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Sometimes called “the best US military assignment overseas”, Aviano is a town in the North of Italy that also functions as a United States Air Force base. Besides having access to Italian food on the daily, those serving and/or living in Aviano have access to the beautiful northern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. At the base of the Dolomite mountain range, the area is ripe for outdoor activities and amazing weekend getaways. For those in the Aviano, Italy area, here are some adventures to undertake.
Stay Put and See the Local Attractions
Aviano is a fun place in its own right. While it’s best known for being an Air Force base since the end of World War II, it has way more to offer. The town’s church, Chiesa San Zenone, is a beautiful building and draws regular flocks of tourists. Meanwhile, outside of town is the Sorgente del Gorgazzo, a brilliantly blue underwater cave, and St Florian’s Rural Park, a nice place for a nature walk. Both are must-sees when visiting Aviano, Italy.
Check Out the Region’s Capital
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of Italy’s 20 regions. The area, which is home to around 1.2 million people, keeps its capital in the port town of Trieste. Trieste is definitely worthy of a visit as its seaside location, grand piazza, and narrow streets paint a picturesque scene. Trieste’s Castello Miramare, which is directly on the shores of the Gulf of Trieste, is one of the most striking buildings in all of Italy.
Border Hop to the East
Aviano is within an hour and half to many towns on the Italian and Slovenian border. Slovenia, far less known than its popular neighbors Italy, Croatia, and Austria, is one of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations in Europe. Mountainous, architecturally elegant, and home to wild waterways, Slovenia is a hidden gem of sorts. The gorgeous capital Ljubljana is only two and a half hours from Aviano. Another option is Croatia, which is only 19 miles south of Trieste.
Border Hop to the North
Stick with taking advantage of the open European borders and cruise up to Austria. The town of Villach is only a two-hour, scenic trek from Aviano. Villach is known for its luxury thermal baths, as well as having access to Lakes Faak and Ossiach. The area’s rivers, lakes, and authentic feel are sure to keep visitors entertained for hours. If you’re planning on adventuring up by yourself, take a look at our Tips For Solo Travel in Austria.
Plan a Visit Around Winter Time Skiing
Just outside of Aviano is Piancavallo. Piancavallo makes a name for itself as one of the go-to ski resort options in the Dolomites. The resort offers over 10-miles of skiable slopes that are also open to snowboarders and cross-country skiers. The area has other winter activities like an alpine roller coaster — known locally as a “Bob on a rail” — tubing and sledding hills, and an ice palace. Those standing on top of the slopes will be hard pressed not to smile when gazing upon the Adriatic and the Venice Lagoon in the distance.
Try the Sella Ronda Route
Another mountain adventure is cross-country skiing along the Sellaronda ski circuit. The path, which circumnavigates the Sella massif, has over 310 miles of connected skiing trails, which link many of the local resorts. Visitors wanting to get stuck into the snow are advised to get an early start, as the journey can take around six hours. In the summertime, the route becomes a playground for trail runners and mountain bikers.
Experience the Legendary Venice
Despite the name, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Venice is not actually in Aviano’s region. But it is close. Anyone traveling to this part of the world would struggle to pass up the opportunity to wander the legendary Venetian canals. An hour and ten-minute drive away, Venice is well within the range of Aviano.
Sure, many people are quick to point out that the town is overrun with tourists, but it became synonymous with beauty for a reason. Five minutes into wandering the streets, by foot or gondola, you’ll be overcome by the culture and beauty of the city.
See an Italian National Park
Of the 25 Italian National Parks, Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is closest to Aviano. Established 30 years ago, the park gained a new distinction in 2009 when UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. Aside from the sublime mountain ranges and karsts (which the protected area is known for), adventurers make time to see the high alpine rivers and meadows, and keep their eyes peeled for fauna like the chamois, a goat-antelope hybrid, and mouflon, and big-horned sheep species. Once you’ve worked up an appetite from exploring Eat Your Way Through Italy and sample one the best cuisines in the world.
Find a Quaint Small Town for a Day Trip
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is packed with appealing towns and villages that are perfect for a quick trip from Aviano. Udine, which is not small but rather a town with over 100,000 people, is likely the most popular spot in the region. Known for its traditional architecture, which is illuminated at night, and the Udinese football club, Udine is a good place to start. Nine miles from Udine is Cividale del Friuli. Cividale del Friuli is home to a postcard-worthy vantage point where the town rises above the Natisone River and is connected by the ancient Devil’s Bridge. The sea views at Sistiana and comune of Tarvisio are other great options.
Hit the Beach
Although Aviano’s home region is much more associated with the Dolomites and scenes of sharp crags ascending above uneven mountain ranges, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has miles of coastline. Outside of Trieste’s port, Lignano Sabbiadoro is the most popular beach town in the area. Only a one-hour drive from the Air Force base at Aviano, Lignano Sabbiadoro takes advantage of its access to calm Adriatic seas, as life revolves around the water. Swimming, sunbathing, and trips to the local water parks are the favorite activities of people visiting the popular summer destination. Grado, the beautiful midway point between Venice and Trieste, and the aforementioned Sistiana are other great spots for seaside relaxation.