I’d never heard of Grado until I received an email asking whether I’d be interested in coming to check it out. A quick Google search taught me that the Comune di Grado is a small island town about an hour and a half east from Venice in the Friuli region of Italy. “Town” and “Italy” were enough to convince me and so off I was.
“We have time”
I happened to arrive the evening Italy would play Belgium in the European Championship football (and win), but Grado didn’t seem as football crazy as I’d expected it to be. On the terrace of restaurant Zero Miglia, the fish cooperative of Grado, people calmly enjoyed their meals with a view on the Porto Mandracchio. “We have time”, my Italian dinner partner assured me. It was a phrase I’d hear often during my four days in the town.
The beaches of Grado
Those looking to relax can do so at Grado’s long stretch of sandy beaches. In fact, the entire southern edge of Comune di Grado is covered in beaches, which means the sun warms them from dusk until dawn, a quite unique feature.
In the complete west and in the complete east of Grado you can find to beaches which are freely accessible (but where you’ll still have to pay for umbrella’s and the like), while the main beach, the “Spiaggia Principale” requires an entrance fee.
The Spiaggia Principale is divided into different segments based on the guests it receives. One segment is “normal”, with umbrellas and beach chairs, while another is aimed at families with small children, a third at people with dogs and a fourth at people who are into watersports. There are playgrounds for kids, both on the beach and in the shade of trees, as well as a small indoor playing area where moms or dads can come to cool down with their little ones.
The Spiaggia Principale gives access to the waterpark, a tennis area, and the spa. The waterpark can welcome up to 1,000 people and is designed to entertain both parents and kids, with shallow pool parts and water slides, but also with underwater hydromassage chairs and whirlpools.
At the spa, everything is focused on the three elements that are naturally present in the area: the sun, the sea, and the sand. People can go sunbathing, enjoy thalassotherapy or try out sand therapy. There’s a beauty center, a wellness and massage area and a revalidation area.
Cycling around Grado
It wasn’t hot enough for me to go lie on the beach when I was visiting, so I decided to get a bit more active and go on a little bike ride. There are several car-free cycle paths in Grado that take you around town, but also to the neighboring village of Aquileia, the Nature Reserve Valle Cavanata and even all the way up to Montefalcone.
I recommend taking the southern path as it will take you along the beach while the northern one goes along a busy road. If you take the southern road, you’ll pass the waterpark at a certain point and a bit further than that the road ends. However, there’s a small path that’s clearly been used by other cyclists and walkers before that goes along the edge of the beach and takes you straight to Spiaggia Pineta. It’s a shortcut, take it 😀
Right before you reach that point, have a quick look at the beach, it’s super shallow here and you might see some kitesurfers if the wind is up. I spotted a few there, and also at Pineta Beach.
Grado’s historical center
As small and calm as the village may seem today, “The Sunny Island” was an important port in Roman times and still has a beautifully preserved and protected historical center. I took a tour (ask the tourism office) that taught me about the history of the town and the buildings in the old center, but you can just as easily enjoy the little streets by wandering through them.
Be sure to have a look inside the Santa Maria delle Grazie church and the Santa Eufemia basilica. The former is the oldest one, but the latter has a gorgeous mosaic floor.
The Comune di Grado is a very walkable town and so I did most of my exploring on foot. My favorite part was the boardwalk starting east from city hall, by the fountain (you’ll see when you get there, it’s all very clear and close!) and going all the way to the end of Spiaggia Costa Azura, the most western beach of Grado. Especially the area behind city hall is lovely as there the sea splashes against the rocks below the boardwalk and you can take a seat on the stone benches to overlook the water – while having gelato, obviously.
Have you ever met someone who didn’t like Italian food? I haven’t. Plenty of little restaurants and gelato bars serve plates and cones of deliciousness, but there’s one thing you should know. Grado was part of Austria until after World War I and the local vendors have adapted their menus to the taste of the many Austrian visitors. However, this doesn’t mean that the food isn’t good. Ignore the pizza würst and the dishes with kartoffel and you’ll still have plenty of proper Italian food to choose from.
A few of the places I went to:
Mentioned before, Zero Miglia is the fish cooperative of Grado. Here, the fish literally goes straight from the boat into the kitchen. As an appetizer, I had fried anchovies. As my main course, I tried boreto, a typical local dish consisting of several kinds of fish, often served with polenta. Fishermen would always have some fish they couldn’t sell and so they threw all that “bad” fish together in one dish, which became boreto.
Zero Miglia, Riva E. Dandolo 22
Losteria is located on Grado’s main pedestrian street and has a lovely terrace. The woman who runs the place is super friendly and happy to help you order something that will suit your taste. I had a calamari salad to start, followed by lasagna and asparagus ice cream for dessert. Yes, asparagus ice cream. Apparently, asparagus is typical for the region and it has a very soft flavor when turned into ice cream. It just tastes creamy, really, and with a bit of strawberry sauce, it’s simply heavenly.
Losteria, Piazza Duca D’Aosta 16
To be honest, I would have never chosen ‘La Ciacolada for a meal if I’d just walked past. The waiters address people on the street, which I don’t like at all. However, a local told me this place had the best pizzas in town, and I hadn’t had pizza yet, so I decided to try them out. I chose a classic pizza margherita and fair enough, it was good. I wouldn’t say it was so much better than any pizza I had at Italian places (run by Italians) in Belgium, but it was definitely taste and the fact that ‘La Ciacolada has a big terrace in a car-free street is definitely a plus.
‘La Ciacolada, Via Caprin 35
Where to stay in Grado?
When I was in Grado, I stayed at an apartment at the edge of the center. If you’d like to stay in an apartment as well, I recommend using airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
If you prefer a hotel, Booking.com has an extensive list of options for all budgets and needs.
How to get to Grado
I flew with Ryanair from Brussels to Treviso where I was picked up by car. You can also fly into Trieste Airport, from where you can take a direct bus to Grado. Venice is another nearby airport.
If you want to travel to Grado by train, the closes train station is in Cervignano. From there, it’s another direct 25-minutes bus ride to Grado.
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I was a guest of the Comune di Grado and their #followgrado project during my stay in the town. The choice to enjoy it there and ruin my diet was entirely my own. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you book a stay through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the site!