San Daniele del Friuli: The Northern Italian Town That Foodies Must Visit

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San Daniele prosciutto, made in San Daniele del Friuili, is widely regarded as Italy’s finest. With a highly-coveted DOP designation granted by the European Union, San Daniele ham has been produced in the same artisanal manner for centuries. In addition to the prosciutto San Daniele is famous for, this small town has an old world charm just waiting to be explored. For example, San Daniele Italy has one of the most famous antique libraries in the country, a city gate that was redesigned from the medieval castle by the famous architect Andrea Palladio and other historical buildings also dating from the 14th century.

The Lowdown on San Daniele del Friuli

San Daniele del Friuli is a charming Medieval town in Northeast Italy in the region of Venezia Friuli Giulia in the province of Udine.

History of San Daniele Italy

The town has a long and storied history dating back centuries from before Roman times. Even the Celts who would have been in the region would have known how to salt and cure ham. By the Medieval period, San Daniele ham was well known for being particularly good.

Like the rest of the area, San Daniele passed through both Venetian and Austrian rule before becoming part of the Republic of Italy. In the 18th century, Napoleon and the French marched through and carted off the town’s supply of San Daniele ham which isn’t surprising because Napoleon was renowned for his love of nice things.

Location of San Daniele Italy

San Daniele Italy is sandwiched in between the Dolomites (part of the Italian Alps) and the Adriatic Sea with the Tagliamento river nearby. This particular location is what makes San Daniele prosciutto special. You get a microclimate created by the cold winds from the Dolomites  mixing with the warmer sea breezes of the Adriatic and the tempering effect of the Tagliamento River.

panorama of San Daniele del Friuli showing the mountains and the fields
San Daniele Italy is located between the mountains and the sea with a river running nearby.

Apparently the Tagliamento River is one of the few rivers in Italy that has always stayed on its natural course. Lucky for little San Daniele because this river is important for its microclimate.

NB  The river Tagliamento is also responsible for another delicacy the region is famous for, smoked trout, nicknamed the Queen of San Daniele.

San Daniele Prosciutto

San Daniele prosciutto has a D.O.P. origin given by the European Union which ensures that it is produced in a certain region of Italy in a certain way using artisanal processes. There are around 30 companies in San Daniele that carry this DOP designation and are part of a consortium protecting and promoting their beloved ham!

So what exactly is prosciutto San Daniele?

Some basics on San Daniele ham:

  • Prosciutto is simply the Italian word for ham.
  • Italy has lots of prosciutto but it doesn’t have to be prosciutto San Daniele or even prosciutto Parma.
  • There are two types of prosciutto as well – crudo (uncooked) and cotto (cooked).

Just because it’s uncooked doesn’t mean, prosciutto crudo is raw. Prosciutto crudo is ham that has been treated with salt as a preservative and left to cure over the space of months.

prosciutto San Daniele with figs
Popular San Daniele food involves prosciutto with fruit such as figs

Why is San Daniele Ham special?

San Daniele prosciutto is made exclusively from the hind legs of Italian pigs reared in about 4000 authorised farms in North and Central Italy. There is a whole extensive process of how San Daniele ham must be made and checked before it is allowed to carry the DOP brand.

Your prosciutto San Daniele will have been made the same way that it was created 500 years ago! That’s pretty special in this day and age.

A brain child of the Prosciutto Consortium, the Aria di Feste is a prosciutto festival held annually in June since 1985 in the town. Thousands of prosciutto lovers descend on the town and the prosciutto factory tours are in full swing.

San Daniele Prosciutto vs Parma

The other famous ham from Italy that has gained international renown is from the Parma region in north central Italy..

More people have heard of Parma ham than San Daniele prosciutto. This fact isn’t surprising considering there are more than 6x the producers of Parma ham than San Daniele prosciutto.

Although both San Daniele prosciutto and Parma ham are exactly the same thing (cured ham), the process of curing differs between prosciutto San Daniele vs ham.

