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Travel: Discovering Friuli-Venezia Giulia: introduction

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- (This feature is part of the "Discovering Friuli-Venezia Giulia" series. These stories highlight the history and culture of the region surrounding Aviano Air Base.)

It's something we all do; we'll often travel miles and miles (kilometers and kilometers if you're in Italy) to visit cities, take pictures at historical sites or to explore nature. But, we often ignore what's just around the corner or sometimes just a bike ride away from where we live.

Do you really think you need to travel to Rome to see ancient Roman ruins? Or that you need to fly to Egypt to see the mummies? Would you believe that here in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region you can find smiths still forging swords and weapons seized by knights over a millennium ago? Or that you can still see the mark of Attila's passage? For all you know, you might be living next to the place where Napoleon slept. And, what would you do if I told you that the largest touristic cave in the world is located right here? Hopefully you'd be amazed, just like I was discovering all these things about my region.

After some information gathering on Friuli-Venezia Giulia, I found out so many things I didn't even know after living here all of my life. Turbulent history, spectacular nature, unique arts and crafts, culinary traditions...we have it all. A famous Italian writer, Ippolito Nievo, when referring to our extremely varied nature and territory, defined Friuli-Venezia Giulia as a "little compendium of the whole universe". As we'll see, this is true also for our history, people and culture. And, as long as you're here you'll be part of all this too.

Together, as part of a series of articles, we'll set out on a exploration of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Like I said, it will be a gradual discovery for me too, there might even be things you know that I ignore -and that I'll be more than happy to hear from you if you'd like to share.

My purpose here is not to write a complete essay or guide to Friuli Venezia Giulia, but to make you curious, make you feel like you want to research and discover more about my region, but more importantly your region now that you're here.

We'll start the series with a general geographical and naturalistic tour to familiarize you with the territory delimited by the borderline with Veneto, Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea.

Then, we'll travel back in time to reconstruct the history of these places starting from the imprint of a dinosaur still observable today. We'll taste typical local wine and food, while watching craftsmen making their art.

Finally we'll zoom in and focus into the Aviano area and the towns you inhabit. Chances are that you'll end up discovering there's something worth seeing right out your door.

This journey begins today with a tour of the region and will continue next week in future editions of the Compass. Ladies and gentlemen BENVIGNŬTS IN FRIŬL! (welcome to Friuli!)