Few Italians and even fewer foreigners make it to Friuli Venezia Giulia or Friuli VG as its known, the mountainous region north of Venice that borders Austria and Slovenia. But those who do are unlikely to regret it.

Friuli VG is a semi-autonomous region, which means the local government is able to keep most of the taxes raised locally from its industrious citizens and spend them as it sees fit on public services. Straight away, you notice how clean and orderly the streets are in the delightful provincial capital, Udine.

But this impression extends into Friuli VG's glorious and unspoilt countryside, with its mix of planes, peaks, pine forests, high meadows and a huge number of rivers and mountain streams.

The latter, which carve out narrow gorges, make locations such as the secluded Valcellina Valley, a favourite spot for canyoning fans. Daredevils are also drawn to the Piancavallo ski slopes that in the summer months become challenging downhill biking routes.

But while the hard-core activities are plugged by the tourist board, the region's best treat is probably served up by its lower-lying Giulian Pre-alps on the Slovenia border, a sparsely populated area in which the sense of being away from it all is perhaps unmatched in all of the Alps. Here, the trekking trails, with their pretty mix of deciduous and pine forest, can be tackled by anyone.

And burning calories is doubly welcome in a region awash with rich cheese and meat-laden cuisine.