Between the Veneto and Slovenia, between the Adriatic and the Dolomites, we find the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Or just Friuli as we call it. It’s a region that doesn’t seem to get as much attention as others, such as Tuscany and Umbria. But its reputation is full of good wines and food, and beautiful natural scenery.

The eastern part of Friuli, the Collio, near the Slovenian border is hilly, perfect for vineyards.

Collio sub-region produces high-quality white wines mainly from Pinot Grigio and Bianco grape varieties. You will also be able to find Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon, and the renowned Collio Bianco grape varieties in blend wines. Some international grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pino Grigio also express nice character here.Wines of Collio give nutty aromas, smoky taste, and vanilla because of the use of oak barrels.Despite the fact that Collio is famous for its white wines, you will be able to find some red wines as well produced from Collio Rosso, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, and Merlot grape varieties. (source)

Seemed like a good place to for a home base for our short visit. We found the Castello de Spessa online.

They bill themselves as a country resort, with spa, restaurants, golf, and their own wines. Centered around a picturesque castle that boasts a sojourn by Casanova.

In the distant September 1773 Giacomo Casanova, guest of Count Luigi della Torre Valsassina, arrived at the Castello di Spessa…. He stayed there for about two months. (source)

However, Casanova left after so quickly partly because of his philandering compulsion, and his host’s bad behavior:

Sgualda, a young widow in the count’s service, entered into the good graces of the illustrious suitor, and is described as “in love and mild as a lamb, something this is quite rare in Friulian peasants”. Clandestine meetings followed, night after night: Sgualda came to Casanova’s chamber at midnight, without being seen, and left at dawn. But the secrecy of the affair was only an illusion. One morning, apparently the same as many others, Sgualda left Casanova’s chamber, and as soon as the door was closed a frightening scream was heard. Reopening the door, in front of the beholder a scene was taking place which when described as unpleasant is oversimplifying things: the Count was beating Sgualda, restraining her by her clothing. The Count was the girl’s sworn enemy because, although harassing her whilst her husband was still alive, she had always denied him. Casanova’s reaction was immediate: still dressed in his night shirt he leapt onto the Count’s back, seized him by the throat until he almost strangled him, and with the same stick that only moments before the Count had used to beat Sgualda, began striking him, forcing him to flee. (source)

After that, Casanova needed to find new lodgings.

Fortunately, our stay was more sedate. The grounds and surrounding countryside were definitely attractive. 

While Castello de Spessa didn’t live up to its claim of being a resort, its breakfast room and service were absolutely charming. The morning cook whipped up whatever egg dish you wanted in the charming kitchen-dining room.

Our full day in Friuli was, unluckily, a rainy one. What to do on a rainy day? Wine tasting of course. We stopped at Tenuta Luisa and also tasted some of the wines of Castello de Spessa, where we were staying.

I’m sorry that we don’t have images from our tastings. The women who shepherded us through each tasting were charming — and effective: Our car was a bit heavier after this visit.

La Tavernetta Restaurant, Castello de Spesso, Capriva del Friuli

This was the first meal of the trip that missed the mark. The host and so-called sommelier were great: attentive and full of humor. The venue exuded old country club  relaxed privilege. The food descriptions seemed to promise local and seasonal options. However! There were no seasonings at all. The vegetables were just boiled. It all reminded us of the too-often judge put-down on the cooking competition shows: “Chef, did you taste this before you served it to us?” There was a good note, though: whoever was working in the kitchen knows how to cook meat. Both the venison and the veal arrived perfectly cooked and warm. While some complementing spices or flavors would have been nice, the good tastes of the meats by themselves came right through. All in all, bland food, plated as if more sophisticated than it was, and over-priced!

Ca’ Belon, Dolegnano

Our hostess at Tenuta Luisa recommended this restaurant for lunch, and she called to make the reservation for us. We followed our GPS through a nondescript residential neighborhood of a small town. The first impression upon entering was of a slightly dated bar, with a side room with a few tables. Almost no customers. Oh, well, it’s raining outside, and we’re hungry, so why not. Good thing we stayed. The menu was simple, and the food was delicious.

Ristorante Al Gardinetto, Colmons 

We had booked an evening meal at a second restaurant that is part of the Castello di Spessa complex. In the dark of a wet night, we drove up to the building, only to find it dark and closed. We wished someone at the hotel had shared this information. But, thanks to Google, we found a warm inviting restaurant in the nearby village. Much better outcome than the night before.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Castello di Spessa

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