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Friuli Venezia Giulia – History

Friuli Venezia Giulia - History


As a borderland region, Friuli Venezia Giulia has always been a crossroad for peoples, cultures, and trade.
Nevertheless, its rather strategic position also constituted a factor of instability, preventing the proper development of the region, especially after the Second World War.

In Friuli Venezia Giulia, the events related to the Second World War concluded only in 1975 when the Treaty of Osimo put an end to the disputes between Italy and the former Yugoslavia. Following the earthquake in 1976, the region was reborn from its ashes developing into one of the most vibrant economic realities in Northeast Italy.

Thanks to its position and to the relation with the neighboring countries and regions, Friuli Venezia Giulia took advantage of all opportunities and saw interesting economic prospects for the whole territory when, in 2004, Slovenia was admitted into the European Union.

These economic prospects had a major impact in the whole area of Friuli but also in Trieste and Gorizia. Nowadays, the region is working on recovering contacts with all those territories with which it shares a common history since the Roman times.

Friuli Venezia Giulia was part of the X Roman Legion, which also included the regions of Venetia and Istria.
But because of its borderland position, the region was always defined by a mosaic-like blend of natural and cultural environments.
From a geographical point of view, the Gulf of Trieste is contrasting with the bare hills of Carso. A magnificent contrast is also given by the mountains of Carnia and the flat expanses crossed by Tagliamento.

From a cultural standpoint, the region still breathes the Habsburg and Central European influences in Gorizia and Trieste. The Italian and Venetian influences mix with the cultural habits of neighboring Slovenia, while the region is also strongly influenced by the Croats, Serbs, and Greeks.
In Friuli, the imprint of Venice has been superimposed by the local dialect and traditions, although it is common to hear locals speak in German or Slovenian.
But the cultural and geographical characteristics were not the only ones to influence the history of this region. From an administrative and political point of view, Friuli Venezia Giulia has a special status and is one of the few autonomous regions in Italy.

Its autonomy is majorly given by the recognition of the peculiar geographical, ethnic, and historical conditions that include an absolute equality of rights and the fair treatment of all citizens regardless of their origins, including the safeguard of the ethnic characteristics of all individual groups present in the region.

Prehistory of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Friuli Venezia Giulia holds important evidence of the presence of Lower Paleolithic civilizations on the Italian territory. One of the most important sites is the shelter of Visogliano located in the administrative area of Duino-Aurisina. Here, archaeologist Carlo Tozzi discovered a series of stratigraphic artifacts belonging to the Middle Pleistocene.
The presence of early humanoids is also well documented in the area. Of noteworthy importance are some fragments of teeth and facial bones associated with some of the earliest archaic industries and identified as belonging to Homo erectus.

The Middle Paleolithic era is also well represented in some deposits in Karst caves near Trieste. A cave famous for its prehistoric evidence is the cave of Pocala discovered at the end of the nineteenth century.

The cave of San Leonardo and the cave of Cotariova also hold important evidence of archaic industries, including evidence of the Mousterian industries.

The Upper Paleolithic is not well documented in the region, although there are some artifacts from the final phases of the Epigravettian in the shelter of Biarzo, in Piancavallo and in the Green Caves of Pradis.

The Mesolithic era, on the other hand, is very well represented in many Karst shelters near Trieste. Moreover, in the territory of Friuli, many clay remains have been found from the Neolithic.

Testimonies from the subsequent cultures are abundant in Friuli Venezia Giulia. Iron Age is well represented in the Trieste Karst, while testimonies from the Bronze Age were found in a necropolis in the territory of Cividale. These artifacts consist of bone fragments, weapons, and decorative objects.

Other important objects found on the region’s territory are a few copper loaves and a sword of Cretan- Mycenaean origins. It is believed that these artifacts prove the existence of people trafficking from the eastern Mediterranean territories.

History of Friuli Venezia Giulia

The history of Friuli Venezia Giulia begins in the fifth century BC when the territory of Friuli was invaded by Celtic populations. The Celtic populations ruled the region for a few centuries and at the beginning of the second century BC, the Gauls invaded the region.

The Venetians asked for a Roman intervention against the new populations and defeated the invaders. The Romans gained control over the region and founded the colony of Aquileia in 181 BC. Under the Augustan reorganization, the current Friuli Venezia Giulia was included, from an administrative point of view, in the vast X Regio of Venetia and Istria.

Aquileia soon became one of the most flourishing centers of the Roman Empire and managed to repel, effortlessly, the invasions of the Cimbri, the Quadi, and the Marcomanni. The region fought and survived the devastating attacks of the Germans, but Attila almost completely destroyed the colony in 452 AD. This favored the rise of Grado, which became the new civic and ecclesiastical center of Venetia.
Because of its strategic position, the region drew the interest of the Longobards who took possession of Friuli’s territory in 568 AD. They didn’t last long in the region, but during their domination, the capital of the region was established at Forum Iulii, today’s Cividale del Friuli.

