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Three enjoyable days of Italy in September

For pilots from Germany, Italy is „the place to go“ this fall, as it is still free of any major Covid restrictions both when entering and when returning to Germany.

End of September, we (that’s me and a pilot friend of mine with his C182T) made use of some good weather in Central Europe and the Alps to hop over and enjoy three days of late summer in Bella Italia. A few days after, the weather turned foul in Northern Italy and remained so for quite a few days.

Departure was from Herzogenaurach, EDQH, near Nürnberg. Our chosen first destination was Massa Cinquale, LILQ, on the beautiful Versilia coast in northwestern Tuscany. It’s a place I have been to many times (out of LIPN) before 2012, as it used to be sort of my favourite for a “day out” on the beach.

The straight route would take us roughly via Füssen, Reutte, Reschenpass, Umbrailpass, Brescia and Parma. With just a little rubberbanding, we managed to draw a courseline which we could fly safely at 10000 feet. On the second half of the route, just a very slight detour to the east was required, to avoid that very most easterly bit of the Milan class A near Brescia. Always better to fly a few more miles but stay up there than to cut it short but having to descend like crazy just after crossing the Alps. As the required detour was minimal, there was yet again no point in flying IFR, which would have meant more rather than less trackmiles, FL150+, oxygen, etc.

We prepared the aircraft (fuelling done the day before) in the morning and quickly got going.

Herzog airfield is short of hangarage, hence several aircraft have to permanently park outside, which is unusual in Germany.

Warming up the IO-540…

And taxying to the hold.

We departed EDQH at 09:00 sharp, which is the regular opening time of the airfield. With the consent of Munich Radar we were allowed to climb straight through the TMA of Nürnberg, therefore no step-climbing was required.

The cowl flaps are really effective in this aircraft though. In the climb, with the cowl flaps open, CHTs never went above 350F, but once levelled off at FL95, and with the cowl flaps closed, the CHTs approached 380 degrees. I haven’t noticed such strong effect in Bonanzas, Mooneys, etc.

The first part of the flight didn‘t offer much in terms of scenery, especially not from FL95.

So, we just set up everything for cruise and twiddled a bit with the power settings to find the sweet spot, which turned out to be, at this altitude, full throttle, 2300 RPM (max is 2400) and peak EGT, which yielded exactly 140 KTAS at 11.3 GPH. That is quite good. No chance to do that in a pre-1986 (carburetted, and less aerodynamically refined) 182. There was barely any wind aloft.

Approaching Augsburg, we found the usual low fog over the Donau and Lech valleys, but as the terrain rose near the Alps, it of course disappeared again.

Here we are entering Tyrol, overhead Reutte, with LOIR airfield, right next to river Lech. Lovely area.

Further on via Imst, Landeck, Stuben and Reschensee/Reschenpass. Worth noting that there was almost no snow to be seen, even on the mountain peaks. Snow-covered mountains are of course beautiful, but this was also nice for a change. I guess that mid/end of September is usually the absolute low point as far as snow in the Alps is concerned, before the first new snow arrives. In fact, as of this writing (three weeks later) I am sure these Alps look completely different now…


Then we passed just west of the Stilfser Joch (just barely touching Switzerland) and passed over the Umbrailpass into Italy. Just before that we climbed another 1000 feet, as the highest mountains would still be ahead of us, in the Lombard Alps of Italy. This is Lago di Cancano and Lago di San Giacomo.

We passed abeam Tonale airfield and then made contact with Milano Information, to let them know about our plan to stay at altitude and clear of the airspace Alpha. As usual, this didn’t work out initially and the guy wanted us to descend. It took two more calls to make it clear that

  • he wasn’t dealing with monkeys
  • we had a proper map in front of us and knew where the class A was
  • we intended to stay just to the east of class A but did request a clearance for the class D, at FL95.

What did the trick was to mention the ATS waypoint that we were aiming for. In our case, this case NOBMI, just north of Salò, on the western shores of Lake Garda. And Parma after that. That was OK eventually. Here is a detail of this part of the route:

Southern parts of Lake Garda

Here, we were handed off to Verona Approach. As usual, we encountered haze in the Po valley, which is typical for that season.

