When I first started my travels a number of years ago, I headed back to the place where it all began. My family history resides and originates from a small town in Northern Italy called Gemona Del Friuli in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Situated at the foot of the Pre-Alps this small town of 11,000 people is famous for the regions wine, prosciutto, grappa and unfortunately the site of a devastating earthquake in 1976 that basically levelled the town.
It had been 7 years since I had seen my family and I was eager to return to see how the place had changed (if it had at all) and to reconnect with the family and our history.
All the important tools
Gemona is your stereotypical mountain town in Italy. It has narrow streets, plenty of coffee shops, tiny cars and a warm feeling. Exploring the town centre and its surroundings provided many great insights and photographic opportunities. As with any destination I love nothing more than walking the streets and immersing myself in the place.
Looking down at the Duomo
Roman cobble stone roads
Brightness in the dreary weather
Every corner reveals something cosy
Coffee, beer and wine a wining combination
Old Roman fountain
Gemona is a good walking town
Ancient laundry station
Gemona has been an important trading station throughout history with the Huns, Romans, Nazi's and Byzantines just to name a few. The dialect (Friulano) is recognized as its own language and is generally spoken in all areas of Friuli.
The main focal point in the centre of town is the Duomo. This large church is the towns cathedral and is the cultural centre of Gemona. Although it was nearly completely destroyed during the 1976 earthquake, it has been lovingly restored back to its former glory.
The front of Il Duomo
Inside of Il Duomo
Duomo entrance in window
Looking back at the spire
Although the town is relatively small there is plenty to see in the area. Being situated in the mountains, skiing is a popular sport but during summer rock climbing, hiking, swimming and outdoor sports are also very popular.
Many lakes and rivers surround Gemona with Lake Cornino and Lake Cavazzo being the most popular. At this time of year they are truly sensational with autumn colours surrounding them. Unfortunately being mountain fed lakes they are incredibly cold and swimming in them would be a uncomfortable experience.
On a wet miserable day it was decided that mushroom collecting would be in order. The mushrooms collected are toxic and therefore have to be washed and boiled for a considerable period of time. With the region being so wet, mushroom collection is standard past time of many people.
Local vehicle referred to as a 'bee"
Perfect for risotto
Taking a brisk walk out of town takes you to one of my favourite places. It is an area I have gone to every time I have returned to Gemona and this time was no exception. The location is called St Agnais and is a clearing in the mountains that allows you to look down through the valley and up the Tagliamento river. As fortune would have it there was no wind on this day and clear blue skies. I had missed being there and was very happy to have returned.
The road to St Agnais
Looking down on St Agnais
Hidden war bunker in the mountains
Looking down the Tagliamento river
A church with a great view
With our time running out we decided to head to Trieste for a day just to see what else the region offered. An old Austrian city, Trieste was an important port in the past and although not so much today, it still has an air of majesty to it. Famous for its strong winds and being the home of James Joyce, Trieste has some old school charm about it that I have always liked.
Government building facade
Main square statue
History is rooted deep in Trieste
Day to day life
A venetian feel to it
The time I spent in Gemona and its surroundings was refreshing and enjoyable. It is a town I never get tired of and being able to combine history, culture and family is a combination that is truly amazing. I eagerly await for a chance to return. Sadly I said goodbye to Gemona as we hopped on a train headed for one of Italy's most iconic destinations.....Venice.