Discovering the museums of Friuli

Our voyage of discovery continues among the thirty-three museums in the UNESCO Dolomites network. Thirty-three doors opening on as many displays on anthropological, geological, historical and natural history themes. Thirty-three priceless treasure troves of knowledge, culture and awareness of the countless wonders of the Dolomite environment and handed down by all those who have seen that environment over the centuries become stratified with such sediments as Dolomite stone. Today we’ll take on a trip to get to know the five museums of Friuli Venezia Giulia.


We cannot help but start at Borgo Grazzano, in Udine, where Palazzo Giacomelli is home to the Friuli Ethnographic Museum – the New Museum of Popular Art and Traditions.
The new museum has its own history, taking up again and carrying forth a project that originated in 1963 under Gaetano Perusini, an ethnographic expert and passionate collector. It was indeed the collections donated by Perusini, who was the Professor of History of Popular Tradition at the University of Trieste, that made up the main body of the exhibits on show at Palazzo Giacomelli. This provides a detailed picture of popular culture, continuing with the intimate, family feel of the “fogolâr” (fireplace). Then there are exhibits that demonstrate religious devotion, traditional games, music and clothing. Also featuring is the theme of emigration, leading many residents of Friuli to leave their own fireplace and rural occupation complete with its practices, tools and heritage of knowledge. There is an interesting section on the “art of fire” with study on the concept of “limine”, from doors to locks, padlocks, keys, hinges and bolts from the 14th to the 19th Century.


Now we go up to Ampezzo, where Palazzo Unfer is home to the Carnia Geological Museum that, with the aid of multi-media panels and devices, tells the story of the Carnia area from 450 to 40 million years ago. Of particular interest are the fossils of the pterosaurs, the world’s oldest flying reptiles, their remains found in Preone. The museum is particularly noteworthy for its attention to accessibility and inclusion. In addition to information in braille for blind people, the placing and height of all the exhibits have been arranged to make them accessible to wheelchair users. Children and school pupils are given the chance to learn through play, to do little experiments and to benefit from learning experiences delivered by suitably qualified staff members.


Preone – 200 milioni di anni” (200 million years of Preone) is an exhibition housed in Palazzo Lupieri which offers the opportunity to learn, first and foremost, about how the geographic features and climatic conditions shaped the local biodiversity, the beech, oak and pine woods with their wildlife and vegetation and therefore the geological history of the area in the Triassic period. Of major importance are the fossil remains which focused the interest of palaeontologists the world over on Preone. These remains include  those of the Preondactylus buffarinii, a species of flying reptile or pterosaur, one of the most ancient in the world, the Megalancosaurus preonensis, a small tree-dwelling reptile and such predatory fish as Saurichthys Birgeria. Great care has been taken to make all the exhibits accessible. At the end of the visit you can return to the open air along the nature trail known as “Stavoli Lunas” that describes the geological and palaeontological features and the flora and fauna of the area.


Of major palaeontological, ethnographic and historical importance is the Dogna area, home to the Territorial Museum and Environmental Education Centre. The centrepiece of the display is what remains of the fossilised footprints of a Triassic predator, the Phytosaur. The museum exhibits provide a view of all the social and environmental aspects of the Dogna area described in the ethnographic section and there is also a section concentrating on the Great War.


We conclude with the marvellous collections brought together by academics and those with a passion for insects, birds and minerals, which feature in the atmospheric offering of the Pordenone Civil Natural History Museum, housed in the 16th Century Palazzo Amalteo in the heart of the historic town centre. The collection of Oddo Arrigoni degli Oddi, the father of Ettore Arrigoni, is highly significant since he was considered the founder of modern Italian ornithology. There are no fewer than 3000 examples of exotic birds. Also of great interest is the Umberto Posarini collection, the leading entomologist who gathered 9000 coleoptera of the Carabus genus, as well as 10000 other coleoptera, lepidoptera and orthoptera. The exhibits also include 13,000 mineral samples and there are sections on palaeontology, botany, malacology and osteology. At the entrance, visitors are greeted by a woolly mammoth over three metres tall. The sections of the museums are free of barriers and designed to give visitors a close encounter with these true exemplars, also on show in the Theatrum naturae, the home to some mysterious and sometimes monstrous creatures.