But soon after, we approached the Apennines where we started a gentle descent towards Massa. As usual, we got a bit of turbulence here. There is quite some high terrain to the north of Massa, hence aiming slightly to the northwest (MIVKI point) makes sense. But do absolutely avoid the P-3 area!

The rest of the approach is always just gorgious. Some of the best scenery to be had in European flying. To the right, the Ligurian coast towards La Spezia. To the left, the Carrara mountains. And ahead, Forte dei Marmi and its beaches.


We made a turn over the sea to get a good look at the airfield and then joined downwind for runway 23.

As ever, the runway was a lot of pebbles, and rather little grass on the centreline. But being cautious helps in avoiding any chips. Worth noting that after the long summer, the grass parking area was very dry and sandy, therefore quite soft, with the risk of getting stuck. Otherwise, wonderful, as ever. The flight time was 2 hours and 40 minutes.

We closed the flightplan via telephone and decided to stay at Forte dei Marmi for the night, doing essentially nothing for the rest of the day. We picked an accomodation (via booking) and called a taxi. Our accomodation was a charming B&B, a kilometre or so inland from the sea.


After getting rid of our bags, we walked to the centre of Forte and checked out the pier. Mid/end of September is just perfect for a day at the beach here. No more tourist hoards, no soaking heat. Just pleasant late summer weather at slightly below 30 degrees.

Just next to the pier we settled in one of the many beachside restaurants.

Afterwards, we spent the afternoon on the beach.

Some pizza in the evening, and an early good night as we planned to do some flying the next day.
The plan for the next day was a) to visit Lucca city b) to land at a few cool airstrips in northern Tuscany and c) to eventually end up on the Adriatic coast of Italy in the evening, at Fano (LIDF).
After enyoing the breakfast part of our B&B, we took a taxi again, out to the airfield, only 2.5 km away. We arrived at 09:00h and were pleasantly surprised to see some action. A PC12 was getting ready to depart, as was a D-registered Robin DR401.

Lucca, LIQL, was a mere 25 miles away, therefore it was to be a very short flight. We carefully taxied out the hold for runway 23 and departed. With 20 degrees of flaps, the 182 is a beast at short field takeoffs… the aircraft actually started flying at 36 knots indicated (maybe 42 knots calibrated?), after less than 200 metres of ground run. The departure from runway 23 at Massa is always nice!


We then turned southbound, towards Viagreggio, and called Pisa Approach to let them know we were operating at the edge of their CTR. Then a left turn inbound to Lucca and a call to Lucca AFIS. As runway 10 was in use, it was a straight-in for us and a nice view of the city.

Once landed, we called a taxi to pick us up and bring is to the city. (There is a train station near the airfield, but the walk to get there is still almost 20 minutes, so we decided not to bother with that option).

Lucca is indeed very nice. My last visit had been 10 year prior, and I didn’t really have any recollections.



After a couple of hours we headed back to the airfield, as we still wanted to do some flying. Our next planned stop was Aviosuperficie „La Collina“, in Borgo San Lorenzo, some 30 km to the northeast of Florence. After departure from runway 10 at Lucca, we headed east to remain just to the north of the Florence CTR.
The area around Florence (Pistoia, Prato…) is actually not very pretty, as it is very industrialized. No comparison with the very rural and much more picturesque parts of southern Tuscany.

But as soon as we crossed the Autostrada A1, we came into more interesting and pleasant territories, namely the Mugello. This is Lago di Bilancino, near Barberino di Mugello.

We were now quickly approaching Collina airfield and made a call on 130.0, which produced a reply from the radio operator of the local gliding club. Runway 04 was in use for landing (which is practically always the case). Oh, and just a mile to the west of the airfield is the Mugello racetrack, which hosted an F1 Gand Prix this year.


Here is the airfield:

Track flown:

After landing, we chatted with the local glider pilots people for a while and after that, took off again, heading a bit further southeast. This is the direction of the river Arno valley, leading towards Arezzo and Lake Trasimeno. That area is an aviator’s paradise, as it is full of nice places and aviosuperfici…

First of all, we checked out Aviosuperfice il Borro, northwest of Arezzo. As always, it looked in good shape.

Here is the their Borgo „il Borro“, a luxury resort. Just a few hundred meters away from their runway.

