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Christmas in Grado: Nativity Scenes

Christmas in Grado: Nativity Scenes

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 Italian mainland by a causeway and frequented by Italians and 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 6 € ) 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 northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, 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 Venezia Giulia "Italy's Secret Garden" and the region has only lately been discovered and appreciated by non-Europeans. Fred Plotkin, celebrated author of several books on Italian culture, sums it up well in his book Italy for the Gourmet Traveler: "Friuli Venezia Giulia is the great undiscovered region of Italy."

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 Italian 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. A private language school, Scuola Insieme (, draws people from around the world each year to learn Italian on the island.

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 is a charming island on the Adriatic Sea known for its world class beaches. The Municipality of Grado has presented a new project called “Original Hospitality in the Lagoon”, an interesting initiative consisting in the creation of the first “multi-building hotel” in the lagoon in Europe. Thanks to the involvement of local public institutions and citizens, some of the “casoni”, fishermen’s traditional dwellings in the lagoon islands, have been renovated and turned into hotel buildings. So, tourists will have the opportunity to experience a new unconventional hospitality and discover the unique natural environment and history of Grado lagoon. It is a new form of sustainable tourism.
Grado can well be defined a “green destination”: it offers 13-km cycle paths, over 125.000 square metres of pedestrian precincts and this year obtained the Blue Flag for the 20th time (Italian record), which attests its attention to the environment and the high quality of its coast.

The Albergo Diffuso is actually sustainable tourism’s “third way”, a form of hospitality in which Italy is a pioneer and in which the Italian regions most attentive to the environment and niche demand are showing great interest. A new form of tourist hospitality that brings into play the local public administration and residents. Albergo Diffuso hospitality offers Grado’s guests the opportunity of being for a few days a fully-fledged honorary citizen of the Lagoon of Grado. Grado is a little gem chosen for the beauty of its architecture and surrounding environment, where life still follows the pace and traditions of yesteryear. An Albergo Diffuso plays an instrumental role in saving major heritages (environments, buildings and connected systems) which bring about an improvement in the quality of life and the product in the short and long terms while also offering a new source of income, especially for the private residents involved.
The Grado Lagoon is an area of outstanding natural beauty, a rich environment of magic and tranquillity. The lagoon has many qualities, as many as the memorable sensations it evokes. The ruins of times gone by blend into the landscape as a testament to a past built on great works and hard struggle; they speak to people of today, encouraging them to continue along their chosen path to enable Grado and its lagoon to establish itself as the destination of choice of another slice of international tourism.
For Grado, the Original Hospitality on the Lagoon project is the ideal local promotion scheme for making best use of the lagoon, its fish farms and casoni fishing lodges. The project’s aim is to ensure the survival of the casoni, the characteristic straw-and-reed huts on the lagoon islets. These dwellings are a symbol of the close bond between the people of Grado and their lagoon. The casoni offer the chance of a simple, enjoyable, healthy holiday in contact with nature and age-old traditions and, above all, a way of learning about profound human relationships.

Feeling like a citizen of Grado Lagoon and its ancient fish farms will be the most evocative souvenir for someone returning from their hotel holiday to their daily routine.
The scheme covers three Grado Lagoon fish farms (Ghebo Vacche, Isola di Anfora, Valle Mezzano) near Anfora, each no more than one kilometre from the others. A single reception point in Grado at Porto San Vito will accept bookings and take guests to the casone they booked. Accommodation for sixty persons will be created in a unique natural environment.
Some of the facilities will be ready for summer 2009 to satisfy the requests of discerning, niche tourists seeking an unconventional oasis of wellbeing and relaxation.
The scheme’s byword is sustainability, in the sense of conserving and promoting our artistic, historical and cultural heritages, and directly proportionate to the quality of the hotel and non-hotel services offers.
This is the first Lagoon hospitality scheme in Europe. Its aim is to create a new type of accommodation to give a tangible boost to Grado’s tourism and, above all, offer small communities (the lagoon islets) an opportunity to share the wonders of their environment with others.
This complex process is therefore directed at exploiting resources in a non-conventional way in order to use tourism as a local development lever.
Through the Original Hospitality on the Lagoon project, the partnership will set up itineraries centred around the history of the Grado lagoon. It will also organise escorted nature tours to help visitors appreciate a unique environment and learn about local crafts as a way of understanding the life of the fishermen as well as joining in their customs and traditions, learning how to cook local specialities and, of course, enjoying eating them. 

The Grado lagoon prepares to recreate the magic of Christmas 2009 on the seashore. Over 150 traditional or nautical-themed nativity scenes displayed in the streets, squares and churches of Grado and Barbana Island. Christmas markets spread festive season colours, perfumes and lights across Grado. Children’s parties with St Nicholas and Father Christmas. Live music, plus fireworks over the sea. Grado prepares celebrations for children and grown-ups in its atmospheric lagoon setting.

Christmas in Grado is a feast of colour, light, perfumes, sweet specialities, and artistic displays that skilfully blend street decoration with expressions of faith. In the protected area of the lagoon - an atmospheric blend of land and sea - Grado wears her winter finery as she hosts a party for the whole family in a blend of tradition, spirituality, music and fun.
In the weekends in early December and each day from Saturday 19 December to Wednesday 6 January, lively colourful street markets will fill the sea promenade and the squares in the old town with light, colour and perfumes.
From Saturday 19 December to 17 January see the Nativity Scene Exhibition. An expression of street-decoration creativity and religious sentiment: over 100 nativity scenes on show in the narrow streets and squares, in the harbour and lagoon. Traditional or nautical-themed nativity scenes which tourists can see as they stroll around town alone or in the company of a guide who will talk about the story of these charming exhibits, with the musical accompaniment of bagpipes from Val Pesarina. Guided tours (departure by ferry from Grado) have also been organised of the lagoon nativity scenes on the Island of Barbana, the site of a Marian shrine much loved by the people of Grado, who go on pilgrimage to the shrine every year in July.

Plus a whole range of children’s entertainment: from St Nicholas’ blow-up village with games and sweet surprises to the seashore ice-skating rink where you can skate under the stars until the old year ends, not forgetting Father Christmas’ traditional visit to distribute gifts.

Music lovers are spoilt for choice: on 19 December at 4.30pm in the Basilica of St Eufemia a concert by the Choir of Santa Cecilia, sixty performers in the choir and orchestra which have belonged to Grado for well over a century. They keep alive not only the authentic tradition of popular songs but also the church music which accompanies the main religious festivities including the traditional St Stephen’s Day concert on 26 December at 6pm in the Basilica.

Music and exhibitions throughout Grado also accompany New Year’s Eve celebrations which end with a fireworks display over the sea, bringing 2009 to a close in a shower of kaleidoscopic sparkles.

Lastly, on 5 January at 5 pm, in the harbour and in Piazza XXVI Maggio, there will take place the representation of “The Arrival of the Varvuole”, the legendary sea witches who are said to reach Grado the night preceding Epiphany to take naughty children away from their homes.


July 06, 2005 change by giorgio

October 29, 2009 change by bluwom

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