Friuli-Venezia Giulia is located in the north-eastern corner of Italy, neighbors with Slovinia on the east, and Austria to the north. Part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire until the end of World War I, it has been ruled by the Romans, Lombards and Byzantines. As a result, the cuisine of this region includes flavors and styles from many cultures, including Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Slovenia.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is has little arable land, allowing only a limited amount of livestock raising and agriculture. Mountains cover 40 percent of the area, useful only for grazing. Alpine cattle produce the milk for cheeses such as Montasio, and pigs, preserved meat products such as the renowned San Daniele prosciutto.The mountain forests provide wonderful game and a variety of mushrooms, and mountain lakes supply lots of fresh trout.
The fertile plain of Friuli is not particularly large, and here is where we find the highest population density. The two banks of the Tagliamento River here are very different in their ability to support food production; the right bank has better drainage, and one finds grain cultivation and forage crops. The western bank alternates between dry during the summer months and soggy from fall and spring rains, and is most of it is usable only for grazing.
The Carso, bordering on Croatia, is an arid strip of limestone where sheep and goats are raised on small farms. One also finds vineyards, some corn fields, root crops and fruit orchards. Vegetable fields are found around Udine. Along the coastal plain, farmers raise a fine white maize that produces particularly delicate polenta. And finally, seafood is common along the Adriatic coastline on the southern extreme of this region. You will find many different varieties of fish soup, or brodetto.
The Austrian-Hungarian influence appears in many forms: the use of strudel, both savory and sweet, goulash, and sauerkraut. As in most of northern Italy, pasta takes a back seat to other starches, such as polenta and barley. Polenta is slightly wetter here than in Venezia itself. Barley is the most important grain in Friuli Giulia, introduced by the Jews who settled in Trieste, it is used often in soups and orzotto, a 'risotto' made with barley instead of rice.
Sweets are popular in this region, with many type of strudels, or variations thereof, but you will also discover many cakes, tarts and fritters. Most use fruit, such as apples, cherries and raisins and other dried fruit, and are often sweetened with honey.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is 17th among the regions in Italy in size, and 15th in population, but ranks 9th in terms of wine production. It has always been proud of its wines, but only recently have they been exported in quantity, due to the fact that for most of its history there has not been much surplus to export! The first vines appeared in the region around 1000, imported by the Greeks. Today, some of the greatest wines in Italy hail from this region, include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Verduzzo di Rocca Bernarda, Fruliano and Picolit.