Set in Italy’s far north-east, close to Slovenia, the Adriatic and the Alps, Udine is the main city of Friuli. With Germanic and Slav influences, Friuli has its own language and its own wine, available around Udine’s pretty centre. Habsburg for nearly a century, Udine is home to Moretti beer. Before the war, the head of the brewery also owned the club and had the stadium named after him.
This club, Udinese Calcio, are officially Italy’s second oldest, being formed in 1896. They now play at the Stadio Friuli, 4km north-west of town in the area of Rizzi, out by the main A23/E55 motorway that links Venice with Austria, skirting the Alps.
After a complete renovation in 2014-16, the stadium is the second in Serie A after Juventus to be owned by the club who play there. A sponsorship deal with car firm Dacia helped pay for it – Udine was part of Italy’s failed bid to host Euro 2016, and so missed out on major external funding.
The opening of the Friuli in 1976 shifted the focus of the local football community away from the Moretti Park, south-east of the city centre, where the Stadio Moretti had served Udinese for five decades. The street alongside is still called viale Luigi Moretti. Bars by piazzale XXVI Luglio still attract older tifosi.
In the top flight since 1995, Udinese have no immediate local rivals, with the possible exception of Verona/Chievo. In fact, many away trips involve a whole day’s travel – the trek from Udine to Crotone is 1,200km.
The capital of the Friuli region, Trieste, has a local team Triestina where later successful coaches Nereo Rocco and Cesare Maldini made their respective playing debuts. Triestina’s stadium took Rocco’s name and during the reconstruction of the Stadio Friuli, hosted Udinese’s home games.
As for Triestina, the latest relaunch came in 2016 and the club now plays in Serie C.
Friuli-Venezia-Giulia Airport, often referred to as ‘Trieste Airport’. (and also known as Ronchi dei Legionari), is actually just as close to Udine, 44km (27 miles) away. Bus No.E51 runs every 1-2hrs, taking 1hr to reach the Autostazione bus terminal in Udine, near the train station on viale Europa Unità, about 2km south of the city centre. Tickets (€4.75) are sold from the machine or at the Tourist Information desk in Arrivals. There’s also an E51 service to Trieste – make sure you get on the Udine line. A taxi (+39 0481 778 000) should cost €75.
Another route to Udine would be via Treviso Airport, 120km (74 miles) away, used by low-cost carriers as a gateway to Venice. From the airport, the regular No.6 bus takes 20mins to reach Treviso station. Tickets are €1.30 at Arrivals or €3 on board. A taxi (+39 0422 431 515) to Treviso station has a fixed fare of €15.
A train from Treviso to Udine takes about 80mins and costs €11.
Udine is served by local buses. A ticket (biglietto orario) is €1.25 from the main office on viale Europa Unita, diagonally opposite the train station, or €2 on board. A day pass (giornaliero U-24) is €4.35. Taxi Udine (+39 0432 505 858) charges €15 from the train station to the stadium, way out north-west of town.
The regional Tourist Office has an accommodation-booking facility.
Two three-star hotels are conveniently located opposite the station: the Principe used by Italian rail staff; and the Europa, both quite modest but clean and comfortable. Also close to the station is the Hotel San Giorgio, with rooms in the €100 range.
Not far from the station, you’ll find more upscale lodgings at the Ambassador Palace. Under the same umbrella, the Friuli and Astoria offer mid-range comfort in downtown locations. For a quality stay Al Vecchio Tram is a designer spot in a classic old building in town.
Convenient for both the stadium and the city centre, the Hotel Suite Inn has a style and a breakfast more worthy of a four-star than a three. Think parquet floors and maple furnishings.
Bars dot the beer town of Udine, the historic home of Moretti. The former brewery, modern-day park and long vanished football ground all bear its name.
Nearby, just over the ring road that holds the city centre, Al Vecchio Stallo on via Viola is a lovely rustic spot decked out in vintage paraphernalia. Moved from its original location close by, the excellent Osteria Pierimortadele is now on via Bartolini near the Udinese store. It’s real football hang-out – though without a TV.
For quality bar action, and TV football with it, recently closed The Little Box will be dearly missed – although a buyer may well revive this popular spot that attracted a real cross-section of serious drinkers. The Black Stuff on via Gorghi is the city’s main pub, big on live guitar nights, with TV sports provided. The bare-brick, more restaurant-like I Piombi on via Manin attracts a discerning but pub-seeking crowd – with TV football, too. Also central but more upscale, Il Delser at via Cavour 18, has football on TV and a party feel on Saturday nights.
North of the city centre, more in the general direction of the stadium, Bire at piazzale Osoppo specialises in its own lager, wheat, red and dark beers, with a large TV indoors. Nearby at viale Volontari della Libertà 12, Old Pub keeps the focus more on Serie A, without neglecting your thirst.
At via Grazzano 79, Manente Sport sells Udinese tops and accessories. It was opened by Sergio Manente, the ex-Udinese defender who played for Italy against England in 1952.