North Italy 1

Aviano – Portogruaro – Pordenone Barcis – Desenzano del Garde

Compiled from various trips: 2000-2002

On many occasions, the band traveled to Northern Italy to perform outdoor public concerts.  On the map below, you can see the area just north of Venice around Treviso and Padova.  We performed many concerts at beaches on the Adriatic Sea, and many more in inland communities.  We drove the entire way (about 600 miles) through Salzburg, Austria.  That, in itself, is a beautiful trip.

The first thing you notice about Italy in the summertime is the HEAT and HUMIDITY!!!!  Our concerts were all in the evening, and around sunset, the humidity “rolls in” and coated everything in enough water to make you think it had rained.  This is not good when you are touching electronic instruments that are plugged in to 220 volts (the European standard).  But we survived with nobody getting zapped.

There are many interesting aspects of Italian life to explore.  First, the idea of communities still exists here.  There are no Wal Marts, Sam’s Clubs, Sears, or even McDonalds.  Everything is Mom&Pop stores with the exception of a few grocery store chains.  This really adds a “homey” individual touch to each village.  Another very nice touch is the importance of the church in each community.  Churches are open every day from sunrise to sunset, and are located at the very heart of town in the shopping/ sidewalk cafes area.  People stop in for meditation during the course of their daily activities.  Church is not just for Sunday mornings here.

The Italians are rightly famous for their fashion tastes.  Watching people in the middle of town, I soon noticed that NOBODY was wearing old blue jeans or t-shirts.  Everyone from kids to adults was dressed in comfortable slacks and nice shirts, and most women wore dresses.  Nothing showy or glitzy, just nice, comfortable cotton summer clothes.  When Italians visit America, they must be shocked at the sloppy way most people dress: ratty, torn clothes and “blue light special” t-shirts.  I’m just as guilty myself.  But it really made a positive impression of an entire city to see everyone dressed nice.  There’s a lesson to be learned by all Americans.

Another aspect of Italian life that took a lot of getting use to on my part was the fact these people love the night!  Walk downtown at 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning, and the place is deserted.  Shops don’t start opening until around 10:00, and stay open until about 1:30 or 2:00.  Then EVERYTHING closes for afternoon siesta (nap-time) until about 5:00.  Then they reopen until about 8:00 or 9:00.  But the restaurants don’t open for dinner (supper) until around 7:00 pm at the earliest, and stay open until about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.  Where in the USA (except Denny’s) can you go out to eat at midnight and have a choice of restaurants?  And meals are not the “chew and run” affairs we Americans are use to.  Plan on spending at least 2-3 hours at dinner. 


A view of the Aviano area from a nearby mountain.
Aviano is the home to Aviano Air Base, where our activities were centered.
The large mountain in the background is the first mountain of the Alps.
Up to this point (coming from the south and east), it is very flat.
Main Street, Aviano.  The Angelica is a hardware store that actually has a nice selection of hand-painted ceramic and pottery for sale.
 I bought a flower vase and a set of salt/pepper shakers.
The Santuario Madonna Del Monte is visible on the hillside above Aviano.
One morning, I awoke to find a rainbow pointing to this beautiful church.
Here is a view down from the mountain behind the Santuario Madonna Del Monte.
Our hotel was in the upper right-hand corner of this picture.
The Santuario Madonna Del Monte church (from previous photos).
Inside the Santuario Madonna Del Monte church.
Continuing up the mountain from the Santuario Madonna Del Monte church, the winding road
 leads to Piancavallo, a ski resort visible in the far background.
The winding road to Piancavallo is also very popular with the motorcyclists in the area.
There are several narrow roads winding through the mountains surrounding Piancavallo.  What a beautiful area!  Hiking heaven!
A nice view of a church bell tower on one of the narrow streets around Aviano.
Marsure is a small town along the foot of the mountain just down the road from Aviano.
This is the local grocery store.
Directly across the street from the grocery store is the church.
This is the view inside the church at Marsure.  The most impressive view, though, is up.
(See the next picture)
This is the ceiling of the church at Marsure.  Beautiful!

Aviano is also home to several wineries. Here are some of the grapes waiting to be turned into delicious wine.

This winery sold wine in containers of every size! Kind of like a keg of wine, eh?
In the end, I decided to just get one container of wine to take home.


