For under 80 euros per person you can get the sleeper car in the overnight train to Udine via Munich. In the morning when you arrive, take a quick 30 minute regional train from Udine to Gorizia. Get the ticket at the machine when you get there. There are private, double and 6 person sleeper cars. Request the one you want or you will end up with 5 other random people in a very tiny bunk bed situation. The car doors have locks and room for one large luggage per person under the bed. The attendants on the train give a wake up call in the morning 20 minutes before your stop.
From Gorizia, Grado beach is under an hours drive, Slovenia is 30 minutes, the Dolomiti and Austrian mountains are an hour drive. Plus there are Collio Vineyards everywhere so the local and regional wine is outstanding.
An old fisherman’s village, it is accessible only by a “newer” bridge built in the late 1930’s. Before then, it was only reachable by boats. You can clearly see the line between the new and old sections of town. Beautiful to walk and stop for a drink anytime of year especially, of course, in the hot summer. Grado is a popular destination for many, from athletes to the elderly alike, because of its mineral sand healing beaches. You will see beach-goers bury themselves in the muddy sand, then take a dip in the ultra salty sea water. It’s said to help arthritis and other ailments.
As for the town of Gorizia itself, it is good to visit family for a few days, but there is not too much else to do there or in Udine when it’s cold. The grocery store near my family was new from my last visit and amazingly huge. It is an Italians version of a Walmart-style super grocery store with aisles of prosciutto, cheese, pasta, coffee… all local brands that are the best you can get, and you can only get them in Italy. My cousins filled our bags with goodies to take back to cook with in Germany. Pasta, cheese and coffee are our favorite gifts.
For dinner one night we drove over the hill to Slovenia. That’s what makes Europe so cool. You can be in 2-3 different countries in a day with ease.
From Gorizia the train to Venice (Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia) is about 2 hours. You can’t not love Venice. Just look at it:
Carnival of Venice: Carnevale di Venezia
The end of January through Lent in February is Carnival in Venice. It’s the best time of year for people watching. Everyday there is something going on to celebrate in San Marco Square. The costumes and masks are elaborate, bright and get more creative each year for the costume contests and parades.
The Basilica is the central point of San Marco Square and is free to go inside, 5 euros to go up to the museum part and the outlook point over the square. The detail and amount of marble, mosaic work and gold is stunning.
Venice is expensive and overpriced in lots of places because of the tourism so you really have to learn where the cheap places are for regular things. For example, the cheapest liters of bottled water are about 20 euro cents at Piazzale Roma grocery store versus 2 euros for a bottle from San Marco side street grocers. My cousins printed out loads of info on which Bacari restaurants and Osteria’s to stick to. Bacari restaurants keep traditional and more affordable seasonal menus that change as often as the produce they have on hand. Our favorite spots of the trip were: Al Portego (very small place so get in early or make a reservation for dinner) and Antico Osteria Ruga Rialto for lunch. Order the house wine everywhere. It’s delicious, the most affordable and many times not advertised on menus because locals just know to ask for it.
Of course we had to stop to have Cicchetti while in Venice too. Traditional bar snacks that can add up quickly in cost so watch the amount you order. The Baccalà is a must try in Venice.
We flew back to Stuttgart from Venice. To/from Venice Italy to Stuttgart Germany is a quick 1 hour flight and about the same at 80 euros per person each way. It was our first time on Air Berlin and we loved the flight, plus they give out free snacks and drinks in flight unlike German Wings where you have to pay extra. The flight goes over the mountains of Austria and the view is amazing.