Exploring Italy: Visit the Castle Ruins of Maniago and More

Updated on May 7, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

Linda enjoys searching for fascinating travel destinations, seeking relaxation and fun, and (of course) eating great food.

Partial Wall of the Castelle di Maniago
Partial Wall of the Castelle di Maniago | Source

Why Do We Love to Explore?

Humans are inquisitive creatures. We question and ponder, poke and prod. We find a certain romance in the exploration of ancient history. We question what secrets lurk in the shadow of medieval castles. As an American, I acknowledge a particular fascination with walking among fragments of the past. Americans don’t have 14th-century villas and 12th-century castles; we have only a few hundred years of architectural history.

But don’t most humans, no matter where they call home, possess a curiosity about past civilizations? I believe there is something cathartic about walking in the footsteps of past generations, looking at man-made ruins. Perhaps it’s a reminder of both our own physical mortality and of the monolithic achievements of mankind.


I met a traveller from an antique land who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command tell that its sculptor well those passions read which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear:

'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away".

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

Honestly, I think that deep within the heart of each one of us resides an Indiana Jones, and for that explorer heart I want to share a little-known secret.

Just 90 minutes from Venice, in the shadow of the Italian Alps, is a tiny town with a 1000-year history. And in that town, named Maniago, are the remnants of a long-forgotten castle.


A Brief Look at Maniago

The town of Maniago itself is certainly worth a visit. With a population of just over 10,000 souls, Maniago is large enough to offer an array of boutiques, restaurants, bars, churches, and gelateria, yet small enough to provide a small-town feel of well-being, comfort, and security. In the evening tourists and locals dine al fresco, indulge in gelati and appreciate la dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) while watching the sun set behind the mountains.

Maniago is renowned for metalworking; she is Italy’s cutlery capital—even Sheffield, England purchases steelwork here. Shopkeepers proudly display their craftsmanship in storefront windows, are able and willing to accept payment in almost any language, and can even provide a well-crafted presentation box for that must-have gift.

An assortment of olives at the farmers market
An assortment of olives at the farmers market | Source

On Monday morning, a farmers' market fills the town center with seasonal (and local) produce, cheeses, hand-made pasta, fresh seafood, and a vast array of specialty items. One enterprising fellow even sells skis and parkas for playing in the nearby mountains.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Approaching the castle ruinsA closer look from a slightly different angleClose-up view of windowThe door to...?The entrance to the Castle seen from the inner courtyard. Artist's rendition of possible outline of the Castle of ManiagoInside the courtyardLooking out to the city below
Approaching the castle ruins
Approaching the castle ruins | Source
A closer look from a slightly different angle
A closer look from a slightly different angle | Source
Close-up view of window
Close-up view of window | Source
The door to...?
The door to...? | Source
The entrance to the Castle seen from the inner courtyard.
The entrance to the Castle seen from the inner courtyard. | Source
Artist's rendition of possible outline of the Castle of Maniago
Artist's rendition of possible outline of the Castle of Maniago
Inside the courtyard
Inside the courtyard | Source
Looking out to the city below
Looking out to the city below | Source

The Castle of Maniago

The ownership and habitation of the Castle at Maniago is lengthy and involved. I will spare you the details, and provide an abridged version.

On the 12th of January in 981 A.D., Emperor Otto II granted ownership of the Castello di Maniago (or as we say in Latin “cortem que vocator Maniacus”) to Rodoald, Patriarch of Aquileia. Historians believe that the entire Maniago family resided there, and a separate residence was established for the Patriarch.

The Maniagos were frequently involved in harsh battles with other feudal lords. In 1216 the castle was besieged at least four times, all unsuccessfully.

In 1385 the Maniagos lost possession of the property because of “contrasts” with the then Patriarch, Phillippe d’Alencon. But in 1393 they were reinstated by the new Patriarch, Jan V of Moravia.

Destroyed by a disastrous earthquake in 1511, the castle was eventually abandoned in the early 17th century.

Galleria d'Arte Antica, Udine, Italy
Galleria d'Arte Antica, Udine, Italy | Source

Surrounding Area

If you consider a trip to Maniago, know that there are many other things to see and do in the surrounding area of Friuli-Venezia Giulia—a beautiful gem tucked between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps,

West of Maniago is Udine. Museums, art galleries, designer shops, fine dining, and for the shopaholic, the Udine Mall—a one-stop-shop for everything that you need (and don't need), along with an ‘around the world’ food court.

