The distinctive and exclusive San Daniele production area lies in the municipality of San Daniele del Friuli, which is about 34 km2 in size and is located along the Tagliamento river.
The Tagliamento is an alpine river that is now the only river left in Europe that is almost completely wild, making it a precious ecosystem.
The middle Tagliamento valley, where San Daniele del Friuli is located, is a designated site in the Natura 2000 ecological network, which includes special conservation areas and special biodiversity protection zones.
The town stands on the slopes and at the base of a morainic hill whose summit is 252 meters above sea level, halfway between the Carnic Prealps and the Adriatic Sea.
The area’s topography and its morainic origins result in a special type of soil that is highly absorbent and thus acts to constantly drain moisture. This effect interacts with the breezes that blow along the Tagliamento riverbed, bringing warmth from the Adriatic Sea (35 kilometres away as the crow flies), and then gradually cooling as they meet cooler air coming down from the Alps, again along the course of the Tagliamento river. This creates a constant and unique microclimate limited to this geographical area, with ever-present gentle breezes and “controlled” humidity.
The area is particularly beautiful, with extensive broadleaf woods of oaks, locusts, ash, chestnut and hornbeams, grassy glades, and fields of corn and grains that provide the natural backdrop for a region full of waterways and lakes.
The hills and the moraine amphitheatre
A visit to the area around San Daniele, through the hills and along the Tagliamento River, is an exciting and unique experience. You can uncover art and nature, ancient castles and medieval paths, wonderful landscapes and unspoilt scenery. These routes can be tackled on foot or by bike.
Cornino Lake nature reserve
This reserve, which covers approximately 500 hectares (1235 acres), can be reached along striking paths that provide visitors with rugged, wild landscapes, leading to the crystalline water of Cornino Lake. The reserve protects various species of bird, including birds of prey like the griffon vulture. Group visits to the reserve can be organised.
Ragogna: The Lake and Mount Muris
An ancient footpath takes you from the historic centre of San Daniele towards Ragogna Lake, which is a treasure trove for flora and fauna, made up of reed groves, peat bogs and marshy meadows. There you can watch grey herons, mallards, moorhens and mute swans.
Fagagna: Oasi faunistica di Quadris (The Quadris wildlife haven)
This is an unusual landscape made up of around 30 lakes that together form a quadrangular shape, hence the name Quadris. It is the perfect habitat for the white stork, thanks to the wet environment and the structures built on the reserve. The northern bald ibis, a very rare ciconiiform, can also be seen on the reserve.
History and Culture
San Daniele del Friuli is not only the city of prosciutto, but also has a wealth of history and art. The elegant, well-preserved historic centre offers enticing walks through its historic and artistic treasures and its little lanes and squares, offering a trip back through time.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is the beating heart of modern San Daniele, a crossing point of streets and paths. The facade of the Duomo dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel towers over the square, accessed via a grand staircase that leads to the striking main entrance.
Duomo di San Michele Arcangelo (Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel)
Built in the 14th century on the site of a previous building, the Duomo was refurbished in the 18th century by the Venetian architect Domenico Rossi, and was later expanded. It contains many important works, including a baptismal font by Carlo da Carona (1510), the main altar by Francesco Fosconi (1735) and paintings by Pomponio Amalteo (1549) and Il Pordenone (1534).
Next to the Duomo stands an (incomplete) large, square 16th century bell tower, designed by one of Raphael’s disciples, Giovanni Ricamatore, known as Giovanni da Udine, “surveyor and architect… for all the works and buildings” of the city of Udine. The 1531 design is held in the Biblioteca Guarneriana.
Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate (Church of Saint Anthony the Abbot)
The first known reference to this church, dedicated to the patron saint of butchers and charcutiers, dates from 1308. The Venetian Gothic facade, dated 1470 and is known as the ‘Sistine of Friuli’ due to its wonderful renaissance-era cycle of paintings, completed between 1497 and 1522 by Pellegrino da San Daniele.
Piazza Cattaneo, known as Plazute dai Ebreos
Plazute dai Ebreos (Jewish Square) owes its name to the fact that from the 16th century it was a focal point for the Jewish community. Jewish people settled in San Daniele thanks to the protection offered by the Patriarchs, who granted them freedom to worship in the town. The square features an exquisite 16th century fountain, designed by Giovanni da Udine.
Designed in 1579 by Andrea Palladio and completed by Andrea Podaro, the Portonat, formerly the Porta Gemona (Gemona Gate) is one of the town’s symbolic landmarks. The gate was commissioned by Giovanni Grimani, the Patriarch of Aquileia, and was built between 1579 and 1582 on the ruins of a large tower destroyed in the 1511 earthquake.
Colle del Castello (Castle Hill)
From the town centre you can head up to the summit of Colle Massimo, the fortress of Roman and medieval San Daniele. Passing noble residences and gardens, you follow the ancient crenellated walls to the beautiful Villa Ticozzi De’ Concina, built on the castle ruins, which dominates the hill.
La Chiesa di santa Maria della Fratta (Church of Santa Maria della Fratta)
This church dates back to 1348, and is located next to the medieval town wall. The apse incorporates one of the town’s ancient towers. The gate on the 15th century facade is topped by a lunette with a bas-relief by Giorgio da Carona (1476). There is a fragment of 15th century fresco inside, featuring a falcon hunting scene.
Santuario di Madonna di Strada (Madonna di Strada Sanctuary)
Built following a miracle in the 17th century, this sanctuary contains an altarpiece depicting the Madonna, painted in 1506 by Pellegrino da San Daniele. It is one of Friuli’s most interesting baroque buildings. The facade was altered in 1901 following a design by Raimondo D’Aronco.
The Biblioteca Guarneriana (Guarneriana Library)
The Biblioteca Guarneriana, set in the 15th century Palazzo della Magnifica Comunità, is the oldest library in Friuli, and was one of the earliest public reading establishments in Italy. Founded in 1466 by the clergyman Guarnerio d’Artegna, it retains its ancient collection of codex manuscripts and incunabula, including the collection of the abbot Giusto Fontanini, which he donated to the San Daniele community in 1736.
The Museo del Territorio
This museum is set in the old hospital building, and contains valuable artworks and archaeological finds. Two 15th century wooden altars originally from the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate are on display, with a polyptych attributed to the Venetian artists Paolo di Amedeo and Michele Bono (known as Giambono) and an antependium by the Bavarian artist Leonardo Thanner.
Castles and villas: Arcano, Villalta, Moruzzo, Brazzacco, Colloredo and Susans
Beginning in San Daniele, the castle road winds for about 90 kilometres through various Friulian settlements. You can admire the ancient castles of Friuli, as well as medieval and renaissance-era ruins and secret stretches of trenches, tunnels and walkways from the First and Second World Wars as well as enjoying a fabulous panoramic view.