One for the Road: Vice Gets a Taste of Friuli

“You have to see all of it to be a good Friulana... and you have to drink a lot of wine.”

There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of discovery. When it comes to travel, we strive to find the hidden gems of the world and to experience these new cultures first hand. VICE’s new series, “One for the Road” does just this. Throughout this video series, they take us on a journey, exploring the path less travelled with the show’s quirky host Pia from Berlin on her adventures through the undiscovered realms and untouched beauty of the Friuli region.
Tucked away in Italy’s North Eastern corner, the Friulana have remained unaffected by overwhelming tourism influx seen elsewhere in the country and boast vast expanses of beautiful countryside, magnificent architecture and an inspirational community.

Watch as locals are instantly engaged by Pia’s adventurous spirit and happily invite her to explore their lives, regaling her with stories of their life experiences. Follow her as she charms characters like Grado’s fisherman / nude photographer Witige on his private lagoon island, teasing out his stories that would otherwise remain untold. Embracing her with open arms, Witi is just one example of the incredible people that Pia meets throughout the Friuli region, all of whom retain an element of pride in their homeland and a willingness to invite, teach and share.

This week’s episode sees Pia venture into the realm of the unknown at the historical town, Cividale del Friuli.
Joining local priestesses or “sacerdotesse”, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, Pia embarks on a tour of the ancient pyramids and takes part in a pagan initiation ritual in the mysterious Friuli hillside. Connecting with their “real nature” and the energy of the elements, the witches bring Pia on a spiritual path that has existed for thousands of years. Slightly alarmed as they begin “running around the woods throwing salt and water everywhere”, Pia’s curiosity prevails and she invites us to join her on another discovery of the Friuli magic.

“Stazione di Topolo”

Famed for its vibrant culture and thriving artistic scene, there is an abundance of musical activity in the capital, Trieste. However, there is a far more intriguing festival on the outskirts of Friuli, hidden in the hills.
Tucked away in the romantic woodlands of the Italian / Slovenian border, is a village called Topolo. Almost 600 meters above sea level lives a mere 29 people among the winding cobblestone streets and towering villas. Untouched, secluded, and largely abandoned, Topolo endured years of turmoil during the Cold War and the Balkan Wars of the 90s. Finally freed from turmoil, the breath-taking landscape has become a beacon of liberation and home to one of the most unique artistic festivals in Europe.

Inspired by the remaining steadfast community and surrounding natural beauty, Moreno Miorelli and Donatella Ruttar founded the “Stazione di Topolò” in 1994. Every year, for the first two weeks of July, the village is transformed into a vivacious metropolis of cultural activity unlike any festival you have experienced before. Artists come from far and wide, ranging from musicians to writers, photographers, and even marathon runners –this year will see a peculiar performance by artist and marathon runner Enrico Viola, who will run along the 140 kilometres that separate Topolò from the Istrian-Slovenian Topolovec.

Every performance is specifically designed on site, born organically from a relationship with the location creating an entirely unique, unpredictable and unrepeatable program. Described as a “non-festival”, participation is free and as all performances are improvised, the schedule is only revealed at the last moment, creating immeasurable suspense. Breaking down borders, the artists live in the town’s houses with visitors alike, creating a unique cultural balance between performers and audience members throughout the festival. This lack of formality and commercial input creates a festival of the highest standards, lowest costs, and unbeatable overall experience.
Visitors can also enjoy the local scenery along various woodland trails that stumble upon waterfalls and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. They can take a stroll along the visually invigorating path that leads to the nearby town Livek which for years had been restricted but is now an art trail consisting of twelve installations created y artists from around the world.
It is hardly surprising that this hive of historical legacy and natural beauty is the birthplace of a festival that pays such a traditional homage to freedom within the artistic community.

The Friuli region has suffered greatly at the hand of military action, undergoing countless rebuilds and desertion, but the natives wear the scars of this sadness with pride and an unwavering hope for the future.
As Pia leaves Witi’s island and her boat jets into the sunset, he sits at his table alone and sighs. “Beautiful things are like clouds, they go up and then disappear. You shouldn’t hold on to them.”

Pia’s “One for the Road” adventure shows us the happiness that the pure appreciation of one’s homeland can bring. Hopefully the Friulana will see some silver lining to hold on to as their beautiful region comes out of hiding and becomes a top Italian destination.
Over the coming episodes, follow the VICE trail across this undiscovered land as Pia meets many more intriguing characters, soaks in the stunning scenery, samples the delicious cuisine, copious amounts of wine, and enjoys the colourful range of cultural activity on offer throughout.

Watch Pia’s transformation from Bambi to Fire and all of her “One for the Road” videos.

Marco Milani Photography