GEMONA & VENZONE
Two medieval towns, both resurrected after the earthquakes of 1976
WHAT SHOULD YOU CERTAINLY VISIT IN GEMONA & VENZONE?
These two medieval villages have always been connected over the centuries. In the Middle Ages because of their important role in providing shelter to the Pilgrims who came through here on their way to the holy city of Rome.
In more recent times, due to the earthquakes of 1976, these villages were put forever on the the map. The earthquake of 6 May 1976 had a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was beneath the mountain Gemonese next to the village of Gemona and not far from Venzone. In 1 minute time almost all the buildings and houses collapsed and centuries of history seemed to be cancelled for always.
MEDIEVAL MARKET TOWNS
The sites are not far from the Tagliamento river which was used basically as the 'highway' from this region. The market traders and merchants walked along the banks of the river and had to pay a toll to be allowed to cross the bridge. The also had to pay a tax to enter the villages and in a short period the two towns became very wealthy. Their role became less important when the city of Udine in the 13th century was given the right to hold a weekly market. Soon the merchants decided to walk a bit further to the more central city of Udine which quickly grew in size.
THE EARTHQUAKES OF 1976
In more recent times, the earthquake (or rather earthquakes) of 1976 caused an immense damage to these towns. Because of the attention given to this area in the newspapers and television the unknown region Friuli Venezia Giulia was kind of rediscovered by the Italians. Many regions and countries helped financially but also with auxiliaries to reconstruct this area. The earthquake of the 6 of May 1976 had a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was beneath the mountain Gemonese next to the village of Gemona not far from Venzone. In 1 minute time almost all the buildings and houses were destroyed and centuries of history was vanished. The earthquake caused nearly 1,000 victims and many were injured. The large aftershocks of 11 and 15 September were slightly weaker with a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter scale and fortunately didn't claim any more human lives.
A WONDERFULLY REBUILT MOVIE SET
If you're walking through these towns today, you would not say that their churches, houses and city-halls were destroyed and had collapsed like sandcastles.
They are really worth visiting. Especially Venzone gives you a sense of being an actor walking through a medieval movie set. In a fact some movies were filmed here. For example the movie 'A farewell to the arms' of 1957 featuring Rock Hudson and written by Ernest Hemingway. Don't forget to visit the Earthquake Museum 'Tiere Motus' which means earthquake in the Friulian dialect. Here you can see on the basis of videos and pictures how Venzone has resurrected after this fatal year.
THE MUMMIES OF VENZONE
After visiting the beautiful Cathedral of Venzone and you still have some time left over, then go and watch the mummies of Venzone in the little chapel in front of the Cathedral. These mummies have been unearthed in the 18th century after the old cemetery was closed. It's a bit of a weird story, but these mummies were formed thanks to a parasitic fungus that is in the soil, called "Hipha Bombicina Press", which manages to dry out the body in one year and turns the skin into parchment. At the entrance you need a coin you can buy for € 1.50 at the nearby cafes, shops or the Info Point.
THE CYCLE TRAIL ALPE ADRIA RADWEG
Venzone and Gemona are also lying on the bike trail Alpe Adria Radweg (path) which was elected in 2015 as the best and most beautiful bike path of Europe. It begins in Austria in Salzburg and enters in Italy in Tarvisio. You cycle across the region through beautiful nature and interesting historical towns to finish at the seaside in the town of Grado. For more information go to the 'Sport' chapter.
The highlights of Gemona & Venzone:
The Museum Palazzo Elti
The Museum 'Della Pieve e Tesoro del Duomo'
The Earthquake Museum 'Tiere Motus'
The lavender shops
The pumpkin fair in October
What do lavender and pumpkins have in common?
Venzone is since several years the village with the highest concentration of lavender shops. There are at least five of them. Each shop has its own specialty; perfumes, candles, soaps etc. While walking through the old city center, the lavender scent will fill your nose.
And what about the pumpkins ?
In the month of October the fair "La Festa della Zucca 'takes place and Venzone just changes like a film set into a real medieval town starring the pumpkins. The locals dress up in medieval clothing, modern traffic signs are covered with jute. There are medieval games, medieval street concerts etc. Of course you can buy pumpkin made food anywhere from bread to cakes to gnocchi. Delicious!