Standing at the mouth of a large lagoon, its is not a surprise the big and safe marina that unfolds close to the centre of town. Easy access, easy parking, easy supplying, but the shallow water in the lagoon only allows boats until 20 meters.
(I can't take mine there!)
The big laguna is world for itself. We stayed at the other end of its mouth, at Lignano sabbiadoro, and needed to drive almost 80 km to reach Grado. There are boat trips in the laguna from both sides, but we found no regular boat linking both ends. Strange! I understand that being in Lignano the visit ot Grado is appealing, but the opposite doesn't work, since Lignano is only a beach, without anything to add to Grado. There is a taxi service to three islands, expensive charter boats, so, exploring the laguna is not easy nor cheap.
Grado is mainly a beach, but, staying in Lignano Sabbiadoro, we didn't go there to use the beach, but only to... have a look.
It is a wide and calm beach, too calm for us, in mid September, announcing the arrival of low season.
Nothing to criticise, but it is not exactly the kind of beach able to invite us to leave Portugal
In my way to and from Grado, my attention was caught by a distant dome. I had to check what it is. Well, it is a interesting (it seems) "modern" church, built in the 18th century in Romanesque style, to replace an older one, built in the 5th century, and isolated in a island by the growth of the lagoon, since the 11th century.
Unless you have you own boat, the only way to visit is to take a ferry in Grado, for a 20 minutes trip. We didn't!
Located in the historic centre, the "Campo dei Patriarchi", this is Grado's main monument. A byzantine church, used as cathedral until the 15th century, it has interesting mosaics, frescoes and silver paintings.
The Isola di Barbana is the small island that you will see across the lagoon. There is a church on the island. We were told that the church, which is a Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna, was a popular pilgrimage destination.
There is a scheduled ferry service to the island, but in the winter it only runs on Sundays (for Mass). The boat to Barbana leaves from the Canale della Schiusa. There is a noticeboard alongside the ticket kiosk where you can see the departure times for the ferries.
The historical center of Grado is quite small compared with the modern town, and both sea and lagoon are invisible. Still, in my opinion, this little medieval quarter is the most charming part of Grado. Similar to Venice, medieval Grado is composed of calli and campielli (lanes and courtyards). The old fishermen's houses cluster together, almost one on top of the other; all winding alleys, pretty little squares and staircases decorated with plants (completely adorable: Check the pic!). It's surprisingly easy to lose your sense of direction, although the maze is not very complicated. The whole area has a well-kept and friendly feeling, and is surrounded with bars and restaurants.
Just over the square from the Duomo, there is an impressive early church: the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie. This dates back to the fourth century and contains a few early sculptures. To the right of the nave, there is an open area where you can look down at mosaics dating to an early phase of the building.
Grado's cathedral, the Duomo or Basilica di Sant'Eufemia is probably the town's best tourist sight. It is in a little square called Campo dei Patriarchi, which is the historic center of Grado. The church dates back to the sixth century, although it has undergone some restoration.
The angel on the campanile is a popular local symbol. Inside there is an impressive mosaic that covers almost the entire floor surface. Through a glass panel in the floor it's possible to see a small patch of even older mosaic.
Near the sanctuary, you can visit the Chapel of the Apparition. Due to the legend, the chapel was built on exact the same point where Mary's wooden statue was found after the terrible storm which affected the island in year 582 A.D.
The nain altar of the church is precious work of the late 17th century realized by two Venetian sculpturors. On the altar stands the beautiful wooden statue of Our Lady, also realized on 17th century.
Inside the Chapel of the Apparition there are Egidio Bullesi's remains. He died at the age of 24 and will soon be beatified. There are also some nice paintings in fresco.
Every first Sunday in July, thousands of pilgrims visited Barbana sanctuary in order to wenew a vow made to Virgin Mary in year 1237.
The area around the chapel is encircled by a little cementery . These is the place, where guardians are buried and beside them also devote persons who decided to be buried on the island. As it is not much space around the chapel , the graveyard is reduced only on monks, to be buried there.
Empty tables were waiting for guests. It was too early for having lunch. A cluster of good restaurants can be found in the old streets around the basilica. They serve good pizza, fish specialities, good wine and snacks, and more and more.
Icecream in Italy is "a must". Nowhere is as delicious as in Italy. And nothing better to do when strolling around in a hot day, is to visit an ice-cream shop and ... It would be a sin not to taste it, even you are on diet. My favourites are all fruit - tasting.