Southern Europe Traveller's Guide - Grado (Trieste) the Island of Sun



The Island of Sun



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  mainland by a causeway and frequented by 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-siècle", its historical buildings and its beaches. 

Boat rides to Island Grado from the harbor of Trieste.

( tickets retour 5,50 € )


 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  region of Trieste, 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 " Secret Garden" and the region has only lately been discovered and appreciated by non-Europeans. Fred Plotkin, celebrated author of several books on venetian culture, sums it up well in his book  for the Gourmet Traveler: "Friuli is the great undiscovered region of Europe."


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  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 Perdòn 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.




Grado erinnert an die Zeit der Jahrhundertewende an die österreichischen Riviera, als Lussin Abbazia, Portorose bis hinauf zu Sistiana und eben Grado, die von der hautevoulée Mitteleuropas beliebten Badeorte, entstanden. Grado gehört zu den beliebten Zielen des internationalen Tourismus und verdient zu Recht die Bezeichnung „Goldene Insel". 
Der Küstenstreifen von Grado erstreckt sich über 20 Kilometer mit einer Reihe von herrlichen Stränden, von denen ein großer Teil unberührt ist.

Tenuta Primero liegt an einem der bezauberndsten Plätze der Insel, an der romantischen Lagune und öffnet sich dann in Richtung Golf von Triest und dem offenen Meer. Die Marina verfügt über 500 neu erbaute Anlegeplätze für Boote bis zu 25 m und über ein Trockendock. 
Neben der Marina liegt das Feriendorf Tenuta Primero, das bereits auf eine 30-jährige glänzende Erfahrung zurückblicken kann und über modernste Infrastrukturen verfügt.


Zur Ausspannung stehen die verschiedensten Sportmöglichkeiten zur Verfügung - ein Fußballplatz mit Kunstgras, ein Volleyball- und ein Basketballplatz, ein Fitnessraum, eine Mountainbikestrecke und ein Trimm-dich-Pfad. 
Nicht zu vergessen ist der 
27-Loch-Golfplatz des Golfclubs Grado. Dieser Golfclub bietet allen Sportfreunden einen 18-Loch-Championshipplatz, einen 9-Loch-Executiveplatz, eine Driving Range, ein Putting und Chipping Green und einen Pro-Shop an. Natürlich verfügt der Golfclub Grado auch über ein behagliches und komfortables Club House, das mit dem angeschlossenen Gourmetrestaurant „Al Casone" ein beliebter Treffpunkt für Feinschmecker und Sportler ist.

Die Anlage Tenuta Primero ist ein sicherer Geheimtipp für alle Erholungs- und Entspannungssuchenden und hier findet sicher jeder, egal welcher Altersklasse, die richtige Urlaubsstimmung.

Known principally for its historic town center, its quaint fishing port, and its celebrated beaches, Grado can also boast of the well-known hospitality of its people. As recently as 1998, Grado was again awarded the title "Regina delle Spiagge" (Italy's "Best Beach of the Year"). The judgment was based on many factors, including quality of urban environment, quality of the coast, quality of summer facilities and hospitality, quality of drinking water, etc. For many of the same reasons, this past summer Grado again won the celebrated award "Bandiera Blu d'Europa" or "Blue Flag of Europe" for the tenth year in a row. These awards join a list of others that Grado has won over the years.

Grado, an island in the middle of a lagoon connected to the mainland by two bridges, has two faces: that of the modern and well-known seaside resort, with its hotels, long avenues full of elegant shops and carefully cleaned and tidy beaches, and the older part, the historic centre with its small houses, century old churches and narrow streets and which immediately remind you of Venice's smaller canals and alleys.

A bit of history
The name Grado (gradus = harbour) shows the original function of this town which was built in the Roman epoch as harbour of the nearby Aquileia in order to ensure to its ships a secure military port. At the end of the 4th century a solid "Castrum" was built, which corresponds to the nowadays’ historical centre. In 452 the refugees from Aquileia escaping from the Hunnish invasion by Attila (which caused the destruction of Aquileia) came to the "Castrum". This period was the most flourishing and is witnessed by many monuments.
In 568, when the Longobards arrived, even the patriarch of Aquileia fled to Grado establishing an autonomous patriarchate that lasted until 1451, when the title passed to Venice. Then Grado fell down to the condition of a fishermen's village.


What to see
There are two early-Christian churches, amongst the oldest churches in all Christendom: the Basilica of Santa Eufemia (consacrated in 579), with its magnificent octagonal Baptistry, the floor began in the 4th century, the mosaic and the embossed silver altarpiece (1372); and the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie of the 5th century. There are also other notable signs of paleo-Christian art, such as the remains of the Basilica di S. Giovanni in piazza Biagio Marin.

An uncontaminated nature: the lagoon
Grado is surrounded by a lagoon where fishermen build their stray-covered huts (called "casoni"), some of which can be seen. The lagoon has an own charm: it is a real silent and calm oasis floating between the blue sky and sea with colours fading in nuances, with small islands where rare birds live. It has has been declared a "Humid zone of international value", the ideal place for those who love quietness and nature and very interesting for birdwatchers, who can also visit the avifaunal oasis of Val Cavanata (with the naturistic trail Val Cavanata-Punta Sdobba) and the Regional Nature Reserve at the mouth of the river Isonzo. Not to be missed a panoramic sightseeing by motorboat.

The Island of Barbana
According to tradition, the Marian sanctuary on this small island in the middle of Grado lagoon was built by Elia, Patriarch of Aquileia between 571 and 587, to house a statue of the Virgin Mary discovered by some sailors after a storm. Numerous pilgrims continue to make the journey to this island, where each year on the first Sunday of July, there is an interesting parade (the "perdon" di Barbana), in which a procession of colorful boats heads to the island to renew a vow made to the Virgin Mary in 1237.

Leisure opportunities
The beauties of Grado, the blue sea and the sunny strand facing South, but also its peculiar healing sand were its luck: during the Hauptsburg's rule Emperor Franz Joseph appointed the town as Imperial Thermal Place (25 July 1892) and instituted the first Committee to manage sea therapy. Thus Grado became one of the favourite resort of the Viennese end-of-century society and was equipped to host an increasing number of visitors. But it was the Romans who first discovered the sands of Grado for healing their ills, thanks to its therapeutic qualities. In fact, the continual rising and falling of the tides and the thick vegetation on the foreshore create a large amount of oxygen, which combined with the high level of iodine and elevated salinity of the sea, confers miraculous qualities to the sand in the curing of rheumatic and articulation diseases.

Today the modern thermal spa offers a wide range of personalised therapies. Furthermore sport and leisure facilities for adults and children as well as a clean and healthy sea. Thanks to these features the town obtained for the seventh time in a row the Blue Flag of Europe.
Sport activities: sailing, windsurfing, boating, biking along the many bike paths, tennis, mini-golf, swimming-pools, water amusement park, discoes. Furthermore a Golf Club (18 holes, Par 72, 6.081 mt.) in a very charming location, between the blue water of the lagoon and the green.