Tucked in the north-east corner of Italy, along the border of Austria and Slovenia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of five autonomous regions of Italy. It is composed of the historical-geographical region of Friuli and a small portion of the historical region of Venezia Giulia (known in English also as Julian March), each with its own distinct history, traditions and identity. Two thirds of the region is occupied by mountains and hills.
In the 6th century, the Alpine Slavs, ancestors of present-day Slovenes, settled the eastern areas of the region. They settled in the easternmost mountainous areas of Friuli, known as the Friulian Slavia, as well as the area around Gorizia. In the 12th and 13th century, they also moved closer to Trieste. Slovenia, including Trieste and Gorizia became part of the Austrian Empire, and were only reunited with Italy in 1954.
The Friulan language is spoken by approximately 60% of the population, especially in rural areas. In larger cities like Trieste, Udine and Gorizia, the Venetian language is more common.
After over one and a half century of Austrian rule, it comes as little surprise that Friulian cuisine should exhibit marked Central European and Slavic influences. Forget tomato-based dishes and think instead of goulash, sauerkraut, sausages, potatoes and turnips. You will even find typical dishes from the Balkans, like ćevapčići (a sort of kebab).
Friulian culinary specialties include jota (bean and barley soup with sauerkraut), musèt con la brovada (cotechino sausage served with turnips soured with pomace), orzotto (a dish similar to risotto, but made with pearl barley instead of rice), porcina (boiled pork and sausages served with sauerkraut and mustard), strucolo (sweet or savoury strudel), and gubana (strudel filled with minced apple, raisins, nuts, and grappa brandy).
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is renowned for its wines, particularly white ones, which rank among Italy's best. There are 11 Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and 3 Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG), the highest quality assurance label for Italian wines. The three DOCG are Colli Orientali del Friuli, Ramandolo, and Rosazzo, all located in the province of Udine. The region's most famous wine is probably Picolit, a sweet white wine of the Colli Orientali del Friuli, which gained a worldwide reputation in the royal courts of Europe in the 18th century. 60% of the region's wines are DOC(G), a percentage only surpassed by Trentino-South Tyrol, and contrasting sharply with the mere 2 or 3% in southern Italian regions (except Abruzzo and Sardinia, which have 17% and 15%).
The region is also famous for its prosciutto of San Daniele, prosciutto of Sauris, and Montasio cheese.