Isontino and Carso

This route takes you through the Isontino, the pleasant flatlands of Gorizia, with a short detour onto the bleak Carso plateau. The Isontino is the strip of territory that is crossed by the clear waters of the river Isonzo, from which it takes its name. It embraces much of the province of Gorizia. To the northwest, it is bounded by the rolling hills of the Collio, to the east by the first elevations of the Carso plateau, to the west by the river Judrio, which is also the border with the province of Udine, and it extends south to the Adriatic Sea at Grado and its lagoon.
The Isontino is a flatland area with a wealth of lovely countryside, remains from an ancient past and a matchless heritage of fine food and wines born of the meeting of different peoples and cultures over the centuries.
The characteristic alluvial soil and propitious site climates, which benefit from the nearby sea, form an ideal setting for viticulture, privileging white varieties in particular. The itinerary takes you through two of the province of Gorizia’s three DOC zones, Isonzo and Carso

Typical products
Sausages, spirits, vegetables and fruit: white asparagus, apples, peaches and the excellent fish of the Upper Adriatic.

Typical dishes
Barley and bean soups, spinach strudel, risottos with seasonal vegetables, grilled meat and rabbit. On the Carso: bleki pasta envelopes filled with vegetables, fillet steak alla carsolina (cooked with Terrano wine), jota (sauerkraut and bean soup) and cakes, including gibanica. At seaside locations: boreto alla graesana fish soup, sardines on onions cooked in vinegar, turbot in white wine and other traditional fish dishes.

Cycling itineraries

The Carso Isontino (36.2 km): Sagrado - Gradisca d'Isonzo - Gabria - Doberdò del Lago - San Michele del Carso - San Martino del Carso - Sagrado.
Collio (28 km): Capriva del Friuli - Castello di Spessa - Cormòns - Brazzano - San Rocco - Monte Quarin - Subida - Russiz superiore - Capriva del Friuli.
Collio (wine and cherry road) (36.4 km): Gorizia - Mossa - Capriva del Friuli - Cormòns - Giasbana - San Floriano del Collio - Oslavia - Piuma - Gorizia.

Itinerary: Gradisca d'Isonzo - Farra d'Isonzo - Mariano del Friuli - Medea - Romans d'Isonzo - Sagrado - Monfalcone - Ronchi dei Legionari - San Canzian d'Isonzo - Grado - Trieste

Gradisca d’Isonzo is a fortress town built by the Venetians in the late fifteenth century as a bulwark against the threat of invasion by the Turks. An architectural treasure, it is still partly surrounded by walls and its imposing towers, to whose design Leonardo da Vinci contributed. The perfectly restored town is best explored by strolling through the ancient streets lined with noble residences. A good starting point is the large garden in Piazza Unità, from where you can continue along the streets that lead to Via Battisti. Here, visitors will find elegant shops, small antique stores and good restaurants. Monuments and artistic sites to be visited at Gradisca include the eighteenth-century cathedral and the Cappella Torriani chapel (late seventeenth century) and Palazzo Torriani (1644-1705), now the town hall. Other attractions are the Luigi Spazzapan gallery of contemporary art and the civic museum, the Loggia dei Mercanti (seventeenth century), the former Venetian governor’s house, and the Casa dei Provveditori Veneti (fifteenth century), now home to the Enoteca Regionale La Serenissima, where visitors will find a selection of the region’s finest wines. There are interesting and very lovely façades to be admired at Palazzo Mistruzzi-Pace-Strassoldo-De Cornelli (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), Palazzo De Fin-Patuna (late eighteenth century), and the Monte di Pietà, or pawnbroker’s (seventeenth century). Also worth investigating are the ruins of the castle and the ring of walls, with the Porta Nuova gate (fifteenth century).

Festivals and fairs
Christmas in Fortress - December
Premio Noè wine festival - first week in June
Bird fair - August
Nereo Rocco Trophy - April Mittelchoccofestival chocolate fair - December

Farra is on the last spur of the Collio hills before they reach the flatlands. It is noted for its astronomical observatory, which is open to visiting star-gazers, and for its characteristic Borgo Grotta district, where there is a museum of rural culture (at Colmello di Grotta). Visit the church of Santa Maria Assunta (seventeenth century).

Borgo Conventi
Tenuta Villanova

This small flatlands village is home to several leading Isonzo DOC wineries. Places to visit include the parish church of San Gottardo (1759), the church of the Santissima Trinità (1550) and the parish church (1705) of the Corona district.

A small farming village lying at the foot of the hill from which it takes its name, Medea is dominated by the imposing, snow-white outline of the Ara Pacis (1951), a memorial to those who fell in all wars. Visit the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta (seventeenth century) and the chapel of Sant’Antonio Abate (seventeenth century).

Romans is a quiet farming village in the Isonzo DOC zone. Places to visit include the parish church (1699-1716), church of Santo Stefano (fifteenth century) at Fratta, and church of Madonna Laurentana (seventeenth century) at Borgo San Rocco. Also worth seeing is Villa del Torre (eighteenth century).

Festivals and fairs
Festival of Santa Elisabetta and turkey fair - November

A small village under the Carso plateau, Sagrado stands on the Isonzo and is noted for its houses, whose façades are decorated with large mural paintings. The wines from the local vineyards belong to the small Carso DOC zone area that falls within the province of Gorizia. Places to see at Sagrado include the church of San Nicolò (1711) and the Castello degli Alimanda, a nineteenth century building that is not open to the public. From Sagrado, it is a short trip to the bleak highlands of the Carso, the scene of bitter fighting during the First World War. It is possible to visit trenches, communication trenches, shelters and, at San Michele, a small historical museum. The Carso is popular not just for its excursions but also for its excellent trattorias where typical products and dishes, such as the exquisite air-cured Carso ham or goat’s milk cheeses, are to be found on the menu.


