At only 10 km from Grado there is a significant archaeological site.

Thanks to its role in antiquity and the richness of its archaeological evidence, Aquileia is certainly one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe. Only 10 km away from the island of Grado, Aquileia can be easily reached by car, by bicycle thanks to the Alpe Adria cycle route or by the Archeobus (once a week on Friday from July to September).

Founded in 181 B.C. to defend its borders and attempt expansion towards the Danube, Aquileia soon became one of the largest, richest and most important cities of the Roman Empire, thanks also to the prosperous trade that arrived and departed here by means of a functional and capillary road network and river port. Today's archaeological area, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, is of exceptional importance and allows us to admire the remains of the Roman forum, the burial ground, mosaic floors and house foundations, statues, markets, walls, the river port and the Via Sacra, a large mausoleum and much more.

Having reached its peak between the 1st and 4th centuries, with a stable population of around 50,000 inhabitants, it suffered an economic and social collapse due to the Attic destruction in the mid-5th century A.D., which lasted until the Middle Ages. Aquileia nevertheless remained an important political and cultural centre even during the Hungarian invasions (10th century AD), despite the fact that it represented a complex area of the Empire due to the meeting of Latin, Germanic and Slavic civilisations.

The spread of Christianity in Aquileia, which a legendary tradition even dates back to the evangelist Mark, is most evident in the construction of the first basilica complex after 313 AD by Bishop Theodore. From the 6th century, the prelates qualified as patriarchs with supremacy over other bishoprics and from 1077 they were granted temporal power over Friuli with ducal prerogatives by the Germanic Emperor. The temporal power of the patriarchs of Aquileia continued until the Venetian conquest of Friuli in 1420. Several churches were built for such a prestigious ecclesiastical seat. The patriarchate was suppressed in 1751.

The current archaeological area, which has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1998, is of exceptional importance and allows you to admire the remains of the Roman forum and the necropolis, mosaic floors and foundations of houses, statues, markets and walls, the river port and the Via Sacra, with the mighty blocks of the docks, a large mausoleum and much more. Other attractions are the Fondo Cal, the Fondo Pasqualis Markets, the Domus and Bishop's Palace, the Domus of Tito Macro and the Südhalle.


8 extraordinary stages to discover Aquileia and beyond:


1. The splendid Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, whose original structure dates back to the years immediately after 313 AD, was founded by Bishop Theodore. Over the centuries, especially during the patriarchal era, it underwent several transformations, but still preserves in its foundations the Theodorian halls, considered the first area of worship for Christians. The basilica still retains, albeit with alterations, the architectural lines of the rebuilding carried out in 1031 by Patriarch Popone, who also had the mighty bell tower built. Next to the Basilica are the so-called Church of the Pagans and the Baptistery. Inside the Basilica, one can admire the famous early Christian mosaics (4th century) that constitute a milestone in the history of late Roman art. The mosaic carpet, with different decorative motifs, covers almost the entire floor (about 750 square metres). Also of great importance are the 12th century frescoes in the crypt and the 11th century frescoes in the apse vault.


2. The majestic Bell Tower of the Basilica, built in the mid-11th century from a height of 73 metres, not only creates a solemn backdrop, but also offers breathtaking views.


3. The Roman Forum, the political and administrative centre of imperial Aquileia, built in the 2nd-3rd century AD: it was the most important place in the city with a square, civil basilica, shops, long porticoes covered with marble and statues, much of which is still visible today. The forum is particularly impressive at night, when the entire route is illuminated.


4. The Via sacra and the river port: a green avenue, lined with cypress trees, accompanies visitors through Aquileia's main Roman remains and sites. It starts at the back of the Basilica on the square and reaches the river port on the Natissa River. The ancient river port of Aquileia dates back to the 1st century: the Natissa River, now little more than a rivulet, was 48 metres wide and was bordered by two rows of quays 350 metres long on either side. One side of the quays is still visible, the other is buried. A walk along the ancient river port gives an insight into the genius of the Romans: they provided two types of stone quays, depending on the size of the ships arriving here, and two types of moorings - one vertical and one horizontal - to be used alternately depending on the tide.


5. The National Archaeological Museum of Villa Cassis, whether it is sunny or rainy, is definitely worth a visit. Considered to be one of the greatest archaeological museums in northern Italy, it houses a rich array of incredibly beautiful exhibits that testify to the ancient grandeur of the Roman city and allow us to reconstruct the daily life of its inhabitants: statues, mosaics, coins, terracotta, engraved gems, urns, bronzes, boats, the lapidary and one of the richest and most precious collections of Roman glass in the world.

6. Also worth a visit is the Early Christian Museum, in the Monastery, created with the dual purpose of highlighting the mosaics and other archaeological artefacts discovered in the Basilica and to collect and arrange the early Christian material in which the city is rich. It holds the largest collection of 'tituli' in Greek and Latin, over 130 inscriptions, and other early medieval finds. From the top of two large terraces, it is possible to admire the rich mosaic floor.


7. The Alpe Adria Cycle Route connects Salzburg, in Austria, with Grado, through a series of cycle paths that link the most beautiful places in Austria and Friuli Venezia Giulia. The stretch that passes through Aquileia starts in Udine and leads to Grado, through countryside, vineyards, canals, Roman ruins and the picturesque lagoon landscape. For those departing from Aquileia or arriving there, the cycle route also includes equipped rest areas and services.


8. Aquileia, located on the edge of the province of Udine, between the Grado and Marano lagoons and the lowland of Friuli, has always been a crossroads of peoples, cultures, histories and even flavours. It offers a local cuisine, with sea and land dishes, that is absolutely extraordinary. The best way to appreciate the local food and wine delights is to stop at an agritourism or one of the small trattorias with kiosks and wooden benches on the main road. This is also an ideal opportunity to taste the area's DOC wines: don't miss the "Refosco dal peduncolo rosso", in one of the wineries that are part of the Aquileia Wine Road.


Just a stone's throw from Grado, it is therefore possible to immerse oneself in the vast sea of Roman and early Christian art of Aquileia, be fascinated by its ancient grandeur and, on the wings of an eagle, fly through history.





Address Via Giulia Augusta, 33051 Aquileia UD
Telephone 0431 917619