La Frasca (the branch) in Friuli

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Well this was a lot of fun. Locating bundles of dried sticks was the first thing we kept our eyes open for in Friuli, the reason being that upon hearing about our plan to visit the region, my husband’s coworker said, “You’re going to Friuli? Then you’ll see le frasche along the road.” According to him, the branches signaled the availability of simple meals at local farmstays (agriturismi), and that the wine and food offered would be at very reasonable prices.

But you know how it goes when you try SO HARD to find something that you don’t even see it, even if it’s right in front of your nose? We were a couple of blind bats because:
1.) There was nothing particularly noticeable at roadside entrances and
2.) We were looking in the wrong direction. Those arboreal symbols of a homecooked meal were fastened high up on signposts and utility poles, pretty much blending right into the scenery. Once we made the discovery, la frasca was seen everywhere and the pics show how easy they were to spot and the degree of marketing to promote the location. Not a lot of flash but a whole lot of charm! The wine flask, or fiasco, was a sure giveaway and turned out to be not only places to drink a glass of wine or have a bite of salame and cheese, but also a place where men, young and old, gathered together at the end of a work day. The last two images are those we chose to visit on the last night of the trip – both of them flowing with vino and not much else except way too many loud and single dudes. Not exactly what we had in mind.

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Agriturismo Luis – wine to take away

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Above and below: Fiasco + arrow + branches = vino, vino, vino, and lots of company

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We were deluded at not finding a hidden gem of a place that served supper and should’ve asked the hotel owner beforehand for suggestions. Upon checkout, we inquired about the custom of la frasca (btw, practiced only in Friuli) and she explained that it first began with the wine producers then was eventually taken up by the local farmstays in a sort of cultural badge of advertisement. She went on to say that meals are humble affairs, offering dishes such as frittata, vegetables, grilled meat, fruit tarts – essentially, food that was either grown or raised on the premises.

Sifting the internet for the very first beginnings of la frasca (in Italy there is always a story behind everything), an italian site claims that while passing through the Alps, a barbarian king passing dispatched his men to search for places where there might be “good drink and good rest.” The men hung a tree branch to identify those that they found. From then on, la frasca has become a sort of emblem for all farmhouses where typical products of traditional friulian gastronomy can be found.

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