After eating a delicious breakfast and grabbing stuff to take with me, I headed to the bus stop near my hotel, got off at the train station stop, crossed the street, and found the autostazione. I went inside to purchase my ticket for the 10 am bus and was told that there was no 10 am bus. The next bus for Aquileia departed at 11 am. Instead of hanging out at the bus station for an hour, I caught a bus back to Piazza Garibaldi (departing on the correct side of the street) and walked around window shopping.
Back to the bus station I went about 45 minutes later, waiting at the correct bus lane location for my bus. At first there were only a few people waiting nicely in line, but then typically Italian style, other people came up acting obliviously (but pretty much intentionally) cutting right in line in front of all of us waiting and annoyingly many were smoking cigarettes in the line. The bus ended up being very crowded since the final stop was in Grado (a seaside resort), it was a Saturday, and it was a beautiful day for the beach. I was fortunate to grab a seat with an empty seat next to me near the front of the bus for the ride to Aquileia. This bus stopped many many times along the way. The bus driver did not announce any of the stops. Again, I became a little nervous about missing my stop. As we got closer to Aquileia, I asked the bus driver to please let me know when we arrived in Aquileia and to stop for me there.
Aquileia was an easy little town to navigate. I took this photo on the main road as I headed towards the Basilica. I have no idea what these are but they were pretty cool looking. I also can’t remember now if these were just in a yard or part of a museum that was closed that day.
** Edited… These cylinders stacked up are Roman burial urns. Thank you, Amy!
Turning down the road for the Basilica, I first came across the Palazzo Meizlik. I was in luck as there was a special mostra or show taking place there called “Made in Roma and Aquileia”, which would be ending on May 31st. My FVG card got me in for free.
The bottom floor of the Palazzo Meizlik contains a mosaic display, which I assume is there permanently.
The 2nd floor (or Italian 1st floor) contained the Made in Roma and Aquileia mostra, displaying various items used in everyday life, including those made of glass, bricks, metal, and ceramics. There were even old water pipes! There was information listed in both Italian and English about each type of material, the significance of each, and how they were used. There also was an emphasis on stamps used in each type of medium. Here are some of the photos I took…
(clicking on any photo above will bring up a slideshow with larger photos)
After leaving the Palazzo Meizlik, I decided to backtrack a little and head over to the tourist information center, just in case it closed later on. I wanted to check on the bus times back to Udine since the timetable I read for departing times to Aquileia did not match the times the bus ran that morning. I never can figure out bus schedules in Italy with the feriale and festivo and other exclusions, options, etc. The woman at the information center was not very helpful. She gave me a schedule and told me that I just needed to figure it out using the key. I’ve read the key and that is the problem! Finally after repeated questions, she decided to explain the key to me, taking her highlighter out, making all kinds of marks on the schedule she gave me. I did not need to know about when the bus ran on Sundays, holidays, etc. In the end, I still had to ask her to point out the times the bus was running that day. A simple question just needed a simple answer.
With bus info noted, I walked back to where the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta (church with the mosaic floor) and the Campanile della Basilica (tower) were located and decided to climb the tower first.
The FVG card got me free entrance. I’m not sure on the exact number of steps to the top of the tower, but I believe there were about 125-130 steps. The circular steps were very tall, which made this a tough climb even though there were not that many steps. I would say it was one of the tougher climbs I have done and I have climbed a lot of towers in Italy. I still need to do a tower climb post one day!
My legs were like jello when I reached the top and I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. Everyone who climbed to the top while I was up there reacted in the same way. It still was worth it though! Beautiful views and cool bells at the top!
Saving the best for last, I walked next door to visit the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta. The outside of this church is nothing special but the inside of this church is what everyone comes to see.
The spectacular floor of this church is covered in mosaics featuring geometric figures, birds, animals, fish, and illustrations of the story of Jonah all dating back to the 4th century. The floor is 760 meters in size and is the largest Paleo-Christian mosaic floor in the western world. It is protected by a clear plexiglass walkway that goes around the perimeter of the inside of the church. No photos are allowed inside the church but I did manage to take this photo outside looking into the church.
The entrance to the church is free, but there is a small charge to visit the two crypts. The FVG card will get you into the crypts for free. Photos were allowed in the crypts. I took this photo of the amazing frescoes in the crypt at the front of the church.
I also visited the Baptistery next door but do not remember now anything remarkable about that visit. Unfortunately, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale was closed. I initially planned my visit to Aquileia on Friday because this museum was closed on Saturday but forgot about that when I switched plans Friday morning to go to Trieste instead in my jet lag haze. Oh well! Aquileia was still definitely worth the visit even without a trip to the Archeological Museum. Because of the time and the bus schedule options, I decided to skip walking to the outdoor roman ruins area and catch the next bus back so that I would have a little bit of time in the afternoon to explore more of Udine.
There was a young girl waiting at the bus stop when I arrived. I was glad she was there as it assured me that a bus would be coming since the bus was late. It wasn’t as full as the bus I took in the morning. There were lots of stops and pretty views. A couple of the towns along the way looked interesting for a future visit.
I will write about the rest of my day back in Udine in another post….