, Pordenone, Goriziamarker, leaving Trieste out. The historical capital and most important city of Friuli is Udinemarker, also capital in the Middle Ages of the Patriarchate of Aquileia. Besides Udine, other important centres are Pordenonemarker, Goriziamarker, Sacilemarker, Codroipomarker, Cervignano del Friulimarker, Cividale del Friulimarker, Gemona del Friulimarker, Monfalconemarker, Tolmezzomarker.


The Tagliamento river at Gemona del Friuli.

Friuli is bounded on the west by the Livenza river, on the north by the Carnic Alpsmarker, on the east by the Julian Alpsmarker and the Timavo river, and on the south by the Adriatic Seamarker. Rivers flowing southwards from the mountains are numerous. Other important rivers include the Torre river, the Natisone river, the Stella river, the Isonzomarker river, the Ausamarker river, and the Tagliamentomarker river. The northern part of the region is wholly mountainous. From west to east, the region's highest points are, in the Friulian Dolomitesmarker, the Cima dei Preti, (2703 m), Duranno (2652 m), and Cridola (2580 m); in the Carnic Alpsmarker, Mount Peralba (2691 m), Mount Bìvera (2474 m) and Mount Cogliansmarker (2780 m); in the Julian Alps, the Jôf Fuârt (2666 m), the Jôf di Montasiomarker (2754 m), Mangart (2677 m) and Mount Canin (2587 m), which dominates the plain. The Friulian mountains surround the course of the Tagliamento river, which, at the latitude of Gemona del Friulimarker first crosses the hills that occupy the center of the Friuli, then flows into a large flood plain. This plain is commonly divided into the High Friulian plain and the Low Friulian plain (Bassa Friulana), whose boundary is the Napoleonic road that connects the cities of Codroipomarker and Palmanovamarker; to the south of this road is the risorgive zone, where water resurfaces from underground waterways in spring-fed pools throughout this area. South of the plains lie the lagoons of Marano and Grado, which are nature preserves. Friuli's covers an area of 8.240 km², subdivided among the provinces of Udine (4,905 km²), Pordenone (2,178 km²) and Gorizia (466 km²).


The Lagoon of Marano (background) in the Alps.

The climate of the Friulian plain is humid sub-Mediterranean. The climate in this area is suitable for growing white wine grapes, and 2.5% of wine produced in Italy comes from this part of the Friuli region.. The areas in the hills, however, have a continental climate, and the mountainous regions have an alpine climate. On the coast the mean annual temperature is 14°C, while in the inner plains, the average is lowered to 13°C - 13.5°C (Udine 13.1°C, Pordenone 13.3°C, Gorizia 13.4°C). Further north, in Tolmezzo, the average temperature is approximately 10.6°C. The lowest values are recorded in the Alps: 4°C at Passo di Monte Croce Carnico (1300 m) and between 5.5°C and 7°C in Val Canale, which is situated 850 m above sea level. In the coldest month, January, temperatures vary between approximately 4.5°C in Monfalcone and nearly -5°C in Passo di Monte Croce Carnico, with intermediate temperatures of 3°C in Udine and -2°C or -3°C in Valcanale. Gorizia, a short distance from Udine, enjoys a particularly milder microclimate with its approximate annual average of 4°C. In the warmest month, July, the temperatures range between 22.5°C - 24.0°C along the coast and plains and the 14°C - 16°C in Val Canale. Precipitation in Friuli is relatively abundant; the distribution of rainfall varies a great deal during the course of the year. Minimum values in the southern part generally fall between 1,200 and 1,500 millimeters (Gorizia over 1,350 millimeters and Udine over 1,400 millimeters), whereas the alpine area's maximum annual rainfall is approximately 3,000 millimeters. The Julian Prealps is one of Italymarker's rainiest regions: Musi receives about 3,300 millimeters of annual precipitation and can receive 400 millimeters in a single month. In some areas of Friuli, excessive rainfall has caused erosion and the flooding of many rivers. Snow is sparse in the southern plains (3 or 4 snowy days each year in Udine and Pordenone) but falls more consistently further to the north (Val Canale 25 days, Sauris 23, Passo di Monte Croce Carnico 28).


The population of Friuli numbers a little under one million.

Zona Population (2005) Land Area

Population Density

Province of Goriziamarker 140,681 466 302
Province of Udinemarker 528,246 4,905 108
Province of Pordenonemarker 297,699 2,178 137
Total 966,626 7,549 128

One of the most important demographic phenomena in Friuli was emigration. It began in the final decades of the nineteenth century and ended in the 1970s. It's estimated that more than a million Friulian people emigrated over a period of approximately one hundred years. According to the most recent census of AIRE (2005), Friulian émigrés living abroad number 134,936. Of these, 56.0% reside in Europe, 24.0% in South America, 10.3% in North America and 4.7% in Oceania. These data pertain only to those Friulians and their descendants who have Italian citizenship. The descendants of Friulians are excluded because they aren't Italian citizens. Friulians in the world have given life to cultural associations called Fogolârs furlans, of which there are 46 in Italy and 156 in the rest of the world.

