Business recently took me to Udine. Embarrassingly, I never ever had heard about this place. It turned out to be located in the very north of Italy, rather close to the borders of both Slovenia and Austria. It has some 100.000 inhabitants, and given this and its comparative obscurity, a surprising number of attractive historical buildings. [Plus rather delicious food and wine: they have cevapcici, plus, apparently, according to them, the real Tokay.] Amongst these, the 15th century castle (rebuilt in Renaissance style after a destructive earthquake) probably ranks first (though there are a number of fine Venetia-inspired palaces there as well as a Venetia-inspired clock tower).

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Udine_Italy_2 Udine was seat of one of the earliest European parliaments, dating back to the 12 century. This parliament represented the municipality as well as the nobility and the clergy and was only abolished in 1805 by Napoleon (on whom I am particularly ill to speak due to my recent reading of the Hornblower series). With the defeat of Aquileia in 1445, the Patria del Friuli came under Venetian dominion and was ruled by a General Proveditor or a “Luogotenente”.

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The old Udinese castle was destroyed in the early 16th century and rebuilt by the Venetians, still making the parliamentary chamber one of the earliest of its kind in Europe. The frescos, being done by some more or less well-known Renaissance artists, give quite a clear message: be friends with Venice, and you’ll be fine, be at enmity with it, and you are dead. From right to left, the frescoes show the Venetian ships setting sail to defeat the Turks, the Venetians conquering Aquileia, Venus between Plenty and Udine, interspersed with a panel of Marcus Curtius and Cato slitting his throat, and a LOT of allegorical paintings of Piety, Peace, Plenty, Justice, Venice and Udine, plus a bottom frieze of Christian soldiers fighting against Muslims. ‘

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