Grado is an island on the lagoon between Venice and Trieste. It’s on the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy’s Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region. The island, connected to the mainland by bridges, is a great vacation destination for visiting this interesting but less-explored part of Italy.
Because of its closeness to Austria and the fact that this area was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many tourists are German speaking and menus are often written in German and Italian. But there’s a lot of English spoken as well.
Things to Do in Grado
Grado is a great place for a relaxing vacation. Walking and biking paths run along the sea, canals and harbors. Pedestrian streets are lined with trees and shops and there are a several parks. Bikes can be rented in town but many hotels have bikes for guests.
In summer, Grado is also a top beach destination with great beaches, both paid and free. Spiaggia Principale, a long sandy beach, is the main beach where you’ll pay for entrance with use of lounge chairs and all the facilities.
Grado has a small but charming historic center with picturesque medieval buildings and old churches.
The two top churches are right next to each other: The Basilica of Sant’Eufemia and Santa Maria delle Grazie. Both are early Christian churches with impressive mosaics and frescoes. Behind the Basilica there’s a lapidarium displaying fragments of ancient statues and tombs.
Remains of floor mosaics from a 4th-6th century church were uncovered in Piazza Biagio Marin, a big square just outside the historic center.
2 nature reserves can be visited near Grado. They can be reached by bike paths or car. Boats can be rented to explore the lagoon too.
Where to Stay and Eat
Grado has a good number of hotels and vacation apartments. We stayed in a comfortable apartment at Residence Hotel Hungaria, perfectly located just off the main street and just outside the pedestrian zone.
- See more hotels and places to stay in Grado
Lots of cafes and bars make inviting places to spend some time tasting wine or having an apertivo. Grado has many good restaurants, most of them in or near the pedestrian zone. Seafood lovers will be very happy as there’s lots of fresh fish. The traditional dish is Boreto, fish in a vinegar and garlic sauce served with polenta. Polenta is served with many dishes.
The closest train station is in Cervignano dei Friuli. From Cervignano, there are buses to Grado. Buses go to Grado from other cities and towns in the area too.
- Ferries leave from Grado for the small island of Barbana where there’s a sanctuary. The original church was built in 582 but the current one is more modern. It’s a pleasant half-hour ride through the lagoon and a peaceful place to spend an hour or so.
- The top draw near Grado is the ancient Roman town of Aquileia, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Much of the town is an open-air museum with views of Roman ruins. Aquileia’s Basilica has stunning mosaics and 2 crypts with frescoes. The Paleochristian Museum is another good place to see mosaics. There’s a bike path from Grado to Aquileia.
- Italy’s largest World War I memorial is in Redipuglia, about half an hour north. It’s a stunning site with the remains of 39,857 identified Italian soldiers and 69,330 unidentified. At the top of the huge memorial are a chapel and small museum.
- Palmanova is a star-shaped town still enclosed in its medieval walls. Three streets lead from the town gates into the main square, Piazza Grande.
- From Cervignano it’s a short train ride to the city of Trieste, on the sea near the Slovenian border. Trieste has one of Italy’s largest squares, a castle, and Roman ruins. It has both Austro-Hungarian and Slovenian influences.