Aquileia, Province of Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Aquileia, an ancient town not far from the northern coast of the Adriatic, lies at the edge of the Grado lagoon, on the Natisone river, along the Roman Via Giulia Augusta. It is a Unesco World Heritage site for its Roman, early Christian and medieval monuments.


  • Altitude: 5 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 3300 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 33051
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0431
  • Patron Saint: Saints Ermacora and Fortunato, celebrated on 12 July
  • Frazioni & Localities: Beligna, Belvedere, Viola, Monastero


It was founded by Greeks in 181 BC as a frontier fortress on the north-east, not far from the site where, two years before, Gaulish invaders had attempted to settle. It was probably connected by road with Bononia in 173 BC; and subsequently with Genua in 148 BC by the Via Postumia.

In 169 BC 1300 families were settled there as a reinforcement to the garrison. After the discovery of the goldfields near the modern Klagenfurt in 130 BC, it soon became a place of importance, not only owing to its strategic position, but as a centre of trade, especially in agricultural products.

It became a Roman municipium probably in 90 BC. The 4th century AD was the greatest period of Aquileia: it became a naval station, a mint was established, and the bishop obtained the rank of patriarch. A council held in the city in 381 was only the first of a series of Councils of Aquileia that were summoned over the centuries.

An imperial palace was built, in which emperors after Diocletian frequently resided and by the end of the 4th centur Ausonius enumerated it as the ninth among the great cities of the world, placing Rome, Mediolanum and Capua before it, and called it "moenibus et portu celeberrima." In 452 it was destroyed by Attila, though it continued to exist until the Lombard invasion of 568.

The seat of the patriarchate of Aquileia had been transferred to Udine in 1238, but returned in 1420 when Venice annexed the territory of Udine. It was finally suppressed in 1751 when the sees of Udine and Gorizia (Gorz) were established.

What to see

  • The Roman buildings served as stone quarries for centuries, and no edifices of the Roman period remain above ground. Excavations revealed one street and the north-west angle of the town walls, while the Museo Archeologico Nazionale contains over 2000 inscriptions, statues and other antiquities.
  • The Cathedral, a flat-roofed basilica, was erected by Patriarch Poppo in 1031 on the site of an earlier church, and rebuilt about 1379 in the Gothic style by Patriarch Marquad. The narthex and baptistery belong to an earlier period.
  • Of the Palace of the Patriarchs, only two isolated columns remain standing.
  • The Museo Nazionale Paleocristiano.
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