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Italy Tour,  3-6 May 2004

Finally after a few month of waiting and planning it was time for Mark and I to go to Italy. We flew from Frankfurt-Hahn to Pisa-San Guisto with RyanAir on Monday the 3th. Luckily the tickets were very cheap, only 75 euro's each.


We did try to arrange some base visits during this tour, but unfortunately it was not possible to visit any airbase due to a new policy. As we all know the photo conditions outside the bases are not as good as in the Netherlands. so it was sometimes very hard to take some good shots. But despite that it was a very successful trip.


After landing at Pisa-San Guisto we first tried to get our rental car. But because of some slight problems we had to wait about 90 minutes, so that left us some time to have a look around. From the terminal you have clear view on the runway and most of the stored G-222s. The operational area is hardly visible from here. When we finally got our car we were already an hour behind schedule, so we drove directly to Grosseto.


Grosseto is one of the two airbases that still operates the F-104. That's why it was high on our priority list. The weather was not bad, and sometimes even the sun was shining. First we had some problems finding the airfield, but when we saw the first glimpse of some stored F-104s we knew we were there. We looked for a place to take some pictures of the departing traffic, and after 15 minutes we found a nice place near some cornfields. Here we stayed for an hour and watched some Starfighters making some nice low passes. We even saw our first operational EF2000s of the Italian Air Force that day. When everything was back on the ground, we left and drove towards Viterbo.


Because it was still the first day of our trip and I had been driving all day long it was time for a 'pilot' change. After having dinner in some kind of pizzeria we approached the village of Viterbo around eight o'clock in the evening. Viterbo has two airfields actually, which are separated by the main road of Viterbo. When we arrived we immediately saw the first helicopters parked on the platform. From the hot water springs near the airfield most of the helicopters parked out there can be read. But we didn't want to spent too much time out there because we were looking for a place to stay. We found a bed and breakfast only 250 meters from the airfield. Later that evening we went back to the airfield when they started night flying operations. Always an impressive sight those Chinooks in the night. The next morning around seven o'clock, when we were still having breakfast the first helicopters came already overhead. The pictures of the A-129 and AB.205 were taken during our breakfast at the B&B. After visiting both airfields we left and drove via Bracciano to Vigna di Valle where the Italian Air Force museum is located.


The Italian Air Force museum at Vigna di Valle houses more than fifty aircraft. It gives you a nice impression of the Italian aircraft industry throughout the years. Vigna di Valle is an old naval base which once was the home of the Cant Z.506 Airone. It's still some kind of a military area. And when we arrived we had to show our ID's before they let us in. Besides a few aircraft parked outside, most of the aircraft are parked inside four big halls. Two of these halls were closed due to some work in progress, but we were lucky enough to enter both halls via the backdoor. And we were able to take some pictures and write down the numbers before they kicked us out. When we were finished here we left and drove towards Roma. More shots taken at the Vigna di Valle museum can be found here.


Driving through Roma was an awesome experience for me. I really enjoyed the aggressive way of driving and sometimes I even drove like an Italian, Mark said. But that was not the reason of being in Roma. Our main goal were the airfields of Roma-Guidonia and Roma-Ciampino. At Guidonia it's very hard to see something from outside. But we were lucky enough to find a spot in a field near the fence. There wasn't any flying activity, so we couldn't take pictures. But we did read some S.208's and some helicopters. After we almost got caught we decided to leave and drove to Roma-Ciampino. We parked the car in front of the terminals and were able to read a few of the CL-415's of the Dipartimento Protezione Civile. When finished here we went to Pratica di Mare to look for a place to stay.


The next morning we visited Pratica di Mare, but because of the lack of good spotting places and lots of Carabinieri we were forced to leave much earlier then planned. After Pratica, Latina was visited but the runway was close due to work in progress, so we drove immediately to Frosinone. The weather that day was very bad and heavy rain showers forced us to stay in the car. Despite that we were able to take some shots of departing NH.500s.



After Frosinone we went to the Dittellandia Air Park at Castle Volturno. We knew it was closed, but from outside we were able to see 85% of the aircraft preserved and stored out there. Close to Castle Volturno we stayed in a hotel, and the next day we drove to Grazzanise. At Grazzanise the security was very tight. Throughout the day, security vehicles drove by and people were watching us. So unfortunately we couldn't take any pictures. The area around Grazzanise is in very poor condition, and close to the fence were some old ruins. We climbed in one of them and were able to read the departing traffic from there. The SF.260s which are normally stationed at Latina were moved to Grazzanise. Thanks to some English spotters (who did have a base visit) we were able to write down all the SF.260s and the stored F-104's at Grazzanise.


We left around noon, but we couldn't resist making a short stop at Frosinone. Again the weather so very bad, but we were able to read some new NH.500s. From here we drove towards the airfield Pescara-D'Aruzzo were we caught our flight back to Frankfurt-Hahn. At midnight we arrived at home, after driving approximately 1500 kms in four days. Leaves me just one thing. A big warm thank you to Mark for again another nice tour. Despite the fact that we weren't able to take many photographs it was still a very successful tour. Its always a pleasure traveling with you. I'm looking forward to next tour.  (Click here for a full log of the tour)




Copyright © 2004 by Rob Hendriks


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