If you want to visit a peaceful place that nevertheless holds some unexpected surprises, then Sesto al Reghena is just what you’re after.
Located at the border with Veneto in the province of Pordenone, Sesto al Reghena boasts ancient Roman origins, based on the archaeological findings there and the meaning behind its name: Sesto in Latin means the military post at the seventh mile from the street that links Concordia Sagittaria to Austria, and Reghena refers to the river that still runs through the area.
Sesto is a small village with an extraordinary historical artefact: the Benedictine Abbey of Saint Mary in Sylvis, so called because in ancient times it was surrounded by a vast forest. The history of the Abbey begins in the eighth century as a work by the Langobards, although its current appearance dates from the Romanesque period, when it was transformed into a Medieval castle with a defence system of towers and moats, traces of which can still be seen.
Getting to the striking square facing the Basilica, you must cross a small bridge – a replacement for the ancient drawbridge – and pass under the sole remaining tower and then go by the bell tower, an ancient watchtower dating from around 1050. Surrounding the Abbey, there is a series of ancient structures enhanced by coats of arms, the symbols of prestigious noble homes. The interior of the Basilica is in Romanesque style, with three naves and a presbytery: listening to ancient Gregorian chants, one can admire the splendid fourteenth-century frescoes done by painters belonging to the Giotto School, square pillars, columns and round arches. Under the presbytery, there is access to the crypt, where the Urn of Saint Anastasia is kept. Along with this splendid example of Langobard art from the eighth century, there is a wooden Pietà from the 1400s and an Annunciation from the early fourteenth century.
After visiting the Basilica, a pleasant walk in the shade of the trees in the Abbey’s park will allow you to rest a bit before continuing your journey exploring the nature and historical monuments around Sesto al Reghena. There are walks full of flora, fauna and spring-fed waterways typical of the Friulian lower plains, and you can also bicycle along the ‘Literary itinerary’ that inspired great Italian writers like Ippolito Nievo and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Next, following along the Reghena canal, you can reach Prati Burovich, and then past the bridge over the Lemene River you get to the ancient Stalis Mill, a striking place of unexpected beauty. Continuing towards Cordovado, you find the literary place par excellence of Friuli, the Venchiaredo Fountain, where Ippolito Nievo and Pier Paolo Pasolini found inspiration.