Hidden Mosaics in Italy – Aquileia


Hidden Mosaics in Italy

I have written this many times, Italy is my favorite place to visit and every time I do, I discover a new place!

The other summer, I visited the lovely city of Trieste which sits on the Adriatic Sea at the top of Italy. To read more about what to see in Trieste, click here for part one of the three-part travel series.

On the way to Trieste, I stopped at Aquileia, a small area that has an abundance of Roman ruins and a basilica with a recently revealed mosaic floor!


What is the Story?

The Basilica of Aquileia sits in the center of this ancient Roman city which once held a population of one-hundred-thousand and was one of the largest cities in the 2nd century! Now you see Roman ruins that evoke that once grandiose city with remnants of streets, houses, walls, an amphitheater and more. The town and Patriarch is a UNESCO site and listed as one of the “greatest archaeological reserve[s] of its kind.”

The Basilica of Aquileia is the jewel of this city. The site of the church dates back to 313 AD while the current structure is a Romanesque-Gothic style, the real treasure is the floor! The entire floor of the Basilica is a 4th century mosaic, one of the largest Paleo-Christian mosaics in the western world!

The mosaic was covered for years and only recently discovered and unearthed between 1909 and 1912. The scenes on the floor are rich in color and charming in their depictions of man and animal. You will see a fishing scene, portraits of benefactors of the basilica, biblical stories and more. There is also a crypt, entered from the side of the main entrance, that surrounds the bell tower. The crypt has three levels of mosaics from the 1st, 3rd, and 4th centuries!

For archeology enthusiasts, those interested in Roman ruins and art history lovers, this is an ideal site. The range of history and art represented in the church covers one-thousand years! Don’t miss it on your next trip to Italy!


Where is Aquileia & How to Get There

Aquileia is a main archeological site in Northern Italy, about 10 kilmoeters from the Adriatic. The town does not have a train station, so it is best reached by car. From Trieste it is about 40-45 minutes by car. The closest train station is in the town of Cervignano which is 35 minutes from Trieste or 1.5 hours from Venice. From Cervignano you could reach Aquileia by car, taxi or bus.


To see more photos, click here for my travel photography of Trieste and Aquileia.

Read about what to see and do in Trieste, Italy (which is less than an hour from Aquileia) by clicking here for part one of my travel blog on Trieste.

To read more about the official UNESCO site, click here.




What to see in Trento, Italy – part one


What to see in Trento, Italy – part one

Trento is located in the Tyrol Valley which is located above Verona. The valley is dotted with castles, apple orchards and vineyards. There is a lot to see in this valley, some of which I covered in previous blog posts, see below and click to read more:

Castles and Birds of Prey in Italy – highlighting the Gufyland Bird Sanctuary

See Otzi the Iceman

Castles to See Near Bolzano, Italy

And now this blog post brings us a little south of Bolzano to the lovely small city of Trento. Trento has a small historical center, in some areas you can still see the city wall, with a gorgeous plaza, grand cathedral and a most impressive castle!


Piazza Duomo is an atypical shape, surrounded by colorful buildings including the 16th century Casa Rella which displays faded frescoes on the façade. In the center of the piazza is the Fountain of Neptune, with a dazzling mountain of statues. The Cathedral behind the fountain stretches out to dominate the scene. The Cathedral has a stark interior with interesting views of the older walls, a staircase, and a crypt where you can see the late-Roman Basilica. Beside the Cathedral is the Palazzo Pretorio which looks like a castle with a large bell tower (13th century bell tower). The Palaazo Pretorio dates back to the 12th century and acted as the Bishops’ residence but is now a museum; which is nice to see for Baroque paintings and views of the city from the windows and towers.

From the main piazza I suggest you simply wander through the streets to appreciate the architecture and the historical city center. Make sure to walk down Via Rodolfo Belenzani (right across from the Fountain of Neptune) as it is lined with impressive palaces, many of which are covered in frescoes like the 15th century Alberti Colico Palace. The city center reminds one of Verona, with many a romantic balcony to be seen where one can imagine Juliet standing.


NEXT – the next blog post will be about the Castle of Trento!

To see more photographs of Trento, click here for my travel photos which are also available for sale as prints.

For the official tourist website of Trento click here.


How to get to Trento:

-By TRAIN: from Verona it is about an hour train ride. Trains leave about every hour from Verona.

-By TRAIN from Bolzano it is about an hour train ride as well. Trains leave about every hour from Bolzano.

-By CAR: this is an option if you are coming from Lake Garda or any of the surrounding mountains and all I can say is use GPS.


Castles to See Near Bolzano, Italy


More Castles

From Bolzano you can take cars, taxis, or buses to 3 castles (they are also within hiking distance I believe, although I assume it’s a rather long walk!). The tourist office, located right on Walther Square, can help you arrange transportation to any of the three castles.

The three castles that are close to Bolzano are: Castle Maretsch, Runkelstein Castle and Firmian/Sigmundskron Castle.

I visited Runkelstein Castle which I reached by car* (arranged via the tourist office), and then walked up a steep hill (about 20 minutes). The castle sits on a high rock, has a moat and drawbridge and dates back to the 13th century. The castle is mostly known for its frescos, painted in the late 14th century (artists unknown) and was commissioned by the Vintler merchant brothers. You can see the frescos after getting your tickets, you’ll go right upstairs and see scenes of King Arthur, his knights, and more. The long covered balcony between buildings features an interesting fresco of giant figures! And further rooms illustrate the history of the castle and its various owners. The castle was donated to the city of Bozen in 1893, with restorations to the buildings and frescos in the late 1990’s.


*Note that the castle ticket office can call the car when you are done with your visit, thus giving you time to climb down and be picked up (the drive from town takes about the same amount of time it does for you to climb down!). Rather a nice arrangement!

Entry Fees: 8 euros for adults, 5.50 euros for children and seniors, with specials for families and groups (As of Summer 2016)

Castle hours are: Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm (6pm in the Summer)

For the official Runkelstein Castle website click here: http://www.runkelstein.info/runkelstein_en/the_castle.asp


Read previous posts about see the Otzi Iceman in Bolzano and other information about what to see when in Tyrol Valley, Italy by clicking here.