Here are some of the main differences between San Daniele prosciutto vs Parma:

      • Unlike Parma ham, San Daniele prosciutto is cured with the trotters of the pig still intact. It is said that leaving the trotters intact helps to drain more fat and liquid from the leg.
      • San Daniele prosciutto is also pressed into its distinctive guitar shape.
      • San Daniele prosciutto is salted for less time than Parma ham so it has a sweeter taste.

Things to Do in San Daniele del Friuli

The San Daniele del Friuli information office is very helpful and located in the center of town behind the Cathedral. There is surprising a lot to do in this small town (besides eating obviously!).

Historical Sights in San Daniele del Friuli

Yes, there’s more to the charming little medieval town of San Daniele than prosciutto.

Most of the historical sights are located in a small area of the town comprised of a handful of streets. As you would expect in any Italian town, there are a lot of churches as well as a Duomo, even though the current population hovers around 8000 people.

Porta Gemona

You enter into town via the 16th century Portanat/Porta Gemona. Porta Gemona was designed by Andrea Palladio in the 16th century from the remnants of a tower of the medieval castle.

Fun fact!   One of the most influential architects of all time, Andrea Palladio was a Renaissance architect of the Venetian Republic who is better known for the grand villas of the city of Vicenza, Italy (earning them an UNESCO world heritage site listing). Some examples of Palladio’s influence:

  • The British nobility went crazy for the Palladian style which you can still see at the Royal Banqueting Hall in London and big country houses such as Stowe House and Chiswick House.
  • In the USA, you can see Palladian style in Harvard Hall at Harvard University, the U.S. Capitol building and Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.

Biblioteca Guarneriana

Founded in 1466, the Biblioteca Guarneriana is one of the most important and oldest libraries in Italy.

The treasure trove of a library contains over 12,000 ancient books, including an original 14th century manuscript of Dante’s Inferno and Medieval-era manuscripts laboriously decorated by monks in gold and silver. These artefects remain preserved over the centuries by the special microclimate of San Daniele.

The Biblioteca Guarneriana can generally be seen on a Saturday morning tour. Even though we showed up on a Saturday morning, we were told the tours were cancelled because of the Covid epidemic. The Biblioteca Guaraneriana website is only in Italian.

Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate

Established in 1308, the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate is a gem of Renaissance fresco paintings, and known as the local version of the Sistine Chapel.

rose window ofChiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate
A 14th century church in San Daniele Italy dedicated to the patron saint of butchers.
Fun Fact! Not as well known as St Anthony of Padua, St Anthony the Abbot is the patron saint of butchers (a useful patron saint to have in this town dedicated to pig legs).


Slightly later in time is the 16th century Campanile which was started by a follower of Raphael but never finished. Nearby is the 18th century Duomo di San Michele Arcangelo (which replaced an earlier 14th century cathedral).

The Cathedral of San Daniele di Friuli on Piazza Vittorio Emanuele
The Cathedral is the dominant landmark in the historic part of San Daniele Italy.

Casa del Trecento

The Casa del Trecento is the oldest house still surviving in San Daniele del Friuli. It dates to medieval times and has survived such manmade and natural disasters like world wars and the epic 1976 earthquake.

Shopping in San Daniele Italy

Not surprisingly, shopping in San Daniele tends to revolve around food. There are lots of great grocery stores.

Located on the main piazza Vittoria Emanuele, the Boutique Dell’Alimentaire Garlati gives you lots of choice of Italian products beyond just San Daniele prosciutto. You could use this store as your one-stop shopping for all things Italian food that you’d want to purchase for gifts (or for yourself!).

A food store with wine and olive oil from Italy
A San Daniele food store sells specialty foods from all over Italy.

Alternatively check out Bottega del Prosciutto which is located near Hotel San Daniele near the same piazza. At this deli, you can stock up with prosciutto, cheeses etc. for a picnic if you want to hike/cycle around the town.

A deli in San Daniele di Friuli with sausages and mortadella
In this town, its easy to forget that other pig products can be just as delicious as prosciutto San Daniele.

San Daniele Italy restaurants

Not surprisingly San Daniele food tends to revolve around dishes that incorporate prosciutto San Daniele in some manner. The menus are creative – you never would guess how many ways you can incorporate San Daniele prosciutto into dishes!

