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The Natisone Valleys

The Natisone Valleys are located at the eastern extremity of the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region, and join the Isonzo Valley to form a link between Cividale del Friuli - the ancient Forum Iulii - and Slovenia. They comprise the valley of the Natisone itself, and those of its tributaries, the Alberone, the Cosizza and the Erbezzo, to form a single fan-shaped valley system that converges to the south. They are dominated in the north by Mount Matajur (1641 metres), which has become their symbol. The tributary valleys are divided by small mountain ranges that do not exceed 1100 metres.

The special settings, the green woods and meadows, the nature trails and the water courses offer many opportunities for nature walks, mountain bike trips, and game fishing.
The importance of the Natisone Valleys in the regional context is not solely a matter of their unique geographical setting, but also of their cultural and historical profiles.
The nature of the environment encouraged prehistoric human settlement; the oldest example, a hollow beneath a rock occupied during Palaeolithic and Neolithic times, is the Riparo di Biarzo at San Pietro al Natisone.

Ancient remains indicate that the Natisone Valley was an important trade route linking Cividale, the Upper Isonzo Valley and the Norico villages as far back as the pre-Roman era. Because of its location and its close links to eastern regions, the area suffered repeated attack by barbarian tribes. 
Slavonic peoples first entered Friulian territory in the 6th Century, and subsequently established permanent settlements that resisted rule by first the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and later the Most Serene Republic of Venice, under which an individual form of self government emerged, in which the autonomy of Venetian Slovenia and its institutions, such as the banks, reached its zenith.

The culture and traditions of the Natisone Valleys live on in the Slovenian language, in place names, in folk songs, in secular and religious traditions, and in rites and customs...  
One of the principal monuments in the region is the Cave of San Giovanni d’Antro, which is mentioned in documents dating back to the 9th Century and is of interest for historical, artistic and religious reasons as well as for its physical characteristics. The area contains many other natural caves, some of them possessing features of notable speleological interest.

There are also innumerable fascinating votive chapels dating back to the 15th and 16th Centuries distributed throughout the territory.

The Valleys of Natisone rightly bear the name of the river that has so influenced the region’s history and geography.

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