Portogruaro, worth seeing for the Lemene River and homes of the ancient nobles.
Originally a river port in the seventh century, Portogruaro, also known as the ‘little Venice on terra firma’, is an elegant city less than 30 kilometres from the Bibione beach, where you can spend a pleasant day strolling through the porticoes of the ancient Medieval and Renaissance palaces, go shopping in sophisticated downtown shops and, in the booths of the traditional centuries-old market, pause for lunch on the riverside or see the frescoes contained in the ancient churches.
The hub of the city is the Piazza della Repubblica, home of the important symbols of Portogruaro: the Pilacorte Well from 1494 with its bronze cranes, and the Town Hall.
The Gothic Town Hall is a perfect harmony of lines between the main body built in 1300 and the wings from 1500: its brick facade and battlements contain sixteenth-century frescoes and paintings by Futurist Luigi Russolo, born in Portogruaro in 1885. Behind the Town Hall, you can catch one of the most fascinating parts of Portogruaro: on the banks of the Lemene River, which once was the site of a fish market, see the Ancient Mills from the late twelfth century, now used as art galleries, and the Oratorio della Pescheria, a delightful little wooden chapel from the 1600s. Not far from there, a curious Romanesque leaning bell tower will catch your eye, which also seems to rest against the Saint Andrea Cathedral, the main church for the city, consecrated in 1833.
The neoclassical Cathedral, with Renaissance elements, contains various paintings, including a valuable copy of the original altarpiece by Cima da Conegliano called the Incredulity of Saint Thomas, dating from 1504, the original of which is kept at the National Gallery of London.
Next, after crossing one of the many bridges over the Lemene River, you will be spellbound by the magnificent sight of the ancient palaces reflected in its water: these are the stunning homes of the nobility dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, done in the Venetian Gothic style with the typical trefoil arches.
The facades of these buildings were once frescoed like precious jewels: if you observe the splendid cycle of frescoes in the Palazzo Marzotto dating from the sixteenth century, you will have only a vague idea of how Portogruaro looked in the early 1800s.
The warm, brick-toned faces of the Palazzo Dal Moro, the ancient Palazzo Venanzio building and the elegant Gothic style of the Palazzo Degani are some of the most beautiful sights the city has to offer.
In the Renaissance Villa Comunale, recognisable by its triple-arched portico resting on stone columns, you will find the library, and on the second storey you will see the Palaeontology Museum, where free admission allows you to see the display of fossil discoveries.
Also, be sure to visit the National Archaeology Museum, which is open every day: you can see finds from the Roman Era, mostly coming from the nearby Concordia Sagittaria, with a display of a wealth of coins, sculptures, inscriptions, objects from daily life, frescoes and mosaics.
Portogruaro should not only be seen, but should also be experienced through the many initiatives that the city promotes every year: there are many events planned, from the cultural conferences to the seasonal theatre to the International Music Festival or summer evenings with open shops. Portogruaro is also known for osterie (taverns) where you can taste local wines and edibles, elegant shops, colourful booths set up every Thursday in the streets of the city centre for the traditional market, and every second Saturday of the month for the antiques market.
Concordia Sagittaria, where you can walk among finds from the Roman Era and the Paleochristian Era.
Only 2 km from Portogruaro, you’ll find Concordia Sagittaria, an ancient Roman colony from the first century B.C.E., which owes its name to an arrow (sagittae) factory of the third century C.E. and of which numerous traces have been found.
The various excavations within the historic city have yielded several finds, both from the Roman Era and the Paleochristian Era, some of which are kept in the archaeological museums of Concordia and Portogruaro and some of which can be seen elsewhere in the city as the remains of a Roman road.
The Cathedral of Saint Stephen is of notable archaeological interest, since a Paleochristian complex was found at its base, including the Trichora from the middle of the fourth century C.E., a structure with three semi-circular apses erected to commemorate the martyrs of the Diocletian persecution.
The sarcophagus called the ‘Faustiniana’ is a splendid sight. Many Roman artefacts have come to light over the years: along Via San Pietro you can see the arch of the Roman bridge, the theatre and the Forum; around Via Claudia, you can see the Roman baths and a long stretch of the wall that bordered the city.
The most prominent buildings are:
- The Cathedral from the tenth century: inside you’ll find paintings from the eighth century and a wonderful Greek marble holy water basin from the first century C.E.;
- The bell tower of 1150, in Romanesque style, next to the Cathedral, 28 metres high;
- The Baptistry from the late eleventh century, in Byzantine style in a Greek cross plan, with a frescoed cupola and the remains of a Renaissance baptismal font;
- The Palazzo Municipaleof 1523, in Renaissance style, located on the banks of the Lemene River and faithfully restored after a fire;
- The Bishop’s Palaceof 1450, in Venetian style, now used as a rectory, next to which stands a small building with ancient archaeological finds set into its walls.
We recommend you visit Concordia at the end of July during the Festival of Saint Stephen: the festive atmosphere will make everything even more exciting.