My first year of marriage started off with lots of changes — aside from the actual, you know, marriage part, I quit my job and moved halfway across the world. My now-husband was stationed in Aviano, Italy, and I had the good fortune to live there for a year and a half. Since I couldn’t have a job while I was there, I tried to spend as much time traveling and exploring as I could. A lot of that included day trips around Aviano with new friends or with family who came to visit and wanted to see our little part of Italy. I’ve had a running list in my notes forever, so thought I’d pull it together in case anyone around the Aviano area needs some ideas. Below are just a brief description and ideas to get you started! Without further ado:
1. Bordano Butterfly House
I love this activity because it can be done rain or shine (it closes for the winter though). It’s a small butterfly house and there are just a couple different rooms to explore, but I still spent 1-1.5 hours when I went.
Pair with: Venzone or lunch at Dok in San Daniele
Venzone is a walled, medieval town that is nice to walk around. There is also little crypt with a few mummies in it. Check out the pumpkin festival in the fall!
Pair with: Bordano Butterfly house or Aquileia (it’s a little far but that’s the day trip we did with my family)
It used to be the third largest Roman city, but now it’s just some ruins that are cool to walk around. They are scattered around the town, so get the audio guide for a couple euro and do the little walking tour. If you go, make sure the cathedral is open because it has an incredible mosaic floor!
4. Visit a Market
There are always more markets to visit! Sacile and Conegliano’s markets were my favorite. But I also enjoyed Aviano’s antique market and Pordenone’s market (paired with a stop at their fancy cafe).
Trieste was one of my favorite cities in northern Italy. It’s on the water, which gives it a refreshing vibe. There are a few things close by worth checking out as well. The first is Risera di San Sabba, the only extermination camp in Italy during WWII. Miramare Castle is also right there, which is beautiful to walk around. We just wandered the grounds, but you can also go inside.
Pair with: Grotta Gigante
6. Vajont Dam
This is the site of a dam disaster that wiped out the towns underneath it back in the 60s. You can only walk across the dam with guided tours that are offered on weekends or random days throughout the year. It wasn’t open when I went, but we still enjoyed walking around. This article has a lot of good info if you want to visit yourself.
7. Vittorio Vento
This is another cute little town to walk around! One of the cafes in the main square has lots of yummy hot chocolate drinks. And there is a castle that’s technically a private residence but it has a great view.
Pair with: Prosecco road (we made a short stop on our way)
8. Prosecco Road
You can opt for simply wine tasting or chose to hike through the vineyards! You can do as much or as little as you want, but the views are worth it even if you aren’t a wine drinker.
9. Concordia Sagittarius and Portogruaro Roman Museum
There is a little Roman museum, and you can visit the actual excavation site where the museum pieces came from. Plus you get to walk on a real Roman road (who even needs Rome?!).
I honestly just loved walking around this town. There’s a castle, the gorgazzo (see if you can spot Jesus in the pool), and really good gelato!
I thought a town with lots of ceramic stores it sounded pretty lame. But I ended up loving it and taking my husband back. Since you are buying from the source, you can get quality dishes at a better price than you might at a retail store.
Pair with: Bassano del Grappa / Marostica
12. Bassano del Grappa
This is another cute town to walk around (you may be seeing a trend here…) and happens to be where grappa comes from! There’s a grappa museum (try the blueberry grappa), a museum about their Alpini unit in WWI, and an iconic Alpini bridge.
Pair with: Nove / Marostica
If you are interested in chess, this if for you. It’s a town that hosts a giant chess game every two years, and you can still see the chess board in the main town square. There is also an upper and a lower castle that are cool to explore.
Pair with: Nove / Bassano del Grappa (these three are all close together so we did them all as a day trip)
14. Explore a Castle
There are lots of castles and ruins around Aviano. I visited the ones in Maniago, Polcenigo, Caneva, Spilimbergo, and Conegliano, but there are more out there. You just got to find them!
