Cividale del Friuli
Cividale del Friuli is a small jewel in the far north-eastern corner of Italy. Traditional histories say that it was founded by Julius Caesar, who gave the town its first recorded name: Forum Iulii (which has now become the name of Cividale's region, Friuli). Archeologists, however, have found remains of older Celtic settlements.
In the Dark Ages, Cividale become a capital of the Lombard invaders, the last barbarians to move into Italy (before today's tourists who order cappuccinos in the evening, of course), and the town now celebrates its Lombard (or Longobard) heritage. In June 2011, Cividale and six other cities of the Lombards together were named a collective World Heritage Site, Italia Langobardorum. The recognition rewards Cividale's remarkable medieval treasures (though within the town itself, a visitor may have difficulty finding information on the five other locations in Italy that share the collective site).
Cividale was also the seat of the Patriarchs of Aquilea, bishops who were the feudal overlords of Friuli. The Patriarchs moved to Cividale in 1077; in the 1200s, they moved again, to Udine, which has remained Friuli's capital since.
Trains run about once an hour from Udine, the provincial capital, operated by one of Italy's few independent railroads, the Ferrovia Udine-Cividale . (The railroad has the abbreviation FUC; T-shirts are not available.) Buses to Udine run less frequently . There's one bus a day to Gorizia. The regional and international Ronchi dei Legionari Friuli Venezia Giulia Airport (wwww.aeroporto.fvg.it) is 40 km away by car, and the international Marco Polo Airport of Venice [www.veniceairport.it] as well as Treviso Airport are about two hours drive away.
Cividale is small enough to be explored on foot.
The jewel of the city is the small Tempietto Longobardo (Longobard Temple) , dating to the 8th Century AD, with Byzantine sculptures and friezes, as well as more recent frescoes. The Tempietto, once a convent chapel, is a small zen-like space, a shard of light that has been preserved since the 'Dark Ages'.
The Cathedral Museum  contains a remarkable altar and baptismal font from the Longobard times, with rough, medieval artistry .
The Archeological Museum  contains Roman and Longobard works. The ground floor has some wonderful mosaics, including one of Poseidon.
Among other sites, Cividale's cathedral is worth a stop, and a stroll across the Devil's Bridge, which spans the gorge of the Natisone River, shouldn't be missed. From the bridge, you can look north to the Julian Alps on the border between Italy and Slovenia.
If you come by train or bus, you'll arrive at the new Cividale. You can compare the right angles of the recently completed train station to the curves of the new offices for the town's main bank (under construction as of early 2013) across the traffic circle. In front of the bank, there is an irregular, three-story high ball of metal on stilts. To some residents it looks like a stranded spaceship; others call it the carciofo, the artichoke. After a stroll through the medieval streets of Cividale and a cappuccino in the beautiful main square, Piazza Paolo Diacono, it's worth considering whether architecture has moved forward in the past 1000 years.
Every year in mid-July, Cividale hosts the Mittelfest , a festival of Central European music, dance and theatre.
The whole town becomes a medieval fair in late August with the Palio di San Donato , with archery contests, food and drink and music and fireworks. (Fireworks of course are not a medieval specialty, but perhaps Cividale can be forgiven as it is perhaps the first place where gunpowder is recorded being used in battle in western Europe .)
A more solemn medieval festival is held every year on January 6th, Ephiphany, the Messa dello Spadone (Mass of the Sword), to commemorate the ceremony in which the Holy Roman Emperor recognised the Patriarch as feudal lord of Friuli.
The Pasticceria La Ducale, on the modern and not very lovely Piazza Pico Alberto no. 1, sells wonderful pastries.
On Cividale's main square, Piazza Paolo Diacono, the 'InformaGiovanni' office has computers available. It's open from 9.30am to noon and 3.30pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday. The office also has tourist information on Cividale and the surrounding area.