Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Located at the upper western corner of northern Italy, the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia shares its north and east borders with Austria and Slovenia. The region is separated into four provinces: Pordenone in the west, Udine covering the center, with Gorizia and Trieste to the east. Though the province of Trieste is the smallest in the region, it nonetheless houses Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s capital city of Trieste.
Located at the upper western corner of northern Italy, the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia shares its north and east borders with Austria and Slovenia. The region is separated into four provinces: Pordenone in the west, Udine covering the center, with Gorizia and Trieste to the east. Though the province of Trieste is the smallest in the region, it nonetheless houses Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s capital city of Trieste. Along with Italian, much of the population of this region speaks a local language called Friulian, and because of the close proximity to other countries Slovenian and German are also frequently spoken as well.
With its southern border along the Adriatic Sea, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a wealth of complex climates and influences. The Alps provide scenic mountains, and the valleys and plains slope gently down to the coastline. Because of its diverse landscape, Friuli-Venezia Giulia provides excellent growing conditions for a variety of products. Pigs, cattle and chickens are often raised in farming communities. Beans, grapes, corn and a wide range of root vegetables are common crops. Fish is abundant along the coast, and mushrooms proliferate in the hilly forests. Coffee culture is strong in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and is highly influenced by the Viennese coffee tradition. Cheeses, wines and beer find their way to most tables, with the Slavic influence in cooking coloring many of the region’s recipes. The love of strudels and other pastries walks hand in hand with the love of coffee.
For such an unpretentious region, some of the gems in the crown of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are quite notable and, indeed, noble. Locally beloved are dishes prepared in an open-hearthed oven called a fogolar. Brovada, a strong dish of slightly fermented turnips, pays homage to the Slavic love of sour flavors to accompany pork dishes. San Daniele’s prosciutto ham is arguably the best in the world, owing much of its renown to the low fat content and sweet flavors provided by the region’s unique location. Sausages and cured meats are popular throughout Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and some can be intensely spicy. Goulashes and borscht-style soups are entrenched local favorites, as are gnocchi and filled dumplings. While pasta is not as prevalent in Friuli-Venezia Giulia as in other parts of Italy, hearty polentas anchor the region firmly to traditional Italian cooking.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s dairy industry, though not large, is nonetheless very important to its cuisine. Cream and butter are used liberally in many dishes. The region offers a nice variety of locally-produced delightful and predominantly cow’s milk cheeses. Tabor di Monrupino is a semi-firm cheese that takes on a strong flavor and fragrance as it ages. Ricotta affumicata is an unusual firm and smoked ricotta. Liptauer is creamy and easily spreadable, making it the perfect cheese to combine with herbs and spices. Carnia is an Alpine cheese known for its pungent smell and sharp flavor. Baita Friuli is versatile, clean-flavored and fruity. Montasio is particular to Friuli-Venezia Giulia and neighboring Venetto, and a sharp aged cheese that develops a dry crumbly texture over time. It is the most popular and famous cheese from the region, used in the making of frico, a crisp cheesy cup-shaped local variation of pancake.
Wine production, like cheese making, is integral to Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s food culture. With its beginnings dating back to the cultivation of transplanted Greek vines around 1000 B.C., this area can sincerely claim an ancient and devout love of making wines that remain consistently great and world-recognized to this day. Chardonnays, pinot biancos, pinot grigios, rieslings, sauvignons, cabernets and merlots are all produced in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the results being a remarkably diverse selection. From dry to sweet and white to red, there is a wine from this region to please every palate and to pair with every dish.