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Time to travel and discover Cividale del Fruili, Italy

© Dr. Elinor Garely, Editor in Chief, (a division of eTN Publishing)  Jul 14, 2016

When you need a break from the hurley-burley of Venice, get on the train to Mestre and begin your exploration of the Borghi’s - the nearby villages.

The journey starts with a very short (one stop) and comfortable train ride from Venice to Mestre. At the Mestre station meet-up with a vineyard representative or a tour guide for the journey to the wineries and historical villages (borghi) surrounding Cividale de Fruili. Visitors can also rent a car in Mestre and explore the countryside independently; however, because there is little or no signage along the way it is a challenge to find the wineries, the boutique dining spots, B&B accommodations and the historical/cultural/sports activities that are abundant and attractive in the locale.

Exciting Discoveries

The borghi, Cividale del Friuli, and La Tunella winery are not on the top 10 (or even top 20) things to see and do in Italy. The result? Visitors are missing the overarching beauty and deliciousness of this part of Italy.

The Region

Cividale del Friuli is a borghi (town/village) in the Province of Udine, and part of the Friuil-Venezia Giulia region. The town is nestled in the foothills of the eastern Alps and can be reached by rail and car.

Located on the Natisone River, this part of the world remains as pristine and elegant as it was thousands of years ago. Historically, the town dates to pre-50 BC when it was settled by the Veneti and Celts. Julius Ceaser established his presence in the region and designated the area as a Roman city with the responsibility for defending Roman Italy’s northeastern frontier.

Today the locale is significant - especially to architects and designers as the Palazzo dei Provveditori Veneti (1565), designed by Andrea Palladio, is near the historical center of the town which is dominated by Piazza del Duomo and the National Archaelogical Museum of Vividale del Friuli. It is also a destination for down-hill and cross country skiing, dog sledding (mushing schools are located in Tarvisio and Sella Nevea) and sleigh rides.

Scuba diving is popular in the Miramare Marine Reserve, mountain climbing is available in the Friuli Dolomites, and trekking along the Alpe Adria Trail that connects Carinthia, Slovenia and Friuli Venezia Giulia is an active and beautiful way to spend many seasons. In addition, the area features 7 to 18-hole golf courses, music festivals that start in May and run through October, sport-focused programs start in January and extend into October and food and wine festivals can be enjoyed from March through December.

Food is important to the area and home for Montasio and Asino cheese, San Daniele ham, Tergeste extra-virgin olive oil, Italian Cacciatora Salamini and Brovada as well as grappa, honey, and white Friuuli asparagus. Gourmets are fond of the large sardines that are breaded and fried (jota), fish soup (scampi all busara), white truffles from Muzzana del Turgnano, and borlotti beans from Cania.

Wine Awards

Friuli is considered one of the top three wine regions in Italy and the center for the best white and dessert wines and the area features 8 DOC (Controlled Origin Denomination) zones and 2 inter-regional DOC zones with 1500 vineyards producing 80 million bottles per year in an area covering 20,000 hectares. The focus of Friuli wines is quality vs quantity.

The dominate grape is Friulano and represents approximately a third of the region’s plantings. Other white wine varietals include Sauvignon blanc, Pinot grigio, Verduzzo, Pinto bianco and Ribolla Gialla. For sweet wine the Picolit grape is selected. Red wines account for thirty-five percent of the region’s entire production which is concentrated in Buttrio, Cividale del Friuli and Manzano. Merlot is the principal red wine variety, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir, Pignolo and Refosco.

For Great Wine - Geography is Important

This area is located between the Alps and the Adriatic with climatic variations between the north and south plus micro-climates. The northern portion is mountainous with an alpine climate and the southern sector, with smaller hills and flatter plains, offers a maritime climate – thanks to the Adriatic Sea.

This locale is considered ideally suited to wine growing as the soil is composed of a mix of sandstone and marl (clay and limestone), combined with the microclimate (extremely favorable and unique).

La Tunella. Since 1980s

La Tunella

Visitors to the region must stop and visit La Tunella vineyards that are located in the Eastern hills of the Colli Orientali del Fruili wine district. La Tunella means farmhouse and hill located near the cellar, between meadows and vineyards, immersed in the landscape of the Colli Orientali del Friuli.

In the heart of Colli Orientali (DOC wine-growing area of the Eastern hills of Friuli), Min Zorzettig, a tenant farmer, produced bulk wine for his family and friends who appreciated its quality, flavor and fragrance. His son, Livio Zorzettig, moved the process forward when he started to bottle the wines and the children and grandchildren have enhanced the enterprise, producing wines that are award winners.

