Portogruaro, worth seeing for the Lemene River and homes of the ancient nobles.
Originally a river port in the seventh century, Portogruaro, also known as the ‘little Venice on terra firma’, is an elegant city less than 30 kilometres from the Bibione beach, where you can spend a pleasant day strolling through the porticoes of the ancient Medieval and Renaissance palaces, go shopping in sophisticated downtown shops and, in the booths of the traditional centuries-old market, pause for lunch on the riverside or see the frescoes contained in the ancient churches.
The hub of the city is the Piazza della Repubblica, home of the important symbols of Portogruaro: the Pilacorte Well from 1494 with its bronze cranes, and the Town Hall.
The Gothic Town Hall is a perfect harmony of lines between the main body built in 1300 and the wings from 1500: its brick facade and battlements contain sixteenth-century frescoes and paintings by Futurist Luigi Russolo, born in Portogruaro in 1885. Behind the Town Hall, you can catch one of the most fascinating parts of Portogruaro: on the banks of the Lemene River, which once was the site of a fish market, see the Ancient Mills from the late twelfth century, now used as art galleries, and the Oratorio della Pescheria, a delightful little wooden chapel from the 1600s. Not far from there, a curious Romanesque leaning bell tower will catch your eye, which also seems to rest against the Saint Andrea Cathedral, the main church for the city, consecrated in 1833.
The neoclassical Cathedral, with Renaissance elements, contains various paintings, including a valuable copy of the original altarpiece by Cima da Conegliano called the Incredulity of Saint Thomas, dating from 1504, the original of which is kept at the National Gallery of London.
Next, after crossing one of the many bridges over the Lemene River, you will be spellbound by the magnificent sight of the ancient palaces reflected in its water: these are the stunning homes of the nobility dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, done in the Venetian Gothic style with the typical trefoil arches.
The facades of these buildings were once frescoed like precious jewels: if you observe the splendid cycle of frescoes in the Palazzo Marzotto dating from the sixteenth century, you will have only a vague idea of how Portogruaro looked in the early 1800s.
Only 2 km from Portogruaro, you’ll find Concordia Sagittaria, an ancient Roman colony from the first century B.C.E., which owes its name to an arrow (sagittae) factory of the third century C.E. and of which numerous traces have been found.
The various excavations within the historic city have yielded several finds, both from the Roman Era and the Paleochristian Era, some of which are kept in the archaeological museums of Concordia and Portogruaro and some of which can be seen elsewhere in the city as the remains of a Roman road.