Birgit Stegbauer

Attracted by the first warm, sunny days, Carinthians are drawn towards Grado's sea spa and that doesn't happen just by chance. Since the Habsburg times Grado has been one of the most popular sea resorts of the Italian Adriatic. Its long, gently shelving beaches, all facing south, guarantee bathing pleasures for the whole family. The season lasts from the end of April until the end of September. During that period the G.I.T. Grado ensures well-kept and clean beaches, lifeguards are present for your safety and the beach bars are open.

The history of the city of Grado itself is very closely intertwined with the histories of Aquilea and Venice. To begin with, Grado was a Roman castrum with the function of a seaport to the city of Aquilea - one of the largest cities in Italy in ancient Roman times. Since the fourth century AC however, Aquilea was increasingly subject to devastation by Visigoths, later by Huns and then finally occupied by Langobards. By the end of the Migration Period, most of Aquilea's inhabitants, including the Patriarch of Aquilea, found refuge in the swampy lagoon of Grado.

Unlike Aquilea, which henceforth belonged to the Langobard Empire, Grado and a narrow strip of the Adriatic coastal line remained part of the Byzantine Empire. This political split spilled over into disputes about the legal succession of the ancient Roman Patriarchy of Aquilea. A schism resulted and over several centuries two patriarchs claimed to be the true legal successor: one patriarch in Grado, the so-called 'Aquilea nova', and another one in (Ancient-) Aquilea.

However, the isolation from the mainland, plagues from malaria and storm surges caused Grado's gradual economic decline. At about the same time Venice grew to become the new super power of the Adriatic Sea. This paradigm shift was finally sealed when the Patriarchy of Grado was transferred to Venice in 1451. It was only when Venice and Friuli were under Habsburg rule (1815-1915), that Grado awoke from its long lasting sleep and developed into a popular seaside resort.

On your next visit to Grado and to its old city you can admire an ensemble of early Christian churches from the 5th to the 6th century AD, reminders of the city's former importance: There is the basilica Sant' Eufemia with a huge geometrical floor mosaic including donors - inscriptions, with reused columns from late Antiquity and an ancient choir screen. Then, to the north of the basilica, is Santa Maria delle Grazie where you find more reused columns and another choir screen. Lastly, situated between the two churches, an octagonal baptistery, the oldest building of this complex.

Information about the beach and the sea spa is available here.

Grado tourist information: www.grado.it

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