Ente Friuli nel Mondo (Friuli in the World)

In 1953, to assist Friulians in foreign countries and to coordinate the activities of the Fogolârs Furlans, the organization Ente Friuli nel Mondo, (Friulians in the World), was founded. It publishes a magazine, Friuli nel Mondo, of which over 25,000 copies are distributed in 78 different countries. The organization informs émigrés and their descendants about their origins and identity, and establishes connections among Friulians around the world.


The origins and the Roman age

Roman forum ruins in Aquileia (Udine).

In the prehistoric era, Friuli was home to the Castellieri culture. Later, the region was populated, during the course of 4th century BC, by Celtic-speaking peoples, in particular by the Carnics, who introduced advanced techniques of working iron and silver. Starting from the 2nd century BC, Friuli was colonized by the Romans: Aquileiamarker was the fourth city of Italymarker in Roman imperial times, capital of Regio X of Italia province (the Augustan region Venetia et Histria). The city was the most important river port on the Natissa river, dominating trade between the Adriatic Seamarker and northern Europe (carried on the Via Iulia Augusta).

Aquileia owed its importance to its strategic position on the Adriatic sea and proximity to the Alps, allowing Rome to intercept barbarian invasions from the East. Julius Caesar used to quarter his legions in Aquileia during winter. The development of other centres, such as Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friulimarker) and Iulium Carnicum (Zugliomarker), contributed to the increase of the economic and cultural wealth of Friuli until the first barbarian incursions, at the beginning of 5th century. In the final decades of the 3rd century, Aquileia became the centre of one of the most prestigious bishoprics of the empire, competing in Italy with Milanmarker and, subsequently, Ravennamarker, for second place after Romemarker. A Hunnic invasion marked the start of the Friuli's decline: Aquileia, protected by meagre forces, was forced to surrender and was razed to the ground by Attila in 452. After the retreat of the Huns, the survivors, who had found shelter in the lagoon of Gradomarker, returned to the city, but found it completely destroyed. The reconstruction of Aquileia to bring back the old splendour of the capital of X Regio, was never completed. Nevertheless, the city remained important even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire's, due to the creation of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, which, from the mid-6th century onwards, ranked among the highest ecclesiastic authorities in Italy. The lack of security in the Friulian plain, crossroads of all the great barbarian invasions, drove many people to seek shelter on the islands of the lagoons or in fortified hill-villages, causing a generalized depopulation of the more fertile part of the region and its consequent impoverishment.

Middle Ages

Duchy of Friuli in Italian context (750).

After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Friuli belonged to the kingdom of Odoacer and subsequently to that of Theodoric the Great. The Byzantine reconquest under Justinian I was, for the region, of brief duration: in 568 it was one of the first provinces conquered by the Lombards, invading from Pannonia. The Lombard king Alboin established the Duchy of Friuli, the first Lombard duchy, and granted it to his relative Gisulf I. The capital of the duchy was established at Forum Iulii (Cividale del Friulimarker), which became the most important city of the area and lent its name to it.

The duchy of Friuli was from the start one of the most important Lombard duchies. It served as a barrier against the threat of invasion by the Avars and Slavs from Pannonia. Among the duchies of the North, which were closely aligned with the crown (unlike Spoleto and Benevento to the South), it was the most powerful, probably due to its marcher status. Among later dukes, Ratchis became king in 744 and his ducal successor, Aistulf, succeeded him as king himself in 749. In this period the historian Paul the Deacon, author of the Historia Langobardorum and teacher of Latin grammar at the court of Charlemagne, was born in Friuli (730/5).

After the Regnum Italiae fell to the Franks, the duchy of Friuli was reorganised into counties according to the Frankish model. The region was again reorganised into the March of Friuli in 846. The march was granted to the Unruoching dynasty. Friuli became the base of power of Berengar I during his struggles for the throne of Italy between 888 and 924. The march was transformed under his rule, its territory extended to the Lake Gardamarker, the capital moved to Veronamarker, and a new March of Verona and Aquileia established in its place.

On 3 April 1077, the Emperor Henry IV granted the county of Friuli, with ducal status, to Sigaerd, Patriarch of Aquileia. In the succeeding centuries, the patriarchate expanded its control over neighbouring Triestemarker, Istriamarker, Carinthia, Styriamarker, and Cadore. The patriarchal state of Friuli was one of the best organised polities of the Italian Middle Ages. From the 12th century it possessed a parliament representing the communes as well as the nobility and the clergy. The life of this institution extended over six centuries, remaining alive yet weak even during Venetianmarker domination. It convened for the last time in 1805, when it was abolished by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Patriarch Marquardo of Randeck (1365–1381) had gathered together and codified all the laws of Friuli and promulgated them as the Constitutiones Patriae Foriiulii ("Constitutions of the Country of Friuli"). Cividale del Friuli was seat of the Patriarchate until 1238, when the patriarch moved his seat to Udinemarker, where he had a magnificent episcopal edifice constructed. Udine assumed so great an importance that it became with time the institutional capital of Friuli.

