The Borders, the Patriarchate and the Karst: A Journey through Istria and Friuli 01 - 10 October, 2022

Croatia and Italy
Trip Dates:
01 - 10 October, 2022
Trip Price: £1950 not including international flights. Price and dates to be confirmed for 2022
Single Room Supplement: £ 320
Trip Length: 10 days

For millennia, the peoples from all corners of Europe lived, traded and fought in this region of Europe. The original peoples of the Bronze-age Castellieri culture were conquered, with great difficulty, by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. The narrow passage between the Alps and the Adriatic has been a coveted trade route ever since.

The journey begins in Istria where all the layers of its incredible cultural and natural history are still visible – from the dinosaur footprints, amazing karst geology and castellieri (hilltop fortifications) to Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Habsburg monuments. The highlights are the great Roman amphitheatre in Pula (a Roman city built on 7 hills!) and the Byzantine Episcopal complex of the Euphrasian basilica in Poreč, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, Istria inevitably charms with small, off-the-beaten-track natural and cultural wonders, many of which will be incorporated in this journey.

Like Istria, Friuli also showcases a cultural and historical mix – Roman, Byzantine and Venetian juxtaposed with the spirit of the Habsburg “Mitteleuropa”. The patriarchy of Aquileia played a decisive role in the spread of Christianity into central Europe, and the journey will explore its three seats of power: Aquileia, Cividale del Friuli, and Udine. Picturesque Cividale, perched on karst cliffs above the river Natissone, was the first capital of the Lombard Kingdom in the 6th century and the seat of the Aquileian Patriarchy from the 8th until the 11th century. Its historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, charming visitors with buildings and sights from Lombard and Venetian eras. Also inland, the town of Udine is the capital of the Friuli region. It is renowned for ‘the most beautiful Venetian piazza on the terra firma’, architecture by Palladio and frescoes by Tiepolo, decorating most notably the palazzo built by the last Patriarch of Aquileia in the 18th century. 

This journey is open the Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities and their family and friends. Please note that Distant Horizons has sole responsibility for the operation of this tour. The participating University has no direct control over the operation of any tours.

Maximum Party Size: 20

Trip Leader: Professor Peter Sarris

Professor Sarris read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford (1989), after which he was elected to a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford. He went to Cambridge as a University Lecturer and Fellow of Trinity College in 2000, and has held Visiting Fellowships at Rice University, Texas, and the Harvard University. His main areas of research are late Roman, Byzantine and medieval social, economic and legal history from c.300 to 1200.

His most recent work has concentrated on relations between aristocrats, peasants and the state in the Roman Empire and Byzantium from the 4th to 11th centuries, the background to the rise of Islam, and resistance and hostility to the Church in early medieval society. He is especially interested in comparative approaches to pre-modern economic history, and is currently writing a history of Western Eurasia from the 5th to 15th centuries. He has accompanied several previous journeys for the alumni.

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The Borders, the Patriarchate and the Karst: A Journey through Istria and Friuli Trip Comments:

‘We thoroughly enjoyed travelling to a region pretty much unknown to us with excellent planning and services and with the academic rigour.'
'This was a most enjoyable holiday in a peaceful and extremely interesting region with excellent local dishes and wine and full of fascinating history'. 
'All aspects of the trip were excellent. Many of the places visited were a revelation and unspolit offering a fascinating culture and good food and wine.'
The trip was most interesting and enjoyable. Nemad (local guide) was charming and outstandingly helpful. English was excellent'