- The southern edge of the Alps, often protected from bad weather
- Big grassy launches and huge landing fields
- Go in spring or autumn rather than high summer
- Italian culture and cuisine enhance the experience
A protected micro-climate with a mix of Alpine and flatland flying.
WHERE IS IT?
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Jump from spur to spur catching climbs off picturesque Italian villages along the southern edge of the mountains, while the rest of the Alps has either ground to a winter’s halt or not quite dragged itself into spring.
Bassano opens and closes the European thermal season from its beautiful grassy slopes. A warm climate and convivial Italian atmosphere sees pilots from northern climes flock here every spring and autumn. If conditions are on, a drive one valley north to Feltre opens up even better XC potential.
A metalled road to take off, big open launches and the historic town of Bassano del Grappa to immerse yourself in when not flying, round off a fantastic flying experience and a must-visit venue on any pilot’s European tour.
Bassano is on the plains, just a couple of kilometres from the first foothills of the main Alpine chain. The flying takes place on the southern facing edge of the Alps from several take-offs within easy drive of town.
Most pilots base themselves in the villages of Semonzo or Borso del Grappa. From there, a good road takes you to the three main take-offs within 15-20 minutes. Landing in the grounds of the very accommodating Garden Relais Hotel is easily reachable from all launches.
Facing south over the Italian plains, XC routes head east and west along the front ridge. The heat low of the Alps turns the wind west in the afternoon making an eastward return journey easy later in the day. On more unstable days, head out into the plains and look down on stunning Italian architecture as you climb out over the towns.
Bassano is connected to the main Italian rail network so getting home is easy even if you bomb out, and the locals are used to pilots anyway so hitching is possible.
Spring starts early here: it’s not unknown for pilots to fly 100km out-and-return in January, and the XC season starts to get going from mid-February. The flying is a mix of mountain ridge surfing in often strong thermals with little valley wind combined with a dive into the plains for some classic flatland cloud-hopping.
WHEN TO GO
March to May: when it’s stronger, but more prone to inclement weather.
September to November: when it’s more stable but very consistent.
In midsummer the plains get very stable and swamp Bassano with hot but poor quality air.
Cloudbase: 1,500-2,500 m
Launch: 700-1,550 m
HANG GLIDER ACCESS
All the take-offs are easily reached by car and there are dedicated hang glider ramps.
MUST BE FLOWN
A big out-and-return: head west first as far as you dare, then head back past Bassano and go east as far as you dare before working back west and home. Whether it’s 20km or 150km, a ride along the front ridge of the Alps is a fantastic start or end to your year.
DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
Getting stuck in unlandable valleys as you head along the ridge – there are a few. Get high before you cross them. Overdevelopment in the big mountains behind can cause the main valleys to draw a lot of air.
Bassano has an excellent selection of hotels and hostels, but to be closer to the flying you need to stay in Borso del Grappa or Semonzo where there is a smaller selection. Tillys offers great value B&B right next to the landing and has been a favourite of pilots for many years. For a slightly bigger budget, the Hotel Garden Relais has the other landing field as its garden and is very welcoming to pilots. There are two campsites close to the landing. There are lots of options on AirBnB.
GUIDES AND COURSES
Lots of schools run Bassano weeks, and in season the area is often busy with pilots on courses from across Europe. Kelly Farina, author of Mastering Paragliding, bases himself here all season running XC courses through his company Austrian Arena.
For experienced pilots, it is an easy place to come independently. Shuttles run to the launches from the Garden Relais car park and go when full, from €7 per person. If there isn’t one immediately, look on the noticeboard for their up-to-date phone numbers. Most of the drivers speak a mix of Italian/German/English.
All visiting pilots who fly here must be registered as a member of the local club. You can pre-register and pay for a local FlyCard (available from 1-365 days) online. Or do it in person at the tourist office in Borso del Grappa or at the Hotel Garden Relais.
Visiting pilots are also encouraged to buy a green smoke flare for a few euros from the same places. These should be used if you land in a tree (or other unexpected place) to show that you are ok and DO NOT need a helicopter rescue. Otherwise a helicopter rescue will be mounted and you will be charged a minimum of €500.
TAKE THE FAMILY
Italians are big family people, so children are really well catered for.
Wander the old town and find bullet-scarred walls from both World Wars; there’s a fascinating if gruesome museum of First World War weapons and equipment in a bar by the old bridge. There’s also a museum of history and art. Or take a day trip to Venice and feast on ice cream and tourist sights.
Milan is the nearest major international airport. Venice is reachable from most European cities, but try and fly to Venice Treviso airport, as that is actually in Treviso, not Venice, and only 50 minutes’ drive from Bassano. Verona airport also has some cheap flights, and is an easy train journey away. Bassano is also easily accessible by rail and bus, and is just east of the A31 autoroute. Hiring a car is recommended.