Arrival of Romans
Roman Towns and RoadsSince it was founded in the 2nd century B.C., Aquileia was more and more prospering and soon became one of the biggest cities in the world. From its area, Romans were expanding east and westwards. In Carnic and Julian Alps soon two bigger towns were established: Iulium Carnicum (today's Zuglio) and Forum Iulii (today's Cividale del Friuli). Being focused here in Carnic Alps, of our primary interest is the road, running from Aquileia through Iulium Carnicum and further across the Alps. It was called "Iulia-Augusta", and its course was: Aquileia - Iulium Carnicum - Loncium (in the valley of the Gail) - Aguntum (in the valley of the Drau) - and then further to the west, where below today's Brenner pass it joined the other road, coming up from Verona. One branch of the road, going from Aquileia northwards, and then eastwards to Virunum (a major hilltop town of the Celtic Noricum kingdom, and below it the new Roman center of Noricum), was following the today's river of Fella/Bela and thus encircling Carnic Alps by their eastern side. On the northern side of Carnic Alps, through today's Gail/Zilja valley also a good Roman road was built. And finally, there are many archeological findings also in the valley of Piave, so a quite good road must had encircled Carnic Alps also by the western side.
Along these Roman "highways" there were stations, supporting the trade and traffic. Many of them are today not known any more, but of many we have good archeological evidence. In addition to the newly established Roman towns and garrisons, above the valleys there were many fortified hilltop villages - oppidia. After the era of Ancient Romans, some of them ceased to exist, of some others only old paleochristian churches remained and in the rest of them life continued into the middle ages.
Interesting Sites To Visit
From the Ponte nelle Alpi, where dwellings and necropolis were found, we can go northwards along Piave. Near today's Castellavazzo the remains of Castellum Laebactium can be visited, then higher the necropolis and temple near Pieve di Cadore, and near Lozzo di Cadore another necropolis and remains which indicate that the place was controlling the traffic from the east (Passo Mauria) and the north (towards Innichen).
The Hills Above Tagliamento
On the place where Tagliamento river comes out of the Carnic Alps, there is an interesting geological formation - a broad area of hills, being modified by huge glaciers in the last ice ages. On top of those hills there are many picturesque live towns, which grew from ancient oppidia, and some abandoned oppidia (San Daniele del Friuli, Buja, Artegna, Gemona, Osoppo, Ragogna, Col Monaco, Castel Raimondo, and others). For a biking tour there are many ups and downs, but nice is also a car trip with all those sightseeings.
Then the road Iulia-Augusta went by the valley of Tagliamento (in Friulan: Tilment, in Ancient Roman: Tiliaventum or Taliamentum) and on the place where from the north Fella/Bela flows into it, the road branched. The main branch went towards the north-west and near today's Tolmezzo branched again. The branch further west went on Passo Mauria, but from Villa Santina (Ibligo) one branch went also northwards, into the valley of Degano creek. This branch was less important, because on the end of those valleys there is no good pass over the Alps. But in Degano valley there are Roman remains near Raveo (two oppidia: Cuel Budin and Monte Soranti) and higher near Ovaro (a paleochristian church).
A bit higher in the valley of But, there was a roman town of Sutrio, In today's Paluzza there was a road station (Statio Timaviensis) and an old tower of it is still preserved. Then the road, on some places not broader than 1.5 m, climbed on the Passo di Monte Croce Carnico / Ploecken Pass, 1357 m. On the other, today Austrian side of the pass, many stretches of the Ancient Roman road are still preserved and by it a marked hiking path is nowadays arranged. It comes down to the present Koetschach-Mauthen, very likely the ancient Loncium. On the nearby Wuermlach Alm inscriptions in Venetian language were found, a clear proof that the mountain pass has been in use since ancient times. From the Roman times the remains of a watch tower were found, indicating that in Mauthen there was a road station (in German Maut/Muta means a customs station).
In Roman times more important than Koetschach-Mauthen was the town of Gurina. It was situated on a nice terrace above the valley of Gail/Zilja, near Dellach (on the slopes of Gailtal Alps). That was a strong center of Celtic Noricum, later of Roman Empire and was abandoned only in the middle ages. Its wealth was coming from rich mines on Jauken mountains.