A 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). 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.
Beyond Grado's perpetual holiday bustle lie two picturesque nature reserves; a scant 15-minute drive will take you into a dreamlike watery landscape of marsh and reeds, rich in local fauna and with intriguing examples of traditional coastal life.