Another Friulian surprise, the tasteful beach resort of Grado, 14km south of Aquileia, spreads along a narrow island backed by lagoons and is linked to the mainland by a causeway. Behind the less-than-spectacular beaches you'll find a mazelike medieval centre, criss-crossed by narrow calli (lanes) and dominated by the Romanesque Basilica di Sant'Eufemia and the nearby remains of a 4th- to 5th-century church mosaic. Belle époque mansions, beach huts and thermal baths line the cheerful seafront (the greyish local sand is considered curative and used in treatments). Grado comes alive from May to September, but is also prime passeggiata (evening stroll) territory on any sunny Sunday.
Small casoni (reed huts) used by fishers dot the tiny lagoon islands. In summer some can be visited by boat. Many of the islands are, however, protected nature reserves and off limits. The tourist office has the details.
On the first Sunday in July, a votive procession sails to the Santuario di Barbana, an 8th-century church on a lagoon island. Fishers have done this since 1237 when the Madonna of Barbana was claimed to have miraculously saved the town from the plague. Boats link the sanctuary with Grado; contact Motoscafisti Gradesi for specific departures and prices.