As you enter through the door of a charming restaurant, you are greeted with a cool glass of bubbly. Using your three words of Italian and the best Italian-ish hand gestures you can muster you manage to get seated at a table for two. The waiter doesn’t speak a work of English but pantomimes that you should let him bring you the special. First–he brings a delicate salad and points enthusiastically to the garden outside. Then comes delicious homemade salami, a small plate of pasta, and finally melt-in-your-mouth braised beef. Carafes of house wine keep coming. There’s not one selfie stick-wielding (or Rick Steves guidebook carrying) tourist in sight. Our search for a weekend in authentic Italy in the northeast corner of the country was not in vain.
The northeastern regions of Friuli/Venezia/Giuli and Veneto are off the beaten path (save Venice). Nestled between the Alps and the Adriatic, both regions are gorgeous and–most importantly–not short on food and wine. Friuli is home to some of the most delicious, aromatic, white wines in Europe (and a few worthwhile reds), while Veneto is known for producing copious amounts of bubbly Prosecco.
Located just outside the village of Refrontolo in a charming old farmhouse where the Lorenzon family offers guests comfortable accommodations at their agriturismo Le Pervinche. The interior is freshly renovated and boasts modern bathrooms, beautiful linens, and spectacular views.
Each morning, we were torn between laying in bed and getting lost in the view or hustling downstairs for another silky cappuccino. In the end, we were coaxed downstairs by the breakfast spread of artisan cured meats, homemade pastries, fruit, yogurt, and fresh juice. (So delicious there wasn’t ever time for photos.)
The entire region is low on must see sights, but rich in vineyards, adorable villages and great restaurants, perfect for a relaxing weekend. We started our trip with a delightful dinner at the family run Agriturismo La Rondine. The atmosphere was a cross between a family dining room and a cafeteria, but the food…the food was amazing. The son served us dinner while the mother was cooking in the kitchen–fresh salad made with lettuce that was slightly pink on the edges, antipasti with cured meats and homemade pickled vegetables, homemade soft salami, followed by slices of perfectly rare beef on a bed of fresh veggies.
The next morning, after downing our cappuccinos, we set out on a short walk to Il Molinetto deal Croda a Refrontolo, a watermill from the 17th century. We were too lazy to seek out nearby hiking trails and opted for lunch instead (we felt a little guilty as group after group of cyclists whizzed by, but were soon lost in another plate of pasta and forgot all about it). After our walk we headed toward Valdobbiadene, winding our way through adorable villages and the stunning countryside, stopping to take pictures, check out old churches, and soak in the views over the vineyards. We stopped for lunch at Ombralonga, a small restaurant a few blocks from Valdobbiadene’s main square. We sipped on Prosecco with the other diners waiting for a table and enjoyed the hustle and bustle as families and colleagues laughed and argued over steaming plates of pasta, fish, and steak. Again, we were met with friendly service that tested our limited Italian, but we managed to choose something delicious from daily menu scribbled on the wall in chalk. I went with a gorgonzola pasta with a side of roasted green beans, while my dining companion chose the horse steak (because Kazakhstan).
In the evening, we tried a great regional restaurant, Gigetto, located in Miane. We began our visit with a glass of prosecco in their magnificent wine cellar. Stretching beneath the entire restaurant, the cellar stocks over 1000 different local wines and has tables tucked away in every little alcove for guests to enjoy an aperitif. We then made our way back to the dining room where we marveled at the enormous collection of copper pots and found our seats next to a giant open hearth. Once we settled on the tasting menu, we were greeted by the sommelier, who suggested a few glasses of local wine. The wines were fantastic, but the pairings were to die for. Best. Sommelier. Ever. The highlight for us was the pasta tossed with a sauce of romanesco broccoli and topped with a seared scallop served along side a glass of Sorelle Bronca‘s Delico (a crisp and juicy white from Colli di Conegliano). From the moment we heard the door of Gigetto’s close behind us we have been scheming how we can return.
On our way back to Zagreb on Sunday, we stopped in several interesting villages and were especially charmed by Vittorio Veneto. We debated whether to stop by the taverna at Orsone in Cividale or have lunch at La Frasca in Pavia di Udine. La Frasca won out. From the road, we had the feeling that we were stopping by a neighborhood diner, but the restaurant is well known for their selection of local cured meats, perfectly cooked regional dishes, and the proprietor’s great wines–especially Scarbolo’s Refosco (a medium bodied red made from a local varietal). I ordered roasted pork and Aleks had the grilled lamb. We also enjoyed glasses of Scarbolo’s Refosco and Friulano (always my favorite).
We spent the rest of the afternoon and drive home convincing ourselves that we should spend every weekend in either Veneto or Friuli. The warm hospitality, delicious food, and lack of people poking our eyes out with their selfie sticks as they vie for the best photo with Michelangeo’s David left us hungry for more of this authentic Italy.
Le Pervinche (Refrontolo)
Delightful b&b in Refrontolo. Clean comfortable rooms and delicious breakfast.
Via Molinetto 8/A, Refrontolo, TV | +39 347 228 9508 | email@example.com
One of the region’s best restaurants with an incredible sommelier. The tasting menu is worth every penny.
Via Alcide De Gasperi, 5, 31050, Miane, TV | +39 043 896 0020 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Trattoria Al Chianti (Udine)
Delicious pastas, meat, and charcuterie. Comfy dining room without a tourist in site.
Marinelli, 4 33100 Udine, UD | +39 043 250 1105 | email@example.com
Formal restaurant and casual taverna owned by the Bastianich family, close to the border with Slovenia. Next door to their Bastianich winery.
Via Darnazzacco, 63, Frazione Gaglianom , 33043 Cividale del Friuli, UD | +39 043 273 2053 | firstname.lastname@example.org
La Frasca (Pavia di Udine)
Casual spot off the main road between Udine and Trieste. Don’t miss the cured meats or the proprietor’s wine-Scarbolo.
Viale Grado 50 Lauzacco, 33050 Pavia di Udine, UD | +39 043 267 5150 | email@example.com
Agriturismo La Rondine (Valdobbiadene)
A true family establishment. B&B that also serves an amazing dinner for 30 euro (regardless of whether or not you are staying there) and is close to the charming town of Valdobbiadene.
Strada Grappe, 9, 31049 Guia di Valdobbiadene, TV | +39 042 390 0177 | firstname.lastname@example.org
A small reasonably priced restaurant-perfect for lunch-with a large terrace serving delicious pastas, meats, and veggie sides. Great selection of local wines and friendly service.
Via Piva, 60, 31049, Valdobbiadene | +39 042 319 01541