To the south, on the Adriatic coast, is the Lignano Sabbiadoro Beach.

Head east from Maniago and enter one of the great wonders of the world: Venice.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Piancavallo ski resortSpilimbergo Castle
Piancavallo ski resort
Piancavallo ski resort | Source
Spilimbergo Castle
Spilimbergo Castle | Source

Livenza Springs, Piancavallo, and Spilimbergo

The Livenza Springs (Sorgenti della Livenza in Italian) is a little-known spot of incredible beauty in the Pre-Alps of Friuli. The crystalline waters of Livenza seem to spring from nowhere. In fact, this region at the foothill of the Pre-Alps is where the underground water systems that originate in the Cansiglio plateau see the light again after many miles underground—and they do so with a series of spectacular springs. Two of these springs form the river Livenza itself. This quiet spot, so full of luscious beauty is a must-see.

The outdoorsman will love Piancavallo, a wide and sun-kissed plateau to the North of Pordenone. At 1,260 meters it is the ideal destination for many open-air activities.
Modern ski facilities for downhill and cross-country skiing, climbing walls, tracks for trekking and mountain biking, the ice rink, the football field, the new indoor stadium, the minigolf, and the new indoor sporting arena provide something for everyone at any time of year.

The castle of Spilimbergo is rich in history, spanning almost 10 centuries. It was built in the 11th century by the German Spangenberg family to watch over one of the main fords of the Tagliamento. The counts of Spilimbergo, after whom the town is named, soon became very rich and powerful. They had important properties but, soon after that, their house came to an end and the surname survived in the female line only.

Armed battles took place in the 13th and 14th centuries; fires caused significant damage several times. Next to the castle, the 15th-century building features elegant decorations by Giovanni da Udine.

Today the castle is partly a private property (there is a restaurant as well) and partly of the Municipality. Of the ancient fortified borough, one can still see two towers and short stretches of walls.

Location of Maniago
Location of Maniago | Source

How to Get There

Traveling by car is ideal for touring the area, although train, coach and/or bus are also very accessible. There are coach and train stations at the edge of the town center, with direct lines to major cities and coastal resorts.

The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is a playground of everything expected from a holiday in Italy, and Maniago is at the very heart of it.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Linda Lum


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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish I love finding little gems like this. Agree, we do live in an amazing world.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        4 years ago from USA

        What a beautiful hub with a great description and gorgeous photos. Makes me want to go. Pinning this to my Awesome Places I Want To Go Board. The world is such a beautiful place and I want to see as much as I can of it.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Rachel - Alas, my family and I have never been to either Sicily or Perugia. However, I do have a recipe from that area and will work on that for you. It is for a type of bread/cracker that is made in only Perugia.

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 

        4 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        My parent's families were from Perugia (not sure about the spelling). My husband's family was from Montodoro, Sicily. I would love to see pictures of either if you have been there. Thanks.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Rachel - Thank you for your kind words. Where in Italy did your families live? Perhaps I've been there and just have not written about it yet.

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 

        4 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        Hi Carb Diva, Thanks for the trip to Italy. It's the only way I'll see it, vicariously through other people's eyes. Both mine and my husband's families are from Italy. I would love to see where our grandparents lived before coming to America. Your story and descriptions and photos are lovely. Thanks again.

        Blessings to you.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Thank you Emese - There are more amazing bits of history and chances for exploration tucked away in Europe than I will ever be able to see in a lifetime. I'm glad I found this one, and I'm also happy that you came along.

      • Emese Fromm profile image

        Emese Fromm 

        4 years ago from The Desert

        Looks like a great place to visit. There are so many castles like this scattered through Europe, and it's always a treat to visit any of them.

        Thank you for the tour, I enjoyed the way you presented this.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, sorry to disappoint. Next time there will be two recipes to make up for not posting one this time LOL. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        4 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Cool tour! I kept waiting for the recipe. lol Thanks for taking me along, Linda. I doubt I'll ever get there so this was an enjoyable substitute.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        4 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Anna - My sister lived in Maniago for many years, and whenever we went to Europe we would stay with her for a few days. The castle was within walking distance of her apartment. As far as I know, no one maintains the property, and so vegetation continues to encroach. Someday it may disappear. Thank you for visiting and for your kind words.

      • Anna C Taylor profile image


        4 years ago from Around the World

        I've explored a lot of Italy and I'm bummed to say I've never been to Maniago. It looks beautiful - I'll be adding it to my list for next time.

        Great Post!


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