Grado is a historic seaside town located on a lagoon island along Italy’s north-east Adriatic coast, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The town, which has a population of 9,000, is in the Province of Gorizia and is very near the head of the Adriatic Sea. It is frequently described as a northern relative to Venice; at one time it was the more important of the two towns. Like Venice, Grado was populated as the inhabitants of mainland Roman settlements fled into the lagoons to escape successive invasions. After the sixth-century fall of the Roman city of Aquileia, an important early centre of Christianity, Grado became the seat of the Patriarch or Archbishop who was reponsible for the Adriatic lagoon islands and for Istria. After various fallings-out, including an occasion when the Venetians came here and threw the Patriarch off his palace tower, Grado came under the sway of Venice and the Patriarchs moved to Venice in eleventh century, with the Patriarchate being officially moved four centuries later.
Nowadays Grado is a working fishing port with a lovely historic town centre. It is also, and predominantly, a major tourist resort with miles of highly-equipped sandy beaches. For years this area belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and during that time Grado was developed as a spa resort. The town is still very popular with Austrian visitors. Outside Italy and Austria, Grado is not much known, despite being an attractive historic destination with good transport links. The town is very close to Trieste Airport, and in easy reach of Trieste and Venice. It makes a nice overnight stop on a tour of this part of Italy, a base for visiting the extensive ruins at Aquileia, 6 miles away, or a good holiday destination for a trip which combines sun, sand, sightseeing and archaeology.
Although the little historic centre is pretty, Grado’s expansion as a beach resort has obviously had a huge impact on the island’s attractiveness. There are large areas of hotels and apartment blocks built in typical ugly modern Italian style, although central areas have had smarter make-overs. Grado is really a compromise between charm and practicality, and all things considered it doesn’t really do too badly. Its multiple facets also make it a good compromise as a tourist destination: if your family holiday has to satisfy varied tastes, Grado works well.