Aquileia: an old Roman capital, Italy

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Do you want to see what remains of an old Roman capital? After the Maastricht series, let's go back to the Ita-Slovenian road trip. The first stop was Aquileia, that was a powerful capital of the 10th Roman region called "Venetia et Histria". If you love the archaeological sites, this is definitely a place you should visit.

Diaries of an explorer

Because of its heritage, Aquileia was added to the Unesco sites list for the following reason: "most of ancient Aquileia, one of the largest and most wealthy cities of the early Roman Empire, survives intact and unexcavated and it is the most complete example of an early Roman city in the Mediterranean world. The Patriarchal Basilican Complex in Aquileia played a decisive role in the spread of Christianity into central Europe in the early Middle Ages" ( from the Unesco World Heritage website).

Because of its strategic position, it was founded as a military colony: it became important and wealthy because of the commerce and large river port (glasses and gems were mostly traded). This made Aquileia one of the Empire metropolis and the capital of the 10th region "Venetia and Histria".

Let's start now our tour of this beautiful town: now it's a small village, but it's still one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy and Europe.

I parked the car not far from the Basilica: I paid something like 3 Euros for 3 hours, but you can also park your car close to the access of the port, which is free. 

1) The first monument you can see is the Great Mausoleum, found at few kilometers from the city and moved to the current location. Roman laws stated that the graves had to be outside ot the city walls.
Diaries of an explorer

2) If you walk along Via Augusta, you will find the impressive Roman Forum, the main Roman square divided by the street ( Via Augusta), built during the second century a.D.. The western side has some colums ( or what remains) that sustained some archades that surrounded the entire square.
Diaries of an explorer
You can see also the columns in the eastern and more beautiful side of the Roman Forum.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
In the eastern side, there were probably the basilica and a building where business deals were met.

3) If you walk along the northern street ( Via Sacra) that bounds the eastern Roman Forum, you can easily find the main gate to the impressive River Port. It was probably built in the second century BC and its presence was one of the main factors that contributed to the growth of Aquileia.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
On the southern part, you can see the ruins of the old warehouses.
Diaries of an explorerDiaries of an explorer

4)  The Fondo Cossar displays the ruins and pavements of Roman villas, probably owned by rich merchants of the port. You can also see some of the famous Aquileia mosaics, that remind also the Ravenna ones.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

5)  Finally I got to the most important monument and building of Aquileia: the Basilica, built in AD 313 by Bishop Teodoro, with  also a tower bell completed in 1031 by Patriarch Poppo. Unfortunately I could not climb the tower bell: so it's better you check the opening times ( I think it is open until 12 o' clock). You can see also a she-wolf, that, according to the legend, feeded the two brothers Romolo and Remo, that founded the city of Rome.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

Now it's time to enter to the basilica and enjoy the fabolous Aquileia mosaics.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
The large floor mosaic is fourth century and it is the largest of all the Western Christian world. The mosaics represent symbolical biblical subjects, the four seasons, the portrait of donors and benefactors, the Victoria, the biblical story of Jonah (who lived in a whale) and the good shepherd.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer













Besides the mosaics, the Basilica is stunning also on its other parts, such as the altar.
Diaries of an explorer

Close to the altar, there's possibility to access to the crytps. The first one, the crypt of excavations display the ruins of four buildings, the mosaics and the foundations of the tower bell.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

The second and maybe the most stunning is the crypt of frescoes, built during the 9th Century, that preserves the relics of the Holy Martyrs of this basilica.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

6) The Baptistery ( or Sud Halle) is in front of the Basilica's entrance and has an hexagonal form. Inside you can see another nice mosaics, graves and the famous peacock mosaic.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

7) The Fondo Pasqualis shows the ruins of a residential area and of the ancient Aquileia walls.
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
8) The last fondo, called Fondo Cal, shows another impressive residential complex and the baths. 
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer
Diaries of an explorer

Travel tips:  
  • If you love the archaelogical sites, Aquileia is one of the off the beaten path places to visit, but also it's interesting if you love going off the beaten tracks.
  • To complete this itinerary you need around 4 hours (the tower bell and the archaeological museum included).
  • You can buy a combo ticket for 9 euros and get full access to the crytp (3 Euros), baptistery (2 Euros), the tower bell (2 Euros) and the archaeological museum ( 2 or 3 Euros).
  •  You can also visit the Roman cemetery, not far from the archaeological sites.
  • It is better to reach Aquileia by car, or you can stop by the railway station of Cervignano, Aquileia, Grado. Grado is also a well-know seaside place in this region. 
Where to sleep:
  • Budget accomodation:  the Hotel Patriarchi is located at just 200 meters from the Basilica, continental breakfast included, prices around 88 Euros per double room per night.
  • Mid-range budget: Casa Delneri, a bed and breakfast located in Aquileia, breakfast included, prices around 115 Euros per night per room.
  • Luxury accomodation:  you can go to the seaside place Grado, at 9,7 km far from Aquileia, and stay at the Boutique Hotel Le Oche Selvatiche, with swimming pool and offers also vegetarian/vegan/glutenfree meals. Prices around 210 Euros per double room per night, breakfast included.

This is that off the beaten path Italy you should absolutely visit! :-)
After the visit to Aquileia, the next stop of the Ita-Slovenian road trip is the city of Idrija, in Slovenia, also part of the Unesco sites.

4 commenti:

Cocoa and Lavender said...

What an amazing archaeological site! I had never heard of it until your post - thank you! I love seeing all the architectural influences in the ruins. ~ David

Marco Zannin said...

Yeah it was really impressive. Clearly this city was destroyed by Attila and does not display the same ruins as Pompei. However, it's a nice place to visit and it takes not more than 4-5 hours to do it ( it is not far from Trieste and Udine).

Chemical Market Intelligence said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, It is awesome.

Marco Zannin said...

Thanks a lot for your comment! :-)

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