After that, I wanted to check out another one which I haven’t previously been to: Aviosuperficie „La Filanda“, a bit to the west of Arezzo. It belongs to an agriturismo. Beautiful! Here it is:

The runway is officially only 650 meter long, but much longer in practice. Yet, it’s of the “one way in, the other way out“ type. I would have loved to land and check the place and agriturismo out, but hadn’t called the owner in advance, so didn’t want to just “drop in”. It’ll be for a next time.

Thus, we proceeded to our destination for this flight, Serristori (LIQQ), just a few miles further south. Here it is:

Track flown:

We strolled over to the Residence, where we had an espresso. We also checked out their wonderful swimming pool, where I have previously spent a few afternoons…

This one, fotographed here, could likely go into the “funny registrations” thread…

Anyway, we still had a goal for the day: to land at Fano not all to late to allow us a short swim in the Adriatic before time for dinner. So we left Serristori again, bound for Fano. This meant having to cross the Apennines again, but no problem, as 4500 feet is enough on this route.
Beautiful small villages here on the border between Tuscany and Marche region:

Marchese mountains:

We coordinated our approach to Fano with Bologna Approach and then switched over to the radio frequency of Fano. As usual, the paradrop airplane (an N-registered PC-6) was in the air and we coordinated our approach with him. Straight-in approach to runway 05.

It’s a very nice, “no fuss” aeroporto. We got a bit of fuel here.

Track flown:

We took a taxi to the city, where, in the meantime, I had booked another hotel. Our view from the hotel room.

As planned, we went to the beach for another half an hour. The seawater was the same temperature as on the „other“ side of the Italian Peninsula. 23 degrees, I would guestimate.

Sundowner/aperitivo by the beach. Doesn’t get much better.

Fano is a smallish city (60k inhabitants), not just a tourist village. It is nothing fancy (very little monumental architecture); in fact it has been substantially damaged during the later stages of WW2. But it is still authentic and pleasant.


What is maybe even more remarkable about Fano is its fishing port, a few hundred meters from the old city centre. We were well surprised to see a multitude of commercial fishing boats there, despite the alleged scarcity of fish in the upper Adriatic Sea. Also, there is are two dozens of fish restaurants there and they all became packed in the course of the evening! We ate at a place called „La Rustita“, a simple fish trattoria and had a few glasses of wine along with the fish. Another great day successfully completed!

On the third (and last) day of this trip, the weather over the Eastern Alps was still no cause for any concern, so we could take our time before heading back to Germany. Still, after breakfast, we headed straight to the airport and got ready to go. From Fano, San Marino Republic and its magnificent airfield (LIKD) was only about 15 flying minutes north, so we chose to fly there and spend the morning in the old town of San Marino. After takeoff from LIDF, we got some good views of Fano:


Here we are, approaching San Marino:

Right base:

After landing, I called a taxi to pick us up. Whilst waiting, I found this gem of an aircraft parked there, a heavily modified Cessna 140. With all those mods, no wonder it was N-reg. It still always astonishes me how in almost every corner of Europe (and beyond) one finds these very individual and sometimes heavily modified N-reg aircraft, often in apparently airworthy condition. Makes me think that AP/IAs, whilst not plentiful, are still very much around, a little bit everywhere, or at least willing to travel to sign off aircraft at least once a year.

Fuel prices at LIKD weren‘t all that bad…

Anyway, some pictures from the old town of San Marino. It has to be said that even in times of Corona, San Marino IS a touristy place. But wandering between one of the three fortresses perched on top of the peaks of the San Marino mountain is nice. Anyway, a couple of hours is enough, so after that, we headed back to the airfield.



Flying home to Nürnberg would be almost due north from here, and take us over the Northern Adriatic Sea near Portoroz, so we decided to get a full tank of cheap 100LL there and then fly home from there in the afternoon. This route also has the charm of slightly lower terrain. After departure from San Marino, we immediately contacted Bologna Appraoch to coordinate our climb directly overhead Rimini airport (LIPR). We climbed to 6000 feet to give us some gliding distance in case of an engine problem. In fact, there were moments where we didn’t have any suitable boats or ships in sight. But this time we even carried a raft.

Not much later, we approached the Istrian coast.

The thing with approaches to runway 33 at Portoroz from the west is that due to terrain, one has to remain high on base and then slam-dunk it in on final to make it. No big deal in the 182, though.