We chose Antico Caffe Toran primarily because it had outdoor seating with a great view of the main town square. And, the food was exceptional as well! We started with San Daniele prosciutto with melon  as well as just plain San Daniele prosciutto.

a plate of gnochetti with San Daniele ham and a glass of white wine
San Daniele ham in gnochetti with the local Friuli white wine.

For the main course, my husband and I had prosciutto based gnochetti washed down with the local Friuli white wine. Our son chose a San Daniele ham and spaghetti dish which he devoured.

Near Antico Caffe Toran, both Trattoria Al Teatro and Al Cantinon are well-regarded. If you want a prime location on the main piazza for the best people-watching, Ristorante Farroni is small but perfectly positioned.

There are also pizzerias where you can have San Daniele pizza in the town which is another popular San Daniele food.

My son always chose prosciutto crudo pizza in our travels around Northern Italy. Amusingly, prosciutto crudo pizza is usually listed on the menu as a “classic” pizza along with pizza Margherita. For non-Italians like us, a prosciutto crudo pizza is anything but basic!

pizza with San Daniele prosciutto and grana padana
A pizza with prosciutto crudo but we doubt it was a San Daniele pizza because the fact would’ve have been advertised.

San Daniele Prosciutto Factory Tours

Several of the prosciuttifici (ham factories) have guided tours that show you how the prized San Daniele ham is made.

NB! The very helpful San Daniele tourist office called around for any available factory tours for us, but none of them were running thanks to the Covid-19 epidemic. They suggested we visit Prosciuttifici Prolongo to see a factory with a store as an alternative.

Prosciuttifici Prolongo is a family-run business currently in its third generation of ownership.

In current circumstances only one set of visitors from the same group are allowed at a time to visit the factory shop. We saw a bit of the processing of San Daniele ham — and just as importantly – bought our San Daniele prosciutto straight from the factory.

Address: 129 Viale Trento e Trieste, 33038 San Daniele del Friuli

a display at Prosciuttoria Prolongo of San Daniele ham
The distinctive guitar shape of prosciutto San Daniele shown in a display at Prosciuttifici Prolongo.

Organised Prosciutto Tour versus a Self-Tour

Before we got to San Daniele del Friuli, we tried to arrange a prosciuttifici tour ourselves. We could only find organised day tours from Udine/Trieste whereas we were driving ourselves to San Daniele. Perhaps in these times, only organised tours are available.

In addition to Prosciuttifici Prolongo, these prosciuttifici, however, indicate that they run tours/tastings:

Note that the Prosciuttifici are located outside the center of town and you will need transportation.

Where To Stay in San Daniele del Friuli

Located only about 12 miles from the city of Udine, we went to San Daniele on a day trip. We drove and found parking spots super easy.

If you feel the need to spend more than a day stuffing yourself with prosciutto San Daniele and/or are coming for the June Prosciutto festival of Aria di Feste, you may want to stay overnight.

Hotel San Daniele is a small 24 room hotel set in a small side street near the center of town. The hotel rooms are renovated and modern. There are family-friendly rooms that can accommodate up to 4 people.

Address: 1 Via del Lago, 33038 San Daniele del Friuli

Make It Easy On Yourself!
Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews of Hotel San Daniele!

Compare rates for your dates through Booking[dot]com!

The clock tower next to the Cathedral of San Daniele de Friuli
The height of the campanile (bell tower) makes it easy to orient yourself on a San Daniele map.

Al Campanile di San Daniele is a small B&B of six rooms. Set in a traditional building but with renovated interiors, Al Campanile has a great location near the center of town as well as flexibile room occupancies, such as a suite for up to 5 people which would be great for families.

Address: 2 Via Cavour, 33100 San Daniele del Friuli

Make It Easy On Yourself!
Check out the great TripAdvisor reviews of Al Campanile di San Daniele!

Compare rates for your dates through Booking[dot]com!

San Daniele Map of Attractions


two photos of town of San Daniele set in fields and mountains and of prosciutto crudo with figs with the text: How To Spend 1 day in San Daniele Italy
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