You should know that I am constantly searching for hidden and unknown places. The older I get, the more I need calm moments far away from the crowds in the cities. That’s why it gets quite difficult for me to find a pleasant holiday location during the summer season without flying around the globe.
This year I have visited Lago di Sauris in Northern Italy, just about 400 kilometers away from my hometown Vienna. In addition I got there with my Ural sidecar motorcycle, which meant a lot of offroad fun!
Friuli, an overlooked and underrated region in Italy
Friuli is a region located in the Northeast of Italy, bordered by the Veneto region in the West, the Carnic Alps and Austrian Carinthia in the North, the Slovenian border in the East and the Adriatic Sea in the South. Traversed by numerous rivers, the region emits its own special character and charm.
Sauris, German: Zahre, is a cute little commune you have to see
Just in the mountainous North of Friuli, there is a small town called Sauris. As a matter of fact there are two towns, divided in Sauris di Sopra (upper) and Sauris di Sotto (under). Both are located in close proximity to Lago die Sauris, a big artificial lake which stands out because of its incredibly blue water.
According to a legend, Sauris was founded by German mercenaries in 1300, and since then it is a german linguistic enclave. Hence the local dialect Saurano incorporates a lot of Tyrolean words. The people in Sauris are mostly trilingual, they are able to speak Italian and Friulian as well.
A place to take a break from everyday life
When you walk through the town you will be taken back in time. The cute wooden houses, the detailed carvings, the lovely churches and the numerous colourful flowers are a treat for the eyes of a photographer. You won’t find any tourist rip-off offerings, in fact there is not a lot you can do as a tourist in Sauris. But the natural and honest calmness in combination with the astonishing scenery makes this place so special.
Of course you can go for a walk, do a hiking tour with your family or chill yourself down by swimming in the lake. But at the end of the day I suggest to sit down in one of the small restaurants among the local people. Enjoy the famous local Prosciutto, salami and cheese, which are served on a wooden plate, together with some white bread accompanied with a glass of wine. Just relax and you will find out that it doesn’t take much to be happy!
Offroading in Lago di Sauris/Friuli
Lago di Sauris is situated within the Carnia mountain area of Friuli. It is a great place to experience some offroad adventures. As a result I recommend to stay in one of the small hotels or inns in Sauris and plan radial rides in the vicinity. There are a lot of agricultural roads and mountain bike paths north of Sauris, which you are allowed to drive along even with motorbikes. But don’t assume that you will go far with your SUV! Prepare to encounter steep climbs, rocky terrain, muddy river crossings and more.
An astonishing mountain pass – Forcella Ielma
Since we were here with our 2WD Ural sidecar motorcycle, I decided to drive up to Forcella Ielma, a mountain pass just north of Lago di Sauris. We departed from Sauris di Sotto and conquered the serpentines to the town Lateis. After that we followed the road further into the forest. Soon the asphalt street turned into a gravel track and from there it got more and more difficult. We had to fight deep holes washed out by water, cross a dried-out river bed and climb up sections with fist-sized gravel rocks. Since the Ural has no reduction gearbox, I was constantly aware of building up momentum to attack the steeper slopes.
Business before pleasure
But on the last 500 meters up to Forcella Ielma, even this tricks did not help anymore. We were confronted with short but serious ascents, interrupted by 180 degrees serpentines. There was no way to build up the crucial speed with the Ural. So my wife and the dog had to leave the sidecar to reduce the weight of the rig. By doing that I could accelerate slightly better on the flat areas in the bends. Although I tortured the clutch unmercifully, I failed several times at the same spots. That was the moment I learned that backing up a heavy sidecar bike down the hill is even more frightening than beating it up the hill. And even more so when you realize that there is nobody far and wide who will help you.
We made it!
It was a deeply emotional moment when we finally reached the summit, only witnessed by grazing cows. Watching the astonishing scenery at our feet, we realized that our Ural sidecar motorcycle is, with our combined effort, unstoppable. That was a truly remarkable experience we will never forget. Sweaty but happy!
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