Venetian domination to Bourbon Restoration

The Venetian-style Piazza Libertà in Udine.

The experience with the Patriarchy ended in 1420, when Friuli was attached to the Venetian Republicmarker, at that time one of the great powers, with a territory in full expansion. Friuli, used often as a buffer zone against Turkish expansion, was repeatedly devastated by a long series of wars for its possession between Venice and the House of Habsburg. These wars led to the poverty and instability of the rural population, with the impossibility to cultivate the land crossed by fighting armies and with the forced requisition of all livestock to feed the troops. The lumber needed to build Venetian ships caused complete deforestation of the Bassa Friulana and central Friuli. Venice took possession of collective farms belonging to rural Friulian communities seriously impoverishing them. These properties would then be sold by Venice during the 17th century to raise cash to overcome the poor financial condition.

Beginning in the 1630's the Venetian Republic entered a process of irreversible decadence because of the loss of many of its traditional markets, the misdirection of financial resources into unproductive investments (above all in real estate), and the loss of competitiveness of its industries and its services. Friuli was subject to increasingly oppressive fiscal pressures and its industries and commercial activity went into complete crisis.

The political populism practiced by Venice (although not particularly evident in Friuli) according to some historians, looked for ways «to limit the most oppressive and anachronistic effects of feudalism. Other researchers affirm that the Venetian aristocratic government maintained the most oppressive feudal conditions in Friuli. These policies were practiced by the Venetian government to ensure the support of the urban and rural population as a counterbalance to autonomist tendencies and power of local oligarchies and aristocrats.

An important popular revolt, known as Joibe Grasse 1511 (Fat Thursday 1511), was started in Udine on February 27 by starving Udinesi citizens. They were subsequently joined by the farmers and the revolt spread to the whole territory of Friûl. This insurrection was one of the largest in Renaissance Italy and it lasted from 27 February until March 1st, when it ended in bloodshed when Venice dispatched around one hundred cavalry to put down the rebellion.

With the 1516 Noyon pacts the boundary between the Venetian Republic and the County of Gorizia and Gradisca by now in the hands of the House of Habsburg, were redefined. Venice lost the upper Isonzo valley (that is the Gastaldia of Tolmino with Plezzo and Idria), but it kept Monfalconemarker. Marano and a series of shed feudal islands in the Western Friuli stayed with the Archduke of Austria (until 1543). Between 1615 and the 1617 Venice and Austria again fought for the possession of the fort of Gradisca d'Isonzomarker. The so-called War of Gradisca ended with the return to the preceding status quo.

Beginning in 1516 the Habsburg Empire controlled eastern Friuli, while western and central Friuli was Venetian until 1797, year of the Treaty of Campo Formio, when also this part of the Friuli was surrendered to Austriamarker. For a brief period Friuli belonged to the Italic Kingdom, from 1805 until the Bourbon Restoration.

Contemporary history

From the Restoration to the Great War

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna enacted the definitive union of Veneto and Friuli with Austrian Lombardy, to constitute the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. In 1838, the District of Portogruaro, for a long time Friulian in its history, culture, geography and language, was removed from the Province of the Friuli by Austrian wish and assigned to the Province of Venice. Today it is asking to return under the administration of the Friuli region. In 1866 central Friuli (today's province of Udine) and western Friuli (today's province of Pordenone) were joined Italy with Veneto after the Third Italian War of Independence, while eastern Friuli (the so-called County of Gorizia and Gradisca remained under Austria until the end of World War I.

During the World War I, Friuli was the theater of battles that had serious consequences for the civilian population, above all after the Battle of Caporettomarker.

Regional languages and dialects

While standard Italian is the primary official language of the region, several other regional languages and dialects are spoken in Friuli.

Friulian is spoken in the provinces of Udine, Gorizia and Pordenone.

Venetian and its sub-dialects are usually spoken (for historical reasons) in the western border regions (i.e. Pordenonemarker), sparingly in a few internal towns (i.e. Goriziamarker, etc.) and historically in some places along the Adriaticmarker coast.

Also along the southeastern boundary with Venezia Giulia there exists a venetian transitional dialect, called Bisiaco, that has influences of Slovene and Friulian.

Slovene dialects are spoken in the largely rural border mountain region known as Venetian Slovenia. German (Bavarian dialect) is spoken in Val Canale (mostly in Tarvisiomarker and Pontebbamarker); in some of Val Canale's municipalities (particularly in Malborghetto Valbrunamarker), Carinthian Slovenian dialects are spoken too. German-related dialects are spoken in several ancient enclaves like Timau, Zahre (Saurismarker) and Plodn (Sappadamarker).

Slovene is spoken in the Collio area north of Gorizia. In the Resia valley, between Venetian Slovenia and the Val Canale, most of the inhabitants still speak an archaic dialect of Slovenian.

Note: only Friulian, Slovenian and German are allowed to be local secondary official languages in their historic areas, but not their related dialects or languages.

See also


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