15. Mosaic School in Spilimbergo
If you are looking for something to do inside, check out the mosaic school in Spilimbergo. You can wander around for free and see many impressive mosaics, ranging from modern to classical styles. Even if you aren’t an art lover, it’s unique view into an old tradition.
Hopefully you’ve already been to Venice if you are in Aviano… but if not, make a day trip out of it! Get off the tourist path and find new areas. Some people think Venice is overrated, but I disagree — there are always things to find in Venice (trust me, I had a 2+ page list at one point).
17. Venice Lagoon
Another fun day trip is to visit the lagoon islands at Venice — Burano, Murano, and Torcello (although I’d recommend going in the winter when there are less tourists). Burano is known for it’s lace making and Murano for its glass, while Torcello often gets overlooked. But Torcello was actually the original island the Venetians settled on and is worth exploring . It can give you a better idea of how impressive Venice actually is.
18. Visit a Winery
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this one. Check out any local winery for either a tasting or special events. Some favorites are Pitars, Bessich, Toffoli, and Astoria.
It’s a little longer day trip, but, I mean, it’s Romeo and Juliet’s hometown! See a concert in the arena, wander the streets to find a cafe for a cappuccino, or wander the Christmas market in the wintertime. Oh, and be sure to stop by Juliet’s balcony!
20. Grotta Gigante
You might want to stay away if you get claustrophobic. Otherwise Grotta Gigante is a cool view into one of the largest underground caverns in this part of the world. It’s always a bit chilly though, so bring a jacket if it’s summertime.
Pair with: Trieste (if you are looking for a longer day trip — caves are worth it on their own)
21. Take a Cooking Class
What better souvenir than learning to cook Italian food?! If it’s a dreary day outside or you just feel like learning to make some Italian food, try a cooking class. Teresa Colors will even come right to your own house. Pasta, pizza, and tiramisu are just a few of the dishes you can learn!
Treviso has quaint canals and is almost like a smaller, quieter version of Venice. It’s a nice town to walk around on a sunny day and grab lunch or dinner in one of the many restaurants. There’s also a Thai restaurant if you are looking for a change from Italian food.
23. Osteria ai Pioppi
The coolest amusement park you’ll ever go to — it’s self-powered! It’s free, but has limited hours so double check before driving out there.
The drive to Belluno is a sight to see itself! The little town set in the mountains offers some great views and fresh air.
25. Find the Downed Plane
Explore Ceolini to find the airplane just hanging out. Apparently someone had bought it to turn into a funky restaurant, but that didn’t happen… although, who really knows!
26. Gorizia Castle
This is a small castle close to the Slovenian border. There’s not much there, except lots of WWI history and a mix of cultures in a land that has traded hands many times.
27. Postjna Caves and Predjama Castle (Slovenia)
If you want to drive a bit father, these are a great day trip paired together! The Predjama Castle is built into the side of a mountain. I’d highly recommend doing the tour as it allows you to see how nature and man truly intermingled — it was one of my favorite castles in Europe. The caves are also fun and only around 15 minutes from the castle.
28. Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Continuing with the Slovenia trips (because it is so close to Aviano), Ljubljana is another easy day trip. It’s a small capital, making it easy to see and enjoy in one day. During the summer, check out the open kitchen on Friday nights for an eclectic food festival.
29. Lake Bled (Slovenia)
In the spring and fall (the summer gets extra crowded), this is another beautiful Slovenia getaway spot. You can hike around the lake, take a boat out to the church on the island, explore the castle, or just enjoy the views.
The Great Outdoors
For you non-city dwellers.
30. Go for a Swim
There are lots of lakes, rivers, and swimming holes that are a perfect place to spend a hot summer day. A few of my favorites are Tramonti di Sopra, Meduno, and Torrente Palar. But just find a lake on Google Maps and go!
31. Lago di Barcis
Barcis is one of the first places my husband took me when I got to Italy and was one of the last places we visited before we left. The views are gorgeous, it’s easily accessible, and there’s lots to do in the summer months — a hanging bridge, hiking around the lake, paddle boarding, and swimming (if you can bear the ice cold water).
