Image by Simone_ph from Pixabay
Imagine a picture-perfect mountain village, perched at 3600 feet on the sea level, nestled between imposing mountains, green pastures and lush: Sauris, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, is exactly like that and is one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Northeastern Italy. Geographically detached from the hustle and bustle of big cities, the village retains a much fascinating aura from a time long gone and invites its visitors to slow down, relax, and savor the simpleness of mountain life.
Right by the road that takes you to the village, gorgeous Lago di Sauris, although manmade, will enchant visitors with its beauty: the dam that forms it, was built from 1941 to 1948 in order to increase the production of hydroelectric energy, and, at the time, it was the tallest in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe.
A walk around the lake is perfect for those who like to be one with nature: the valley of Sauris showcases an incredible variety of gorgeous mountain flowers and plants, some of which are extremely rare and can only be found in the area. Animals, too, populate the lush woods around the village: to this day deer, skunks, marmots and chipmunks roam freely just a stone throw’s away from Sauris.
While in Sauris a visit to the Centro etnografico “Haus van der Zahre” is an absolute must-do: the cultural identity of the village -one of the few German speaking towns in Italy outside of Sudtirol- has curious roots and is definitely worth knowing. Legend has it that Sauris was founded by two German soldiers who decided to flee the army and seek refuge in this remote area of Friuli around the year 1200.
For more than seven centuries their descendants lived in peace and harmony, enjoying the hard but rewarding mountain life, cultivating the little produce that could grow at such altitude and could stand clod temperatures, bringing their animals to the pastures during the summer and burning beech wood in the winter. Today about 400 inhabitants call Sauris home and, although they now more modern techniques, much of the traditions have remained the same: at the Centro Etnografico many of these testimonies can be observed, as well as a vast collection of war artifacts and remains that have been found after the end of World War I in the area.
Those who love sports will definitely enjoy spending a day or two hiking the beautiful surroundings of the village: Mount Bivera and Mount Rucke offer the chance to walk, hike and climb at all levels of expertise.
Mountain biking trails, too, are readily available in the area and are a very popular way to enjoy the rugged beauty of the mountains during the warm season. In the winter some skiing is possible, although the slopes cannot compete with those of other resorts in the area, but a fun and different way to enjoy the snow is by taking part of a snowmobile tour.
Sauris is also famous for its gastronomy and products, and rightly so: delicious cold cuts, smoked cheeses and non-pasteurized beers make it the ideal destination for those who enjoy good food. From smoky prosciutto to flavorful air-dried speck, the Vecchia Sauris is famous for producing delectable cold cuts.
The prosciutto, especially, is definitely worth a try: made using only the finest pork thighs, aged for 18 to 24 months, gently smoked using beech wood, it has a flavor unlike any other and, some say, even superior to the famous prosciuttos of San Daniele and Parma. A subtle smokiness also characterizes locally produced ricotta affumicata: produced with the rich, fresh milk that comes from the mountain pastures is usually served grated over pasta or gnocchi, but is also good on its own. Every year in July an entire weekend is dedicated to the Festival of the Prosciutto di Sauris: a great way to get to taste all the specialties and delicacies of the area.
Sauris can be reached by car by taking the Carnia Tolmezzo exit on the A23 Udine – Tarvisio or by bus from Udine. The nearest airports are the Aeroporto Regionale di Trieste (70 miles), the Aeroporto di Treviso Antonio Canova (90 miles) and the Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo (about 100 miles). For more info on hotels, restaurants and activities in Sauris visit the Sauris official website at http://www.

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