Carnia occupies the whole of Northern Friuli, and the region's border with Austria. This land of mountains, lakes, valleys, woods and pretty little alpine towns and villages was brutally disfigured by a powerful earthquake in 1976 and yet, little more than 30 years later, is now once more, one of the most beautiful areas in the whole of Italy.

The first part of our journey brings us to Gemona. Despite having been beautifully restored, the town's Gothic Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta still conserves traces of the devastating earthquake which so violently shook the town, such as the deep scratches in the 15th century wooden crucifix and the uneven appearance of its pink marble columns. In the civic museum, housed within Palazzo Elti, a collection of artworks recovered from the mountain churches destroyed by the earthquake can be admired. Casa Gurisatti, situated on the town's Via Bini, road once inhabited by Gemona's aristocratic families, is now home to the Friuli Film Museum and a fascinating collection of films, documentaries and video clips recounting the history of the town. Having admired the Castle and Palazzo Comunale we end our tour of Gemona with a visit to the Sanctuary of Sant Antonio, the world's oldest place of worship dedicated to the Saint. Although the sanctuary, completely destroyed by the earthquake, has been rebuilt in modern style, the Rosario chapel is exactly as the Swiss artist Melchiorre Widmar conceived it, back in the late 17th century.

Venzone is one of Carnia's most enchanting little towns. Within its sturdy perimeter wall, we find Palazzo Comunale, a superb example of Venetian Gothic architecture, adorned with the stems of the local aristocratic families, members of which were buried in the cathedral. The spontaneous mummification of the corpses (consequence of the composition of the soil, particularly rich in calcium sulphates and the presence of the Hypha Bombicina Pers funghus) has led to the baptistery and its Venzone Mummies becoming a veritable tourist attraction. Opposite the baptistery, the Romanesque Gothic Cathedral of Sant' Andrea contains a number of original frescoes.

Much of the appeal of Tolmezzo lies in Borgàt, the town's elegant historic center. Here the arcaded streets are packed with patrician town houses and churches. Among the many houses of worship, the Duomo of San Martino, with its beautiful dome adorned with the frescoes of Antonio Schiavi, is particularly noteworthy. The construction of the church began in the 18th century and was completed some two centuries later. So as to gain an idea of life in this part of Friuli, we pay a visit to the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions before heading into the countryside where to explore the natural paradise surrounding the nearby lake of Cavazzo Carnico.

A journey through Carnia is a journey back in time, all the way back to the mesozoic era. At Preone there is the Friuli Paleontological Center, with a permanent exhibition housed in the rooms of the Palazzo Lupieri, where to discover the secrets of the area's most distant inhabitants: the dinosaurs. Our trip concludes with a gastronomic highlight, at Sauris, where a fabulous prosciutto is produced. Between ham sandwiches, visitors to the town should make sure they make the trip up to Suaris di Sopra to see the Sanctuary of Sant Osvaldo, adorned with votive objects left here by the goldsmiths of Venice.