Even if you aren’t into hiking (and there’s lots of that at Piancavallo), it is a great place to spend a summer afternoon! Ride the alpine coaster, take the lift to the restaurant for lunch, and enjoy the views.
33. Cascate di Fanes
If you are interested in trying out via ferratas, this is a perfect one to start on. It’s fairly tame and you could also opt just to hike the trails instead. Besides, who doesn’t like a good waterfall?
34. Great War Museum in Marmolada
If you want to see the mountains without the actual hiking, this is the perfect place for you. Even if you do like hiking — go. The views are incredible. Take the gondola up to the museum, learn about the war fought up in the clouds, have a drink at the cafeteria, and explore the mini via ferrata among the old tunnels if you are feeling adventurous.
If you are looking for a more local hike, this one is sure to get your thighs burning. It’s in Polcenigo and is pretty steep, but we hiked up and then got dinner at Al Faro which has great pizza! We parked a car at the top and a car at the bottom so we didn’t have to walk back down after eating.
36. Grotto de Caglieron
A beautiful area that’s easy to explore (and cool in the summertime). Walk along wooden bridges through the grotto to see a different side of the mountains.
37. Messner Mountain Museum (Dolomiti)
This is the closest of the many Messner Museums sprinkled throughout the Italian Alps. It offers great views and an eye-opening perspective into the history of rock climbing in the Dolomites.
38. Grotte Verdi di Pradis
One more grotto! The grotto is a nice little afternoon excursion. It’s not very big, but it feels cool, especially in the summer. Easy walk around for a change of scenery, and it’s kid and dog friendly.
39. Tre Cime
If you’ve seen the new Star Wars movie (Solo), these three peaks may look a little familiar. One of the most iconic hikes in the Dolomites, this is a great day trip or overnight if you have the time. There are multiple routes you can take, depending on time and skill level.
40. Cinque Torri
The five towers are a great place to explore. You can opt to hike or take the chairlift up. There’s lots of WWI history hidden here so keep an eye out for old bunkers, cannons, and other artifacts.
41. Lago di Braies
This lake is a little far, but if you are looking for one of the Dolomites most Instagrammed spots, this is probably it! You can bring a lunch and picnic on the shores of the lake, rent a rowboat, hike the easy loop around the lake or just grab a drink and take in the views.
42. Falzarego Pass / Lagazoui Tunnels
Make sure you take a headlamp for this hike! Inside the tunnels, you’ll encounter slippery steps and lots of history. Get a real sense of what warfare was like for the Italians and Austrians in the Great War.
43. Lago di Sorapis
This out and back hike offers great views of Lago di Sorapis and its milky blue waters. It can get crowded, so the earlier you start, the better.
44. 52 Tunnels Hike
A supply route during WWI, this hike gives a glimpse of how difficult it was to get food and medical supplies to the troops who need them. Even if you aren’t a history buff, it’s a challenging hike with stunning views on a clear day (or more ominous ones if it’s cloudy).
45. Lago di Carezza
A little farther out (and worth an overnight in Bolzano), this lake has stunning colors and an easy loop around it. Be sure to read about its magical history while you are there.
Bonus: Triple Border Hike
Ever want to be in three countries at once? Either way, you can experience crossing international lines right in the Dolomites. The Triple Border hike leads to a point that straddles the borders of Italy, Slovenia, and Austria!
What are your favorite things to in or near Aviano, Italy? Comment below to help build the list!
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G R A Z I E Thank you
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Outstanding ! Wish we had your list when we were stationed there from’79 – ’82. We got around pretty good but with 2 small children [one born there] we really had to plan our sightseeing. Really great information you put together….Great photos too !
Thanks for including pix of the plane in Ceolini. I lived about a mile from it when I was stationed at Aviano with my new wife, 1981 to 1985, and went jogging past it dozens of times!