Aquileia is situated by the Grados lagoon, 6 km from the coast. Today it is a small village mainly sustained by agriculture. The ruins from its proud Roman past and those from the Middle Ages can still be seen.
Because of its strategic location the Romans founded the town in 181 BC. It was easy to raise troops here for expeditions to Istria and at the same time control the Alps behind. The soil around the town is very fertile so agriculture was soon established (especially the growing of corn, fruit and vineyards). The ships brought building materials (stone from Istria, marble from Greece and North Africa) whilst the local produce (wine, olive oil and wool) was exported.
The trade prompted handicraft and the locals specialized in mosaics and masonry. This was also the time when glass production began, and workshops of this kind can still be found along the Venetian coastline today.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Aquileia also suffered a decline especially as the barbarians destroyed and conquered the town on more than one occasion. Not until after year 1000 AD did the town experience a revival, thanks to the patriarch Poppo. The basilica was then rebuilt on top of the ruins of the previous one. During the time of the Venetian republic the town declined again. The power of the church decreased and Aquileia shared its fate with so may other villages in the hinterland. Lastly it should be mentioned that the town was part of the Austrian Empire from 1509 until 1918. After the first world war it reverted to Italy.