High up in the mountains of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, burrowed among snow-dusted pines, a cabin sits in a clearing in the forest.
As I approach in the fading afternoon light, the peaks seeming to expand before me. The only sound is my own footsteps, crunching softly through snow. Blending in seamlessly with the nature around it, I would have barely noticed this tiny house if I weren’t looking for it — and this is precisely the point. This cabin, along with three others, belongs to Friland: a brand of tiny homes that is switching up the narrative when it comes to slow and sustainable travel.
Born of a deep-rooted passion for northern Italy’s rich natural landscape, Friland is on a mission to promote sustainable and responsible tourism practices in this under-appreciated corner of Italy. When I asked Luca Simeoni (one of Friland’s founders) what he loved about Friuli-Venezia Giulia, his response was instantaneous. “In just 150 kilometers, this region has everything: from the mountains to the ocean, and from vineyards to lagoons,” he says. “Even from village to village, the traditions, foods, and lifestyles change so much.”
A sustainable business model that supports the slow travel movement, Friland allows travelers to comfortably explore Italy off-the-grid — while respecting the environment. The eco-cabins are designed and purpose-built by local carpenters and craftsmen to minimize their impact on the environment. They use renewable energy and waste management sources, such as solar panels and fresh water tanks, and the cabins “travel” throughout the region too, changing locations every few months. Not only does this give guests the opportunity to discover unknown destinations throughout Friuli-Venezia Giulia, but it also ensures that the tiny houses leave no footprint on the landscape around them.
Climbing inside my 12m² (130ft2) cabin located in a snowy clearing in Val Saisera, I was immediately struck by the enormous window which makes up the entire front wall, which perfectly framed the rugged face of the Jôf di Montasio peak. Beneath the window lay a generous double bed – one of the most comfortable I’ve possibly ever slept on – and, above this, a long shelf laden with coffee table books dedicated to the region’s wine, culture, and cuisine. Inside I found a sleek white bathroom, compact wooden table and a fully-functioning kitchenette. Friland provides everything you need for a picturesque aperitivo (like a bottle of wine and artisan flatbreads) along with coffee, tea and breakfast supplies.
The perfect marriage between rustic Alpine shelter and clean, modern shapes, Friland’s cabins have been curated down to the very last detail without distracting from the pièce de résistance: the landscape itself.
As the sun began its descent behind the dramatic mountain scene before me, I was tempted to reach for my phone and abruptly stopped myself. Was I really going to stare at a screen (which had little to no signal, anyway) with such an awe-striking scene taking place in front of me? Instead, I made myself a cup of tea and sank into the bed, basking in the front-row seats I had to nature’s incredible show. The silence engulfed me. When was the last time I’d let myself simply exist in this way? Those precious moments of appreciation, of slowing down and reconnecting with your surroundings, are exactly what Friland intended to achieve — and what I savored during my stay.
For those yearning to breathe fresh mountain air, disconnect from digital life and enjoy northern Italy’s untouched nature, there is no better gateway than Friland’s collection of tiny homes. Bridging the gap between luxury travel and off-grid glamping, the cabins are located overlooking lakes, mountains, lagoons and vineyards. They are always close to walking and hiking trails, and a short distance to small village or traditional osteria. A guidebook is provided in each cabin with recommendations for the local area, from where to eat to the best views. And although the size of the cabins means they’re best-suited to couples and solo travelers, Friland is looking to add cots so small families can also enjoy the experience.
Discover the beauty that lies in simplicity and experience the art of slow travel with Friland.