The day after Christmas we took a quick jaunt to Aquileia. Also being an Italian holiday, we were lucky it was open (apparently Christmas is a three day event).
Founded in 181 BC, Aquileia was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire. It is also believed to be the last Roman city to remain unexcavated.
There was a nice nature walk from the Roman ruins leading up to the town center.
We visited the Basilica di Aquileia. The basilica was originally built in 313 AD and rebuilt four different times. Today it is Romanesque-Gothic style and has the most amazing 4th century mosaic floor. They had elevated glass walkways around the perimeter. I didn’t get any pictures inside, so I got these from basilicaaquileia.it.
These mosaics had been covered up by tile and were uncovered around 1909. I can’t imagine hiding this beautiful floor with boring tile!
Under the bell tower is the crypt of excavations. They had another elevated walkway to view the excavations and additional mosaics. Benny loved the “secret pathways”.
After viewing the basilica, we had plenty of time to monkey around the gardens.
We had lunch. Benny was THRILLED to be served water in a wine goblet.
We visited a tiny village in the Dolomites known for it’s Christmas tree displays called Andreis. Unknowingly, we took a backroad to get there and with Derek not feeling well, the twists and turns were very unkind. The one lane Alpine roads are no joke. It took us over an hour to get there and it turned out to be about 10 minutes behind Maniago!
Almost every home had a Christmas tree or wooden carving outside or peeking through the window.
A playground is always a highlight!
The streets were filled with wooden carvings.
I loved these wooden candles in planters all over the village!
I thought this display was adorable!
We stopped for lunch at the only small restaurant in the village. They had the most delicious ham and cheese strudel which I believe both Derek and I have been dreaming about ever since. We must return soon!
Poffabro is a village of about 180 people. Every single window had a unique handcrafted nativity scene. I believe the theme was crib between the cribs. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I wish I had known that before we went and I would’ve looked at them closer.
Our town Maniago was offering a free shuttle bus to village (about 10 minutes away) so we hopped on to check it out.
The kids loved looking at the “little villages” as Benny would say. Some were quite large and intricate and others were tiny.
I thought this was interesting. I wondered why they were all buried…
And of course, every town in Italy has a beautiful church.
We went to Bolzano for Thanksgiving. It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving, but we were happy to get out of temporary housing for a few days and lucky for me…the Christmas market opened!!!
We set our with our fancy new GPS which took us straight up and over the San Pellegrino pass (there is a much easier route). It was beautiful, but all I could focus on were plumetting temperatures, the rapidly setting sun, and roads beginning to ice over. I thought it was never going to end. I somehow thought tightly gripping the door handle and pushing my feet into the floor would stop the car from sliding off the cliff.
The drive turned out to be only half the battle. Finding the hotel park was next. The GPS took us straight into the Christmas market in the Piazza Walther! Derek had to reverse a very narrow road crawling with pedestrians. The best part…? Nobody looked at him like he was crazy!
Benny loved the hotel. They had cookies and fruit waiting for us and he especially loved climbing the ladder to peek out the window.
Bolzano is a charming city in the Dolomites and is said to have the largest and most traditional market in all of Italy. This region was a part of Austria until World War I, and according to Rick Steves, many locals would still prefer to be Austrian and speak German as their first language. The city also has a German name (Bozen) and all of the signs are printed in German and Italian.
We strolled around the streets a while. Carrying Clara gets quite painful.
We visited Bolzano’s archaeology museum to see Ötzi the Iceman. He was discovered (frozen in a glacier) by a German couple while hiking and is over 5,000 years old. It would’ve been interesting, but Clara was having an epic meltdown so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.
After lunch we were all feeling better and took a cable car to Oberbozen – a tiny village high in the Dolomites.
The view from the cable car.
We strolled around the village for a while enjoying the views, some coffee, and garden decorations.
The kids were exhausted after the cable car and needed to rest. Derek was nice and watched them at the hotel while I enjoyed the Christmas market!
The next day we set out to find one of the castles in the area. There are many, but only one was open for the season. We did a long hike up a promenade that paralleled the river. It was quite lovely, but hard to enjoy while carrying Clara. We made some wrong turns and finally found the castle!
When we got up to the doors everything was locked. It turns out we had found the wrong castle! The kids were quite disappointed. They were so excited to go in a real castle.
After some lunch and a rest, we enjoyed the Christmas market. Everything was so festive with bands, carolers, and lots of gluwein!!!
Clara got to ride a pony
We enjoyed a carriage ride. Benny only made it half way.
The kids loved the carousel and train!
They had a big snow hill and we thought the kids would like to sled, but it was big ice pile and everyone was falling. Derek was knocking kids down, Benny was whining, and Clara was crying out: “I fa down”! The snow hill was a bad idea.
It was a great trip! I hope we can make it back in the summer to see more castles and maybe do some hiking around the Dolomites.