Once leaving Venice on our Great Northern Italy Adventure™, my best friends Paolo, Joseph, and Alessandra headed back to Udine, Italy, Alessandra’s hometown. We grabbed the last train from Venice’s St. Lucia Station, which would have us in Udine by around 1am. As was par for this trip, we would be spending more quality time together on a train.
Allie’s sister Ilaria was waiting for us when we arrived, right on the platform. Joseph and I introduced ourselves, then we all piled into her car to head in for the night. But first, we would make a quick pit stop at Allie’s mom’s home, whom we had met last summer when she came to visit Allie and New York City for a week.
BTW, check out our Italy travel guide!
When Joseph and I walked through her front door into the apartment, it felt immediately like home. Mama came and greeted each of us with kisses and hugs, and there were snacks and lots of prosecco to be had. We talked, Allie translated, and we ended up finishing three bottles of the prosecco before saying goodnight and driving the short distance to Ilaria’s where we would spend the night.
Paolo was a bit under the weather, so he went straight to bed, but the rest of us stayed up until 4 am, eating, drinking and chatting. Though I wasn’t quite tired even then, I willed myself to get some good sleep, because we were to have a long and eventful day the following morning.
On December 29th, we woke up at 8 am, already late. Two of our mutual friends, Julia and Rocio, whom we had met and hung out with during our summer all together in New York, were coming to spend the day with us in Udine. It would be the reunion that added the cherry on top. Rocio from Mexico by way of Netherlands, and Julia of Austria, had decided to each come to Udine this day to have a reunion, and it felt so special to me, because they were coming basically because Joseph and I were there.
So, we woke up at 8 am, the time we had told the two girls that we would meet them in the center of town; this is the story of my life. After rushing to get ready and out the door, we took off to go meet them at Piazza Libertà. It was a heartwarming reunion, as the others had been on this trip, and it felt as though not much time had passed since we last met, which was back in July; it was immediately comfortable and familiar. We had a late lunch planned at Mama’s for the early afternoon, so the six of us began touring around town for a while until then.
First stop was a light breakfast at the Panificio Pasticceria Alessandra, located at the Piazza 20 Settembre (20th of September Plaza).
The city is fairly small, about 120,000 inhabitants, but it was quite lively that Saturday afternoon. So many people were strolling around, that the city felt larger and more vibrant than it may actually be normally. The next stop was the Piazzale del Castello (Castle Sq.), where the Castello di Udine sits on a large hill, offering a nice view of the city, once you make your way up the steep path and stone steps that lead up there.
Upon our descent, the 6 of us toured a bit around the city. Italian city and town life revolves around its numerous squares, where markets and restaurants abound; Udine seemed no different. The Piazza Primo Maggio was beautiful, as it is a large, circular plaza with grass on the inside.
Then it was back to Piazza Libertà, the oldest square in Udine. There are quite a few old, stone buildings, and the fontana del Carrara (fountain of Carrara) stands near one of them. At yet another piazza, there was a large market set up, and it seemed like all of northern Italy was there to buy the goods. Then is was Piazza Matteotti, another large square with some elegant dining options on all four sides.
By this time, it was an hour or so before lunch, which gave us enough time to stop for wine at Tagliato col Coltello (which means “cut with knife”) and see a bit more of the city, especially La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata, the Duomo di Udine (Cathedral of Udine). It was just a few days after Christmas, so the Christmas tree was still prominently displayed in front of the Cathedral. On one side of il Duomo is a large bell tower.
Now, it was time for lunch!
Lunch was an extravagant affair. Mama had been cooking all day with her mother, Allie’s grandmother.
Lunch turned out to be a grand affair with what felt like 52 courses. Her mother and grandmother had gone all out, and I was stuffed before I reached the fourth course; I didn’t pace myself well. We had a lasagne, called pasticcio, rotolini di pane da tramezzini farciti (rolls of bread filled with various stuffings), frico (fried cheese crisp), tortini di patate, speck e funghi al forno (quiche-like dish with potatoes and meat), and many other delicacies.
Everything was washed down with prosecco, and then we all felt stuffed to the gills (read: miserable). We thought of heading back out, but all we wanted to do was to take a nap. Nobody could move, but it had been worth it; that meal was amazing. We ended up talking and nodding off, a food coma comes closest to describing the general attitude after that meal.
Finally, about two hours later, we could move again. Soon, Rocio and Julia would have to leave and catch their bus back to Austria, so we decided that we shouldn’t waste any more time sitting idly by.
Heading back out, we did a bit more sightseeing before settling down at a wine bar, La Cantinetta del Borgo, once again for the few hours before the bus was scheduled to depart. We ordered pitcher after pitcher of their wine, and we talked and laughed. We also decided to make a video for a few friends back home in New York City who couldn’t make it, like a video postcard from the 6 of us.
In what felt like minutes after we arrived and started drinking, it was time for Rocio and Julia to leave. We walked out and accompanied them to the Stazione di Udine at the center of town. The Stazione di Udine, or the Station of Udine, is a rail station, but right outside in the square are where all the long-distance buses pick up, as well.
We said our goodbyes, knowing that we would see those two girls again somewhere down the road. There’s something about meeting that second time, especially with Couchsurfing, that cements a relationship; I feel that these two will definitely be friends of mine for life.
That night, Allie’s friends wanted to meet these two Americans of hers, Joseph and I. We were introduced to one after the other, and the group snowballed, getting larger and larger until we were this large, obnoxious group of about 12 of us.
We ate some more (though we probably had enough calories from Mama’s meal to see us through to our next trip to Italy) and some barhopping was done, and it felt great to hang out with real locals, something I always aim to do on every trip I take, but sometimes doesn’t happen.
I was wasted by the end of the night. All of a sudden, it was almost 4am, and so we all headed back home to sleep. The next day would see us take a road trip to Trieste, a seaside town on the Adriatic Sea which is minutes from Slovenia. I would also have to leave that next evening, to catch my plane home to NYC by way of Berlin; my best trip was soon coming to a close.