Grado, Gorizia, Italy – 2017 International Finalist
Grado is a lagoon city founded as a “castrum”, thus a seaport, during the Roman Times. It is an island situated on the north-east coast of Italy along the Adriatic Sea and lies between Venice and Trieste. Narrow streets, antique stone houses and churches which are among the ancient examples of Christian architecture are typical for the city’s historic heart. Based on the activities of fishing, Grado had a continuous and progressive development of tourism since the late 19th century. Over the ears the city has become the most famous beach of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Due to the internationally recognized quality of its waters, beaches and the therapeutic properties of its sand and air, Grado is now one of the most important touristic destinations of the north Adriatic Sea. The city not only offers a variety of hotels, camping grounds and ports, but also a wide pedestrian area, modern spa and sports possibilities. It has a population of 8,500 inhabitants and counts nearly 80,000 tourists every summer.
Grado is also famous for its thermal baths (thalassotherapy) and has also establishments for sand therapies . Born in the 20-th century and renovated during the years, today they are centres of excellence for rehabilitation therapies. Recently, the spa has been expanded with the creation of a large outdoor park.
The area has also great historical and natural heritage. The lagoon, the very essence of Grado, which reaches nearly 90 sq miles is unique in the world due to its terraqueous environment.
Numerous islands and islets of lush vegetation, fishing ponds, canals and rivers draw around Grado unique scenery where nature can be observed at its best. The most characteristic buildings are huts called “Casoni”, which are all made of plant materials and where fishermen used to live.
One of the major islands in the lagoon is Barbana , the famous shrine, visited by many pilgrims every year. Furthermore, it is the destination of the traditional religious procession of the “Pardon of Barbana”. The boats participating in the procession are decorated with strings of laurel (Laurus nobilis) and hydrangea flowers (Hydrangeassp.)
The lagoon also embraces two important nature reserves, which are known as Foce Isonzo and Val Cavanata. These are wetlands of international significance declared under the Ramsar Convention which are part of Natura 2000 and are an important refuge for more than 300 animal species, including migratory and resident bird species.
All species are monitored by the Biological Station of the “Isola della Cona”, which includes many experts and researchers, cooperating with the two regional universities of Udine and Trieste.
Trees, flower beds and ornamental flowers accompany the visitors in the pedestrian areas along the main roads and the many bicycle paths. The various parks can be used by tourists and citizens to escape from the summer heat and by children who can play freely and safely.
The importance of public and private green areas is recognized to the citizens and is the subject of various initiatives such as the competition “Blooming Gardens and Balconies”, creation of flower beds and vegetable gardens within schools and, recently, with a “sponsorship and adoption program” with big and small business and voluntary groups involved in managing and improve the qualities of flowerbeds and generally of the public green areas.