Posts Tagged ‘Sacile’

PordenoneIt was now May—the type of sunny spring morning that soothes you with warm breezes and energizes you with the scent of anticipation. The previous evening, I had arrived in Udine after my routine 5-hour train ride from Milano. Mike would be joining me in about a week, but for now I was on my own. After a leisurely breakfast of frutti di bosco yogurt and a roll with apricot jam, I crossed the street to the train station for my first trip to Pordenone.

The ride was short, about 30 minutes. I could tell we were approaching the city as the train crossed the Noncello River and began to slow down. Walking through the streets toward the centro storico, the feeling was urban, modern, and uninspiring. Once I reached the main thoroughfare, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the mood changed. Elegant shops and endless porticoes lined this bustling yet somehow tranquil street. Most remarkable were the Venetian-style palazzi, whose façades were decorated with vivid frescoes. Some were in disrepair, the paint faded and peeling, but others had been restored to their original brilliant colors. At the end of the Corso, stylish city folk took their espresso breaks in an al fresco café facing the Palazzo Comunale. This town hall building, also known as the Municipio, featured two pinnacle-topped towers and a clock with symbols of the zodiac. Across the piazza towered the campanile of the Duomo di San Marco. Inside the church, the congregation was preparing for the inauguration of a restored 18th-century organ.

It was still early, so I continued walking a little further toward the river, which was bordered on both sides by a stretch of trees. Under the bridge, ducks were napping in the shade alongside the emerald green waters. Here, it felt like a bucolic oasis as the city’s noise and traffic faded away. I sat on the bank and rested my legs until I heard the church bells chime noon.

Vecia Osteria del MoroEarlier, the wrought-iron sign of Vecia Osteria del Moro caught my eye, so I headed straight there for lunch. I was also attracted by the menu posted outside which listed many traditional dishes; inside, however, I found there to be no written menu at all. Instead, the smartly-dressed waiter rapidly recited a list of three or four choices each of antipasti, primi, and secondi. I always find great pleasure in perusing a menu at my leisure, taking my time to make a decision, so these no-menu situations typically leave me rather flummoxed. While the casual style is something I appreciate in theory, in practice my brain tends to exert all its effort in translation—so that by the time the list is finished, I’ve already forgotten many of the choices.

Being the season for white asparagus, my ears perked up at the mention of an appetizer of those tender ivory stalks wrapped in prosciutto, as well as a pasta course of three mezzalune stuffed with asparagus and cheese. I also had the baccalà alla Vicentina, which was served with grilled polenta. It was a familiar dish, typical of the province, Pordenone having been part of the Venetian Republic longer than the rest of Friuli. Unfortunately, this version was tough with lots of bones.

On my way back to the train station, I took a detour to find the unusual campanile of San Giorgio—a tall, Doric column capped by a statue of Saint George atop a ball. Then, from Pordenone, I took another train westward to the town of Sacile.

SacileBuilt at a fork in the Livenza River, the town sits amid a small network of canals and bridges, shaded by willow trees and Venetian-style palazzi. It was quite a walk from the station into the centro storico. Just like Pordenone, the streets were lined with graceful porticoes, but here there was much more greenery about. No wonder Sacile was once dubbed the “Garden of the Serenissima,” suggesting a resemblance to the region’s former capital, Venice.

By this time of day, all stores were closed. There was an air of calm about the town. The breezes off the river felt refreshing in the mid-afternoon sun. As I approached the Duomo di San Nicolò, I noticed a series of yellow markers hanging across the river; as it turns out, kayaking is very popular here. Further on, as I stood admiring the tiny, hexagonal Chiesa della Madonna della Pietà, I noticed the soft melody of birds chirping in the trees. How appropriate, considering that Sacile hosts an annual festival of songbirds called the Sagra dei Osei.

Back in Udine, I headed out for dinner. The air now held that indefinable scent of impending rain. The sky was growing dark, as it should at 7:00pm, but I sensed a storm in the near future. Not wanting to get caught in a downpour, I hurried to the nearest familiar restaurant, Osteria Alle Volte, where the dishes are always refined and interesting, even if not traditional Friulian. Down a set of steps from the street, the dining room gave the impression of an underground cave, with stone walls and a vaulted ceiling. To start, I ordered the timbale di polenta e Montasio, a precisely molded mound of warm polenta and cheese, surrounded by rolled slices of icy cold smoked goose breast, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and served on a bed of arugula. Next I had the cjalsòns—four large half-moons of pasta filled with a tangy cheese, swimming in melted butter, and topped with ricotta affumicata.

When I emerged from the subterranean dining room, the streets were damp and the air still moist from the showers that I had fortunately missed. Groups of men wearing olive green Alpine hats milled about the Piazza della Libertà. Preparations were underway for the upcoming weekend’s beer festival; however, I had a different agenda—the next day I would be going to Arta Terme for the Festa dell’Asparago di Bosco, del Radicchio di Montagna e dei Funghi di Primavera.

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