In the seventh century, the capital was severely damaged by the incursions of the Slavs, and Charlemagne annexed the region to the March of Austria. In 828 AD the region was divided into four Margraves, that of Verona, of Istria-Carniola, of Carinthia and of Lower Pannonia.

In 1077, Henry IV entrusted the government of the Margraves to the patriarch of Aquileia with the condition that he had to be assisted by a Parliament formed of both laics and ecclesiastics and by the representatives of the Municipalities. This decision marked the beginning of the patriarchal state of Friuli.
This patriarchal state had a short life and witnessed alternating events. It was dissolved in 1420 when Friuli Venezia Giulia passed under the dominion of Venice. The territories of Gorizia and Trieste, however, remained under the influence of Austria.

In 1797, the Treaty of Campoformio also assigned Udine and its territories, together with the whole Istria region, to Austria. Austria governed over these territories until 1805 when, due to the advancement of the French troops, Udine, Gorizia, and Trieste entered under the Napoleonic dominion until 1813.

Following the Restoration, the territories passed again under the Austrian government until 1918 when Udine and its territories became part of the Lombardy-Veneto region. In 1866, Udine became part of United Italy while Gorizia merged into the Illyrian Kingdom and Trieste with Istria remained under Austrian government.

Regaining control over these regions was one of the main objectives of Italy in the First World War. Once reunited with their home country, the territories received the name of Venezia-Giulia in the interwar period.

During the Second World War, the Slavs occupied Trieste, Gorizia, and Istria and the 1947’s Treaty of Peace signed in Paris attributed Istria to the Yugoslav Republic, forcing the consequent exodus of over 200.000 Italians. At the same time, the territory of Trieste remained divided into two zones called A and B and subject to the Allied and respectively Yugoslavian administrations.

Things remained unchanged until 1954 when the arrangement of the Italian north-eastern borders was definitively ratified in the Treaty of Osimo in 1975. As a result, the city of Gorizia passed under Italian government. The treaty concluded the post-war events but made the relations between Italy and Yugoslavia difficult.
Due to its rough history, the Italian state recognized the autonomy of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region currently governed by independent regional administrative bodies, including a local Council and a President. The Council is elected by universal suffrage and includes a counselor for every 20.000 inhabitants of the region and has specific tasks.

Nowadays, the region can autonomously manage a part of the tax revenue, it has the right to impose its own taxes, it can exploit its heritage autonomously and it has complete control over the local authorities.
The region can also establish new municipalities, and it can decentralize part of its power to the provinces and municipalities.

Archaeology of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Friuli Venezia Giulia boasts important archaeological evidence and the oldest remains identified in the region are attributed to the cultural faces of the ancient Neolithic. Some interesting stratigraphy has been identified in Karst caves near Trieste.

A few findings attest to the presence of Neo-Eneolithic civilizations in the region. These findings are primarily ceramics found in the caves of Teresiana and Pocala, near Duino-Aurisina, but also in some caverns and caves originally belonging to the region but which currently belong to Slovenia.

Some Mousterian objects of great archaeological importance have been identified in the cave of Pocala. In the region, it is also interesting visiting the sites of castellieri, which are typical settlements of Venezia Giulia. These fortified villages are dated back to the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.

A series of necropolises rich in bronze artifacts have also been found from this period. These findings are part of the Paleo-Venetian civilization and most of these materials are exhibited in permanent collections in the Civic Museum of History and Art of Trieste.

Important artifacts and sites belonging to the Roman era are scattered throughout the territory. In the region of Friuli, some of the most important Roman cities were Aquileia, Forum Iulii, and Iulium Carnicum.
From these cities, Forum Iulii is one of the most important as it gave its name to the Friuli region and conserves numerous remains from the Longobards.

The numerous Roman roads still visible today attest to the commercial importance of the region. Some of the most important roads are Annia and Postumia, connecting Veneto with Aquileia. Via Iulia Augusta also crosses the region, and there are also remains of roads connecting Pannonia, Istria, and Dalmatia. Trieste is also rich in important Roman architecture. Noteworthy is a basilica and a theatre built by Trajan.

In Aquileia, the fluvial port and the necropolis rich in funerary monuments attest the presence of the Romans.

There are also many statues, reliefs, and portraits that portray the culture of the region. Exceptional for their richness and refinements are the mosaics, present mainly in Aquileia. This area is also famous for important artifacts, proving the manufacturing of carved gems and glass.
Epigraphic documentation is also abundant throughout the region, and there are numerous Archaeological Museums in many municipalities, including Aquileia, Pordenone, Udine, Zuglio, and in many other towns throughout the whole region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.