GRADARA – love story hidden in the charming town

Gradara

There are only few places on earth where I feel like definitely coming back one day. And Gradara is one of them. I have not even entered the gate of the town walls and I already felt positive atmosphere in the air. Warm summer evening gave to this small Italian town a special shine. Let´s together reveal the magic of Gradara.

Gradara
After entering the gate I already felt positive atmosphere

Two hours in Gradara are sufficient – but why not forever?

Our trip to Gradara was very spontaneous. After all, why not to enrich the evening by visiting a small town near to our holiday destination. But when we parked the car and for the first time saw our destination, it was clear to me that the planned two-hour-long trip will not be enough. The city is really tiny – if it was a common place, a two-hour visit would be quite sufficient. Gradara is however so charming that I can imagine spending there hours, days, or perhaps months.

Gradara
Gradara is so charming that I can imagine spending there days

Castle like in fairy tale

The most visited monument rises high above the city. A well-preserved castle offers tourists the opportunity to walk around the rooms with medieval furniture, old fortification, torture chamber, or the room where soldiers used to sleep only on wooden planks. Exposition is installed very well. With a little imagination, if you close your eyes, you may pretend to be the owner of the castle and stroll around your chambers bathed in the evening sun.

Gradara castle
Gradara castle – the most visited monument

A tragic love story

The castle and the town became famous thanks to the love story portrayed for the first time by Dante in his Divine Comedy. The story says that the young Paolo falls madly in love with a woman of his brother Francesco. Her husband, Gianciotto, had a job position due to which he could not live with the family. Francesca who reciprocated Paolo´s love often ran behind him to Gradara Castle. One day Gianciotto suddenly appeared in Gradara and caught two lovers in the act. Anger, and jealousy mixed in his soul, nor Paolo neither Francesca could run away from his sword. This is how tragic story of great love ended.

Gradara
Love is in the air – the castle and the town became famous thanks to the love story

But what are the known facts? Francesca was really the wife of Giovanni who couldn´t attend his own wedding due to work duties, so Francesca married Paolo by proxy of Gianciotto. It is also known that the father Paolo, along with Francesca often visited Paolo in Gradara castle. However no one mentions love. So what is the truth? After all, decide for yourself what you believe in.

Streets full of souvenir shops and restaurants

In Gradara one main street leads from the entrance gate to the castle lined with romantic Italian houses with small shops with souvenirs. Books, postcards, magnets, ceramic products, cups and other small things are being sold by nice people. They try to help you, even if they do not speak your language. In the side streets attract visitors cafes and restaurants with terraces decorated with flowers, overlooking the Italian countryside. If you can´t resist, bon appetit!

Gradara
Side streets attract visitors with cafes and restaurants with terraces

Museum and the opportunity to walk on the old town walls are just further proof that Gradara lives from tourism. But don´t worry – don´t expect crowds similar to Venice. As I told my boyfriend after a few minutes in the city – Gradara is happy and satisfied town.

Portogruaro – hidden jewel of Northern Italy

Portogruaro is located about 40 minutes drive from the major holiday resorts of Bibione and Lignano in northern Italy. Since it is situated only a few kilometres from the place where thousands of tourists every year spend their holidays, one would expect that this small medieval town with 25,000 inhabitants will enjoy many visitors. During our visit, we found that the opposite is true. Portogruaro appeared to be completely non-touristic town. We parked the car on the free parking place on the street Piazza Castello and we immediately noticed that the town is somehow empty. No enthusiastic tourists photographing nice spots and no souvenir shops (really, we did not find even a single one!). Scarcely have we found a few postcards in a small tobacco shop. If you think the reason is that the city has nothing to offer, you are terribly wrong.

 

Portogruaro – town of arcades and historical atmosphere

Portogruaro has its roots in the Middle Ages and had the greatest significance in the times of the Venetian Republic. Streets in the city center, even the smallest ones, are lined with old houses with arcades. Recent restorations uncovered ancient frescoes and ornaments decorating the windows. While walking underneath the arcade houses with a little bit of fantasy you will easily find yourself in the past. Old wooden doors and shutters on the windows even amplify the atmosphere.

arcades
Portogruaro could be easily called arcade town – they are covering almost all the streets in city centre
Ancient frescoes and ornaments
Ancient frescoes and ornaments on the buildings amplify historical atmosphere of Portogruaro

In the past, town fortification with five entrance gates protected Portogruaro. Today, however, you can only see 3 of them preserved – San Gottaro, Sant’Agnese and San Giovanni. If sightseeing is not enough for you, the city has an archaeological museum, where you can look at the Roman remains found in the nearby villages.

preserved city gate
You can start exploring historical city centre of Portogruaro entering one of the 3 preserved city gates

Portogruaro as the second Pisa?

Center of the city is the Town Hall, standing on a square surrounded by palm trees, in the middle of which stands the statue of a man on horseback. From the square you can see the Bell Tower. When you approach it closer, you will find out that it is leaning. So why should we follow the crowds of tourists to make a photo with the famous leaning tower in Pisa when we can do it as well in Portogruaro? After a while of staring at a steel rod in between tower and nearby church, which seems to be holding the weight of the tower, we moved to perhaps the most beautiful corner of Portogruaro.

sight of Portogruaro
Portogruaro has magical spirit. Leaning Bell Tower gives shadow to the arcade building of past fish market situated on the river Lemene
town hall
Town hall dominating the main square of Portogruaro

Romantic paradise for all nature lovers

Through a narrow alley between the houses, we got with a few steps to a small river Lemene. View of the old mills at the river was literally romantic. In the past, the river was economically very important and the number of mills was much greater. On one side of the river is the arcade building of the former fish market. Inside the building surprised us a small oratory of Our Lady. Burning candles gently contributed to the peaceful atmosphere of this place.

Lemene river
Romantic surroundings of Lemene river
oratory in Portogruaro
Burning candles in small oraroty contributed to the peaceful atmosphere

We walked around the old mills on the other side of the river where we had a wonderful view of the city. This green oasis provides a pleasant coolness – not only for humans but similarly to its animal inhabitants. In a short time we’ve seen a few ducks, number of fish, swimming beaver and a family of resting swans.

old mills
Old mills across Lemene river – probably the most romantic corner of Portogruaro
old mills
Old mills

Luxury brands everywhere

And what if you are tired from so much of walking? Every corner in Portogruaro hides a small cafe and bar where locals relax after a long day. But do not search for tourist shops. Under the arcades many shops are situated, products and prices, however, reveal only luxury brands. In fact, there are very few places where I saw so many branded goods at such a small place such as in Portogruaro. There is no doubt why people on the street are so nicely dressed.

Portogruaro house
Portogruaro still stays the hidden jewel of Northern Italy

After discovering such a beauties the question pops up – Why is then Portogruaro hiding from the world? Perhaps the residents of this magic town want to keep the peace, quiet and typical Italian atmosphere. This way Portogruaro still stays the hidden jewel of Northern Italy, occasionally discovered by some strayed tourist. Could it be you?