- 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.
There are many good launches reachable from Bassano, but Semonzo is where most pilots operate from, as seven excellent sites are close by. The road to the main take-offs on Monte Grappa also goes up from there. There’s an official landing, a bar, a flying shop and Tilly’s, a flying-friendly hotel and bar, 100 metres from the main landing. The other landing field is in the grounds of the Garden Relais hotel.
Facing south over the Italian plains, 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 very used to pilots anyway so hitching is a cinch.
Mountain ridge surfing in often strong spring thermals with little valley wind. Or dive into the plains for some classic flatland cloud-to-cloud circuits.
WHEN TO GO
March – 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: 800 – 1,550 m
Landing: 190 m
HANG GLIDER ACCESS
All the take-offs are easily reached by car and most have 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 20 km or 200, 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 Semonza 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.
There are two campsites close to the landing and a couple of B&Bs.
GUIDES AND COURSES
The Monte Grappa Airpark www.montegrappa-airpark.com offers local instruction and guidance. Kelly Farina and www.austrianarena.com run guided XC weeks there too.
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 whilst singing “Just one Cornetto!” from a gondola at the top of your voice.
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 half an hour 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.
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