We got fuel (always served with a bowser nowadays, it seems) and had a little snack at the airport restaurant. Our flightplan (filed before our departure form San Marino) was timed perfectly for our departure to EDQH. The routing was via Gorizia (Pipistrel factory) and then along the Austro-Slovenian border towards the Tauernpass to Salzburg, from where we would try to get a clearance to cross the Munich TMA on our way to Nürnberg. On departure: the town of Portoroz.

Always amazing in conditions of good visibility: the northeastern corner of the Adriatic Sea. Izola, Koper and Trieste, all well in sight:

The Italian side:

We climbed to 10,500 feet. Again, very little wind.

Slovenian, Italian and Austrian mountains near Bovec (LJBO).


Fritzerkogel, in the Alps of Salzburg.

Salzburg.

The transit of the Munich TMA direct to Nürnberg at FL100 turned out to be no problem at all. Likely wouldn’t have happened in pre-Corona times. Donau river.

City of Nürnberg.

Nürnberg airport (EDDN).

Back at EDQH. 2 hours and 10 minutes from Portoroz.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 11 Oct 07:41
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

September was wonderful with a perfect weather.
Now is October and fog has come :-((

Pegaso airstrip, Italy

Great report and stunning places, accompanied with beautiful pictures as usual

LDZA LDVA, Croatia

Thx for the nice report Bosco! I had been looking at Massa as a destination but was put off by the reports of loose gravel. Ended up going to Siena looking for the famous 100EUR deal.
What was the runway condition at Collina, San Marino and Fano? Any idea what it is like at il Borro?

Antonio
LESB, Spain

Always hard to rate grass runways for others. Some fear gravel, others fear holes, others fear bumps. Yet others fear soft soil or draggy grass.

They are all not perfect. But since people are going there regularly in all sorts of stuff, it must be OK.

Lucca and Serristori are pretty much the only tarmac GA non airline airports/airfields in Tuscany. Well, and then there is Siena…

If going to the southeast of Tuscany, Perugia is also an option, although a rather expensive and bureaucratic one.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

FYI and FWIW the modified Cessna two-seater started life as a straight tail 150, not a 140, as it has a square vertical tail. When converted to tailwheel configuration the plane ends up looking like a mini C180.

Wonderful photos. Passing over Umbrail must put you pretty high! I like Lucca very much and have a friend there (actually in the the section of Viareggio nearest to Lucca) who has shown me the town and area over a number of visits.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 11 Oct 15:45

boscomantico wrote:

Lucca and Serristori are pretty much the only tarmac GA non airline airports/airfields in Tuscany. Well, and then there is Siena…

I was passing by a very nice Agriturismo close to the town of Buenconvento this year and would like to visit it again next year, but that time by plane.
For this mission the airport of Siena would be perfect (distance, rental car at the city, etc.). What is your verdict on that airport or rather what is “the famous 100 EUR deal?”

Last Edited by ASW22 at 11 Oct 18:27

Very nice pics.

I did Lucca in 2014 (a little fly-in but nobody else turned up ) and got much the same pics as you but it was a bit wet… the flight there along the coast was very nice though.

It was a totally problem-free airport, IIRC.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Great report and pictures as usual Bosco, hope to see many more of them for years to come.
Maybe I can seduce my wife into doing a agroturismo tour one day.

Private field, Mallorca, Spain

ASW22 wrote:

For this mission the airport of Siena would be perfect (distance, rental car at the city, etc.). What is your verdict on that airport or rather what is “the famous 100 EUR deal?”

Aeroservice is a company that got the contract to mange the airport and perform handling. They used to tax exhorbitant fees for SEP’s passing by…they were mainly meant to Prada’s customers attending parties at his Villa in their jets and helos…

I had several interactions with their marketing people and CEO and they agreed to provide especial reduced prices to EuroGA members. It was supposed to be better but ends up being around 100EUR incl landing, handling and one day parking for typical SEPs. A couple of items I appreciate a lot is the fact that they will manage your IFR pickup with Grosetto like a proper AFIS (not all of them do when they lie in class G) , and they will let you drive your car to your airplane if needed.

You can read more here

Last Edited by Antonio at 11 Oct 19:32
Antonio
LESB, Spain
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