Giovanna Borreri and Gabriella Zorzettig

Livio Zorzettig grew up in a wine – focused family and started his own company in 1986 in Ipplis. The estate included 23 hectares (5.5 acres) of vineyard (most of which were planted with native grape varieties), 10 hectares of arable land and 5 hectares of woodland. At the time, the winery produced table wines available to private customers and small osterias as pairings for local cuisine. A few months into the new enterprise, Livio died and his wife, Gabriella, together with her two sons, Massimo (14 years old) and Marco (12 years old) were left on their own to develop the business. Gabriella took control and turned the budding operation into a thriving business. When Massimo finished his education he took over the supervision of the vineyards and cellar and gradually enlarged his role to include sales, marketing and administration. He was joined by Marco who now manages the vineyard.

In the 1990s the old vineyards were replanted, new land was acquired, new grape varieties were introduced and the wine making cellar was redesigned. A new showroom and wine tasting area opened and now the wines have a stellar international reputation.

Currently, the handsome and charming Massimo is the Sales Manager. He travels the world bringing the family’s wine experience to domestic and international markets that include Great Britain, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Greece, Canada and the US. The winery is managed by Marco who supervises 70 hectares of vineyards (3 times the area started by his father).

The oenologist for La Tunella is Luigino Zamparo and he brings a taste expertise that fuses the history of the region with a passion for experimentation. Zamparo is always looking for new experiences that will heighten the noble legacy of the family and the Coli Orientali del Fruili region.

Fermentation Room for Whites

Tonnellerie Area. Maturation of the Reds

Wine Tasting Rooms

La Tunella recently designed a building for the vinification process. The white wine Fermentation Room is located one level below ground for stainless steel vats and the drying of grapes. The Barrique area, with the tonneaux and oak barrels, is the area for the production of red wines. The ventilation system is designed specifically for the uniqueness of each wine and the temperature and humidity are electronically controlled. The deposit, bottling plant and an external storage area are located on the ground floor of the complex.

The preexisting building has been redesigned and dedicated to the processing of newly harvested grapes, to the decantation of the whites before fermentation and to the maceration of the reds. This is also the area for the analysis laboratory, sales room and offices.

LaTunella Wines

• Sparkling wines

Produced using the Charmat method. 50 percent Ribolla Gialla, 50 percent Pinot Nero. Fermented in French oak barrels for one year and continued ageing in glass. Available for sale 18 months after harvesting.

• Classic Whites

Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon are produced from international vines in stainless steel vats and available at the beginning of spring after the harvest.

• Native Whites

Valmasìa (from Mavasia Istriana grapes), Friulano and Rjgialla (from Ribolla Gialla grapes) are vinified in stainless steel vats and released in the spring after the harvest.

• Single Vineyard

Col Livius Friulano, Col Matìss Aauvignon, Col de Bliss Ribolla Fialla are made from grapes grown in 3 defined plots in the county of Cividale del Friuli from vines that were planted in the 1980’s. In the friulian tradition, the must is obtained by the gentle crushing of the grapes, followed by a short cold maceration process and the fermentation with aging sur lies with frequent battonages in big Slavonian Oak barrels. After one year from the harvest they are released in the autumn.

• Classic Reds

Pinot Nero, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc mature in large French oak barrels and are presented on the market at the beginning of the spring, a year and a half after the grapes are harvested.

• Native Reds

Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino and Pignolo are considered the highest expression of the territory. The Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso matures in large French oak barrels and is presented to the market at the beginning of the spring, a year and a half after the harvest. The Schioppettino and Pignolo rest in French oak tonneaux and are available in the autumn three and five years after the harvest.

• Native Red Cuvée

L’Arcione: The result of a careful selection of the best autochthonous red grapes (50 percent Pignolo and 50 percent Schioppettino). It is a wine of pronounced character and body that ages well. Aged in French oak tonneaux it goes on the market in autumn, four years after the harvest.

• Passito Wines

Verduzzo, Noans, Picolit. Passito wines are purely vinified indigenous wines. Verduzzo and Picolit, (aged in barrels of French oak) are flanked by Noans, the cuvée with an intense bouquet and elegant freshness, obtained from 33 percent Riesling Renano, 33 percent Sauvignon and 33 percent aromatic Traminer, vinified in stainless steel. Verduzzo and Noans are put on sale at the beginning of the spring, a year and a half after the grape harvest; Picolit is released in autumn after three years from the harvest.


With so many reasons to visit this part of the world my best advice is to schedule at least five days to the region. For more information, visit and

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Time to travel and discover Cividale del Fruili, Italy
All photos © Elinor Garely

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