One of the Guru's favorite places on the planet is Italy. I spend a month there each year. On this visit (June 2017), I took much more time exploring vineyards than golf courses in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Yet, whether you want to play lots of golf or drink lots of wine, I highly recommend you visit this area about two hours north of Venice.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Fantastico Wine--With my humble apologies to all golf lovers, if the Guru had to make the dreadful choice between giving up wine or golf, I'd have to lay my clubs to rest. I enjoy great wines immensely and especially Italian wines. I absolutely love the wonderful, crisp wines in this region like Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla and Sauvignon.
2. Great Golf--The golf menu is impressive with seven good courses to choose from, including Golf Club Trieste, Golf Club Udine, Golf Club Lignano, Golf Club Grado, Golf & Country Club Castello Di Spessa, Golf Club Castel D'Aviano and Golf Club Tarviso.
3. City of Trieste--It's one of my favorite cities in the world. It's like a mini San Francisco with its hills and antique trolly to the village of Opicina, which overlooks the city. There's also Barcola beach, the castles of San Giusto and Miramare, Piazza Unita, a beautiful city square overlooking the ocean and a walkable old town with excellent seafood restaurants.
4. Town of Civedale--Founded by Julius Caesar in 50 B.C., this charming little town surrounded by vineyards has cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, a national archeological museum, a picturesque bridge and a city square rimmed by quaint cafes and restaurants.
5. Wine Hotels and Farmhouses--I decided to eschew traditional hotels on my visit and opted for small boutique properties or farmhouse hotels. One of my favorites is Il Roncal, a small estate winery with 50 acres of terraced vineyards and a small hotel. It has a swimming pool, bicycles for rides through the vineyards, exceptional wines and a sunny outdoor patio where you can enjoy breakfast each morning.
6. Foodie Fun--Because the region is in close proximity to the Austrian border, you'll find lots of great fusion cuisine. Some of my favorites include Jota, a bean soup topped with sauerkraut; Frico, a fritatta-like pancake of cheese and potatoes and Strucolo, the region's take on Austrian strudel. Also, don't forget to get a plate of San Danielle ham with a nice glass of local wine and fresh baked bread.
7. Castles--If you love castles, you'll love this region. Some of my favorites are Castlemonte near Civedale and Castle Miramare and Castello di San Guisto in Trieste.
8. Villa Bottacin in Trieste--One of my favorite places to stay in all of Europe is the Villa Bottacin, which was originally built in 1854. About 10 years ago, it was converted into a boutique hotel. It has a beautifully landscaped lawn and garden, outdoor terrace for breakfast dining and a swimming pool where you lounge and sip limoncello. La Dolce Vita, indeed.
9. Venice Airport (Marco Polo)--In my opinion, it's absolutely one of the best and easiest-to- navigate airports in Italy. Flying into Rome or Milan is hectic and a major hassle. Marco Polo was enhanced a few years ago to accommodate cruise travelers and it's really a great entry point to enjoy northern Italy, especially the Friuli Venezia Giulia region.
10. Bicycle Trails and Roads--There are some unbelievable bicycle trails and small roads that weave through the vineyards just outside Civedale in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Several of the wine hotel and farmhouses offer complimentary bicycle rental. You can ride leisurely through the vineyards in quiet isolation most of the time.