In the Slovenian language the name Savogna d'Isonzo (Sovodnje) means "confluence of waters": in fact, the town is located at the point where the Isonzo and Vipacco rivers meet. There are some interesting historical evidences, a Renaissance castle, some remains of the 16th century churches of Savogna and Gabria, the remnants of the Roman bridge on the Isonzo. Not much has survived the ravages of the First World War; and it is precisely the walkways, the trenches, the sacred areas, especially on the famous Mount San Michele, which is the reason of greatest attraction in the area.

Castello di Rubbia

Karst lake of Doberdò
Lake of Pietrarossa
Monte San Michele
Dyke on Isonzo and riverbed at Sagrado.

Festivals and fairs
“Funeral of Carnival” at Doberdò del Lago - Ash Wednesday

Monfalcone stands at the foot of the Carso plateau a short distance from the sea. Noted as the “shipyard town”, it was an important shipbuilding centre in the nineteenth century and still launches some of the world’s largest vessels, as well as oil platforms and the like. This busy modern town looks onto the gulf of Panzano and is overlooked by a prehistoric fortress. Places to visit include the mediaeval fortress, with a museum of speleology and palaeontology, the church of San Polo (fifteenth century), which houses the Carso palaeontology museum, the church of Marcellina (eighteenth century) and the church of San Nicolò (1660). Monfalcone has excellent hotels, restaurants, shops and boutiques in the centre, part of which is a pedestrian zone, and several leisure boating centres, such as the Centro Hannibal.

Festivals and fairs
Festival of Sant'Antonio with typical wines - June
Festa della Raza duck fair at Staranzano - first week in September
Carnival parade - Shrove Tuesday

Located under the Carso plateau and the site of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia regional airport, which handles both internal and international scheduled flights. Places to visit at Ronchi include the parish church of San Lorenzo (eighteenth century), the church of the Santissima Trinità (1762), and the church of Santo Stefano at Vermigliano (1558), but above all there is Redipuglia. Its white, tiered war memorial rises in imposing steps to cover an entire side of Monte Sei Busi, and holds the mortal remains of one hundred thousand of the fallen in the First World War. On the bleak, stony wastes of the Carso plateau, one of the longest, most terrible campaigns of the war was fought out. Drawn-out trench warfare cost both sides an immense sacrifice of human lives. Redipuglia, which has a small museum, is the ideal departure point for a tour of First World War sites. It is possible to visit trenches, communication trenches and defensive fortifications.

A small country village where visitors can see the parish church, Next to it is the Antiquarium Cantianense, with remains from the classical and early Christian periods. Other sights are the church of Santo Spirito (thirteenth century) and the chapel of San Proto (fifteenth century).

The Foce dell'Isonzo nature reserve
Isola Morosini
Bosco degli Alberoni woods

A major upper Adriatic seaside and spa resort. Founded by the Romans, Grado has a charming historic centre whose cobbled calli (alleys) and campielli (squares) make it a miniature Venice set in its own unspoiled lagoon. In the nineteenth century, Grado – which dates back to Roman times – was an island in the middle of the lagoon. It could only be reached by boat and the most assiduous visitors were the rich middle classes and nobles of the Hapsburg empire, who preferred Grado to Europe’s other thermal spa resorts.
Today, you can drive to the Isola d’Oro (the “golden island” that takes its name from its very fine sand), thanks to the long bridge that since 1936 has connected Grado to the mainland. The sandy beach has a full range of facilities and elegant lidos, the thermal spas are popular for ammotherapy (sand treatment), the modern pools and the wellness centre, as well as for the waters. The completely pedestrianised historic centre is rich in art and history. The sixth-century early Christian basilicas of Sant’Eufemia and Santa Maria delle Grazie boast magnificent mosaic floors while the baptistery dates from the mid fifth century. There are attractive shops, boutiques, restaurants and trattorias that offer the traditional dishes of the Grado kitchen, based naturally enough on fish. The lagoon of Grado, together with the adjoining and intercommunicating lagoon of Marano, is the most northerly in the entire Mediterranean basin. An unbroken expanse of sandbars and channels, dotted with the straw roofs of the characteristic fishermen’s casoni lodges, it is one of the few “living” lagoons in Europe, where thousand of migrating wild fowl find an ideal habitat and can be observed, above all in winter and spring. The lagoon is best visited by boat, either in the company of the local fishermen or on one of the pleasure boats that organise excursions during the summer. One of the lagoon’s attractions is the sanctuary on the island of Barbana (1810-1824), where a late fifteenth-century statue of the Virgin is venerated.

Festivals and fairs
Asparagus fair at Fossalon - April-May
Literary encounters on the beach - all through July
Sardelada sardine feast in honour of St. Ermacora e Fortunato - July
"Perdon di Barbana" festival - first Sunday in July
Firework display, sardine feast and fair - 15 August
Grado Giallo (Grado in yellow) - October

Lagoon of Grado
Isola della Cona nature reserve
Val Cavanata - Fossalon

The regional capital, Trieste, is set between the blue waters of its gulf and the white rocks of the Carso plateau. Founded by the Romans, it was also the main port of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, the city conserves its central European atmosphere. The many neoclassical or Art Nouveau buildings in the lovely city centre, which looks onto the sea from Piazza Unità, bear witness to Trieste’s history. The cultural heritage is rich and very much alive, offering a vast range of shows, exhibitions and concerts.
Trieste’s unique character also comes out in the city’s food and drink, and the places where it is consumed. The long-established cafés, and small eateries where misto caldaia hot fare can be enjoyed, are particularly attractive. Equally interesting are the osmizze on the nearby Carso plateau, which offer local food and wine.

(San Dorligo della Valle)