This year I decided to spend the summer holidays in my Friuli, with the intention of revisiting the places I had visited many years ago, but this time in a superficial way. So, at the top of my to-do list was to go back for a walk through the famous Collio vineyards. Following the path of the Vigne Alte. I will talk about in this article.
The Collio (Cuei in friulano and Brda in Sloveno) is a crescent of rolling hills that covers the northern most part of the province of Gorizia to the Slovenian border. It extends between the river Isonzo and its right tributary, the river Iudrio. It lies between the Friulian plain to the south and the Julian Pre-alps to the north. The largest municipalities in the area are Spessa, Capriva, Oslavia, San Floriano and Cormons. One of the largest wine cities in Italy. Collio enjoys a mild climate with hot but not suffocating summers and winters often rainy but not too cold. The grapes, undisputed symbol of this crescent, grow luxuriant and is kept dry thanks to the warm currents of the Adriatic Sea and the mountains to the north that protect the region from the cold winds. These climatic conditions perfectly match the soil of Collio, called Ponca by the Friulians. Consisting of elements such as marl and stratified sandstone that facilitate the accumulation of pigments, sugars and aromatic substances in the grapes. Thanks to this winning mix, the wines produced have an excellent quality to say the least. They are recognized as one of the business cards of Made in Italy.
the signs along the path of the vineyards
the geometries of the Collio vineyards
the vineyards of Collio
THE TRAIL OF VIGNE ALTE
Not far from the aforementioned Cormons, there is a three km (one way) walk that I wanted to explore which I crossed this summer for the first time, the path of the Alte Vineyards. It is a dirt track that can be done on foot, on horseback or by mountain bike. The lack of technical or physical difficulties makes it a path suitable for everyone and passable in all seasons. Its starting point is the entrance to the Castle of Spessa, on which it is worth mentioning a few words.
THE CASTLE OF SPESSA
The first trace of the existence of this building dates back to the Roman times. It is believed during that period, in the area around the current Capriva del Friuli, a watchtower and a furnace were built. Later, a villa, as evidenced by the discovery of some ornamental objects. Instead, the construction of the current manor seems to date back to the thirteenth century, by the will of the Ungrispach family. The medieval era of Spessa was distinguished by the alternating events that involved the Patriarchate of Aquileia and the Counts of Gorizia for the control of the territory. Until 1420, when the area came under the control of Venice and from 1528, the Habsburgs. The seventeenth century was an unstable century, as the area was a constant theatre of wars and disputes. While the eighteenth century saw the resurgence of social, cultural and economic activities thanks mainly to the impetus desired by Charles VI of Habsburg from 1719.
GIACOMO CASANOVA AT THE CASTLE OF SPESSA
During this new “Golden Age”, the castle saw within its walls the presence of some notable characters including Giacomo Casanova. The Venetian Knight, in 1772 was in Trieste waiting for the Inquisitors to grant him permission to return to Venice. So during a theatrical performance he met the Gorizia count Luigi Torriano who invited him to spend the autumn of 1773 in his country house, the castle of Spessa. Once there, not to deny his fame as a great amateur, Casanova met Sgualda, a widow in the service of the count who soon became his mistress and their meetings took place at night, in secret. Then, one day, the Torriano, also in love with the widow without being paid, surprised her at the end of the umpteenth night of passion and began to beat her. Casanova, hearing the screams, ran to the aid of the woman managing to free her from the clutches of the Count, with whom he fought and managed to prevail. After this episode Giacomo was forced to leave the manor of Spessa, which from the nineteenth century saw the succession of different noble families and as many restorations. The last of which has transformed it into an elegant Wine and Resort surrounded by a magnificent garden surrounded by the vineyards of the estate. There are memories of Giacomo Casanova at the entrance with his statue while in the park there is a literary walk where there are phrases and episodes of life at the castle written by the Knight.
the castle of Spessa and the statue of Giacomo Casanova
the castle of Spessa
WALKING ALONG THE PATH OF THE VIGNE ALTE
Once you leave the castle, the path is easily recognizable by signs in the shape of roe deer. The first part of the route is slightly uphill and then climbs in a more accentuated way up to the vineyards. Until you reach one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the heart of the Collio, called “Gran Cru”. Along the path there are several variants that lead to interesting destinations such as the Preval plain or the vineyards of Pradis and the church in La Subida. My walking companions and I have continued towards this last destination, which generally represents the end stage of this small path. From the “Gran Cru”our steps crossed a forest, a source of shade and great relief if there is a day of sun like the one we found. In different places the forest, every now and then, opens to beautiful views of the vineyards and in the space between two abandoned houses, there is also a table and wooden benches where you can stop.
LOCATION OF SUBIDA AND RE-ENTRY
From here, a steep descent leads to a country resort in La Subida, surrounded by greenery between the vineyards and the forest. Originally, this place was a modest peasant tavern that in the 80s was qualified and then enhanced by Loredana and Josko Sirk. When Collio was becoming an internationally recognized place for the goodness of its wines and for the genuine rusticity of its taverns. For the return journey you can choose whether to return to the castle through the same way or if to continue towards Russiz Inferiore on a flat asphalt road for about 3km. Along the vineyards and the best estates in the area including Villa Russiz. My friends and I couldn’t not come back without drinking a good glass of wine first. After a short search, finally, we found a lovely agriturismo called “Orzan”, where we tasted an excellent Collio wine before returning to the castle of Spessa where we had parked the car.
the Gran Cru viewpoint along the Vigne Alte path
panorama along the Vigne Alte path
START/END: Castello di Spessa/località la Subida
HOW TO REACH: the path of the high vineyards is located in the province of Gorizia. There
just follow the signs for Capriva del Friuli and Castello di Spessa.
DISTANCE: 3 KM (one way)
TIME: depends on your pace and preparation. The average is about 45/60 minutes.
DIFFICULTY’: easy to
- If you leave from Spessa just after the castle there is a large free parking where you can leave your car.
- The path is well indicated by deer-shaped signs
- comfortable clothing and shoes
- water door.
WHERE TO EAT
The Agriturismo Orzan offers delicious dishes from genuine foods with abundant portions but you can also simply taste a fine glass of wine. The staff is friendly, attentive and very courteous
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