One day, three of us rode our bikes to today’s performance in Portogruaro, about 30 miles from Pordenone. It was a beautiful ride through small towns and lush farmland.  We had a great spaghetti lunch there, played the concert, and then loaded our bikes into the truck for a ride back to the hotel. What a wonderful day!

Memories of Nebraska!! On our way to a spaghetti lunch at Portogruaro.
This lady stepped out just as I was taking the photo. I think she added a nice touch to the photo. (Portogruaro)
A bicycle is a good way to get around the narrow streets of Italy. (Portogruaro)
In Portogruaro, these punts made a colorful addition to an already nice scene.
The band played a concert in Pordenone late that afternoon. Then we loaded our bicycles on the truck and rode home in the bus.
What a great day!



Pordenone is located about 6 miles from Aviano Air Base.  It is a city mixed with both old and new. While the city center is still a narrow street best suited for pedestrians, the outer areas have many new stores (sorry, no Wal Marts).  We often stayed in Pordenone and used it as a “base camp” for our tours to other nearby cities.

Pordenone is the place we stayed most often. 
This is the street that runs through the shopping district.  It is lined with cafes and small shops.

At one end of the shopping district is the City Hall of Pordenone.

St. Martin’s Cathedral is a large church in Pordenone.
Inside St. Martin’s Cathedral in Pordenone.  There are numerous old paintings on the walls
(note the bottom of the column on the right) that were preserved during renovations.

Two of the many original fresco paintings left uncovered during renovations.

This painting was along the back wall.  It was left uncovered during renovations.

One of many small naves along the side of the sanctuary.

The ceiling above the nave. Truly fantastic artwork!

The bell tower of St. Martin’s Cathedral.  There is a wine shop in the base of the tower. I love the fountain!

Many balconies and windows around Pordenone were decorated with flowers.

This is Italy, and everyone is very style-conscious – even the Carabinieri (Police).
No old Ford or Chevy for these guys.  This guy drives an Alfa Romeo!

The Holy Trinity church is the oldest in Pordenone. 

A very creative sign for a local tavern.

Picturesque scene on one of the back-streets in Pordenone.

Another interesting doorway on a side-street.
Note the glass frame protecting the fresco.

Another scene from downtown Pordenone. Lots of narrow, pedestrian-only streets.

The town square is home to fresh fruit/vegetable vendors. The town is surrounded by farmland, so it’s all very fresh.

There are flower vendors on every corner. No excuses not to take your wife flowers every day!

Every town in Europe (it seems) has a “Chicken Lady”. On 2 or 3 days each week, they set up a rotisserie chicken stand.
You can buy one fresh out of the oven. Mmmmmm!!!!

The best translation I could come up with is, “To The Fallen For The Homeland 1915-1918.”
To all who died protecting Italy in World War I.


One day I drove up to Barcis, one of the most beautiful settings in all of Europe!  
This lakeside resort is nestled in the Italian Alps just a 30 minute drive from Aviano and Pordenone.

This is the highway bridge across the lake at Barcis.  Yes, it’s for cars!
Look at the next picture if you don’t believe me.

OK, but one at a time only.
To the side of the bridge is this swimming pier.
What a great setting for a cool swim!
When you are done swimming, take a walk around Barcis and the waterfront.


Desenzano del Garda, a beautiful lakeside resort town in North-central Italy.
A view by the boat harbor of Desenzano del Garda.
The hotel we stayed in. My room had the large patio on the 2nd floor.

My hotel room came with its own private patio and lakeside view to enjoy the sunrise.
I love getting up early and walking around the towns when it is so quiet.
Out for one of my early morning walks, I met this swan on the city square.

Narrow side-streets like this show why Vespa scooters are so popular.
Another narrow street as I walked toward the town overlook.
The climb up to the hill above town was worth it. 
The lake was hidden behind the misty veil.

After enjoying the view from the overlook, I decided to walk around downtown along the lakefront.

Taking in the peace and quiet along Lake Garda. The Italian Alps are visible in the distance.

Time for lunch. As I was wandering around, I passed this window filled with pizza. Tempting, but too “touristy”.

This looks interesting! A local lady pointed me to this ristorante.
It’s where the locals eat.
Ahh, yes! This looks like a traditional Italian ristorante!

It didn’t take long to decide on frutti de marre – “Fruit of the Sea”. Delicious!
On the last morning before we left, I was treated to a beautiful sunrise.

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of Northern Italy.

Please check back as I add more photos of traveling around Italy in Part 2 – Coming Soon!