You will find Aquileia on the road that leads to the sea.
The road to Grado, the ancient Via Giulia Augusta that carries the scent of the sea even from a distance.
It is in a place where, during pre-history, amber was traded from the North and exchanged for items that came off ships from across the Mediterranean Sea and from port stops in the near East.
There the Romans founded a colony under Latin law in 181 B.C. From the beginning of the Roman Empire, the city took on great strategic, economic and cultural importance for a vast area – the Venetia et Histria– and for centuries it remained the main reference for the area. It was at its height under the reign of Caesar Augustus: with a stable population of more than 200,000 inhabitants, it became one of the largest and richest cities in the entire Empire. Famous for its port and its wall, it became a rearward fortress with strategic functions among the fortifications along the Alps, blocking eastern access to the barbarians from the Trans-Danube areas.
As of the third century, Aquileia was also a bishopric.
Starting in the sixth century, the bishops were qualified as patriarchs with supremacy over the other bishop rics, and in 1077 they clashed with the German Emperor over Friuli and its ducal prerogatives. The temporal power of the patriarchs of Aquileia continued until the Venetian conquest of Friuli in 1420.
The current archaeological area, considered by UNESCO to be a Heritage of Humanity site, is of exceptional importance and allows the visitor to see the remains of the Roman Forum and a basilica, a burial ground, mosaic floors and house foundations, statues, the Via Sacra, the markets, the wall, the river port with its massive berthing docks and a lot more.
The splendid Basilica di S. Maria Assunta, built over a fourth century edifice, still has the architectural lines of the reconstruction done in 1031 by the Patriarch Popone, who also built the huge, 73-metre-tall bell tower.
The so-called Santo Sepolcro (Holy Sepulchre), built in the twelfth century in imitation of the one in Jerusalem, is also of interest. To learn the history of Christian Aquileia in the early centuries, there is also the Cripta degli scavi (Crypt) with beautiful mosaics from the church that Bishop Theodore had built in the fourth century over the structure of an ancient Roman villa.
A few steps from Grado you can, therefore, immerse yourself in the vast sea of Roman and paleo -Christian art of Aquileia, let yourself be enchanted by its ancient glory and, on the wings of an eagle, fly through history.