Grado has had a long and rich history. It begins in Roman times when Grado was a fortified Roman castrum and the foreport of the nearby prosperous town of Aquileia. Numerous mosaics, inscriptions and other artifacts found on the island attest to Grado’s Roman history. However, it is in the fifth and sixth centuries that Grado’s achieves her renown. Grado became the seat of a Christian Patriarch, the head of many bishops, when, after the invasion of the Germanic Lombards in the sixth century, the Patriarch of Aquileia, like so many of his fellow citizens, fled the mainland for the island of Grado. Grado’s two ancient churches, like much of the architecture of the Old Town, date to this period. In the later Middle Ages, Grado became increasingly oriented towards Venice, under whose protection and influence she became. By the 15th century, when Grado’s title of Patriarch was finally abolished, Grado had returned to being a small, seaside fishing town, but with a proud and glorious past. With the fall of Venice in 1797, Grado passed briefly to the French and then to the Austrian Hapsburgs, who in the 19t century developed Grado’s beaches and spa into a world-class resort.

Today Grado is connected to the Italian mainland by a causeway and frequented by Italians and Central Europeans who visit Grado for its charming and historic Old Town, quaint fishing port, and celebrated beaches. Grado, the most important island in the Gulf of Trieste, with its climate, its hotels fin-de-sicle, its historical buildings and its beaches. Boat rides to Island Grado from the harbor of Trieste. ( tickets retour 6 ) Grado has a historic and charming Old Town with quaint cafes, restaurants and shops, an Old Port still active with fisherman, several large pedestrian zones for shopping or strolling, subtropical vegetation and world-class beaches. The town was recently awarded the prestigious ‘Regina delle Spiaggie’ (Best Beach in Italy) and has won the celebrated Europe’s Blue Flag award for hospitality and cleanliness ten years in a row. Visit the official web site of the city of Grado : Off the beaten tourist path, but close to Venice both physically and culturally, Grado is an ancient, picturesque island-city with a celebrated Old Town, a quaint fishing port and world-class beaches. Grado is located in the historic northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, at the geographical heart of Europe, an area that has played host to many different peoples and cultures, including the Celts, Romans, Huns, Byzantines, Lombards, Franks, Venetians, Ottomans, French, and Hapsburgs, before becoming a region of Italy. Each culture has left its mark and the result is a region rich in diverse architecture and art, and one with world-class cuisine and wine. The New York Times recently called Friuli Venezia Giulia Italy’s Secret Garden and the region has only lately been discovered and appreciated by non-Europeans. Fred Plotkin, celebrated author of several books on Italian culture, sums it up well in his book Italy for the Gourmet Traveler: Friuli Venezia Giulia is the great undiscovered region of Italy.

Grado’s Old Town, dating back to Roman times, is the oldest area of the island and one of the best preserved medieval towns anywhere in northeastern Italy. At the heart of the island, the Old Town offers a variety of restaurants, cafes, and scenic piazzas. At the center are two celebrated and ancient churches. Grado’s historic Patriarchal Basilica, dedicated in AD 579 to Santa Euphemia, is still the main church of the Gradese.

Nearby, the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, also dating from the sixth century, is now the scene of summer evening concerts, poetry readings and other activities. The main port of Grado, in the center of the town, has long been the repository of Grado’s spirit. Though the Old Port today has made room for large sailboats, it is still the home of Grado’s rustic fisherman, who depart at night and arrive with their catch early in the morning. At the center of Grado’s shopping district are three tree-lined streets, closed to traffic, with many shops and elegant boutiques, as well as numerous cafes, wine bars, restaurants and pizzerias. Grado’s calendar is packed full of organized cultural activities throughout the summer months. There are concerts of classical, Italian and international music, live theater in the Old Town, operettas, ballet, fashion shows, and historical and artistic exhibitions. The city also plays host to a well-known Italian intellectual lecture series, Autori sotto l’ombrellone (Authors under the Beach Umbrella) held weekly throughout July under a pavilion on the beach. Grado has several cinemas, one of which is outdoor and near the sea. In addition, several festivals are celebrated in Grado each summer, including the local Perdn di Barbana, a festival in honor of the Virgin Mary held each year since 1237; the festival of the local saints; several outdoor seafood festivals organized by the local fisherman;

Grado’s World-Class Beaches Grado is well endowed with many of nature’s gifts, including a beautiful climate, gently sloping shores and more than 20 km of beaches of very fine sand. It is not difficult to see why, in the 19th century, Grado became the holiday resort developed by the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph and was patronized by the cosmopolitan Austro-Hungarian nobility, being appropriately dubbed L’isola del Sole (Island of the Sun). The main beach of Grado is widely considered one of the most beautiful and best-equipped in Italy, winning awards year after year. It offers a wide choice of sports, games, organized tournaments and entertainment, including water-skiing, wind-surfing, beach-volleyball, and beach-soccer. Also available on the beach are several swimming pools, tennis courts, basketball courts, beach-volleyball courts, a soccer field, and a thermal aquatic park. Near the beach are a private club gymnasium and a private golf course.

Grado’s Celebrated Thermal Spa In the 19th century, the Austrian emperor Franz-Joseph proclaimed Grado the Official Health Resort of the Hapsburg Empire. The local microclimate, where the air is blessed with abdundant iodine, along with the natural sands and seawater rich in beneficial salts, are what have made Grado’s world class spa the leading spa in Italy for more than a century. A full range of modern facilities are located within the newly renovated Spa Center, including a massage center, solarium, sand-baths, hydro-massages, inhalations, fitness center, saunas, steam baths, heated swimming pool, as well as physiotherapy and aesthetic medicine units.

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