Friday, March 8, 2019

A Restful Week in Aviano, Italy

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Our transfer from Ljubljana was by minibus, was quick and comfortable, and we arrived in less than two hours.  Once at the Trieste Airport it was a quick 15 minutes and we were checked in and packing up our rental car.  The driver from the coast to the Air Base was less than two hours.  Since we were way early than expected, we could not check in to our Airbnb so we decided to go directly to the NATO base and get registered.  The process was relatively painless and within an hour all three of us were cruising the isles of the base exchange and grocery store.

Right up against the Dolomite Mountains.
Shelves stocked with American brands all in US dollars.
And the typica food court with US fast food choices.

Like most US military bases worldwide, Aviano is like stepping back into the USA.  Everything is in English, everyone speaks English, and all commerce is done in US dollars.  The exchange looks like a huge Walmart with a little bit of everything.  After an hour we had collected an assortment of things we needed and had not been able to find for the last year...hearing aide batteries, a great cooking knife, American hair products, etc.  I know it sounds a bit trivial, but tip-toeing back across the "border" is somewhat satisfying.  The grocery store is no different.  It is like walking into a Safeway or Kroger store.  All American brands and a huge assortment of stuff.  We stocked up on spices, Mexican seasonings, zip-lock plastic'd think these would be worldwide, but not...and dove into the Omaha beef shop and grabbed some good old American Ribeyes and a slab of pork spareribs...LOL.

The reason for our visit to the base was to get an annual checkup at the base hospital.  Using our military retirement access, we had booked appointments over six months ago, and we were anxious to be able to discuss a few issues and get updates with an American doctor.  The base hospital is well established, having been around since WWII and the hospital was modern and in typical military fashion, everything was timely, accurate, and well-organized.  We each saw a family practioner and reviewed our "lists."  Blood work, an exam, an immunization review, and a consultation with the travel med department and we were done for the day.

We rented an Airbnb in the small town of Castello d'Avianco, a five minute drive from the base and settled in for a nice week-long rest.  This time around we have a really sweet family apartment, two bedrooms, large Italian kitchen and it occupies the entire first floor of a three story family complex.  The owners live above us and it is so quiet and peaceful  We are literally at the base of the Dolomite Mountains, rising abruptly behind our house,  We are on a rise, about 150 feet above the far-stretching plain below that extends to the sea, twenty miles south.  The airbase is below us and we have a full, unobstructed view of the entire base, runway.  At night it is all lit up.

Our front porch looked out over the above...the plains reaching south to the Adriatic.
Typical Italian kitchen with a big wooden table in the middle.  No living room which is normally the case in older apartments.  We spent a lot of time in the room and ate some pretty amazing meals.
Sleepy little town.

Quiet walks in the woods near town.

After three days of followup appointments, a few additional tests, and picking up our travel meds (malaria) we were done with our medical needs, recovered from really, REALLY, painful shoulders from the Typhoid and Flu shots, and were ready to enjoy a bit of wandering.  We woke to a beautiful, bright and sunny day and decided to drive up into the mountains to a picturesque lake recommened by a few folks at the base.  We packed a lunh and headed out.  Within a few mintues we were climbing and following a river high up into the mountains.  Lots of tunnels and elevation soon found us at the lake were we enjoyed a nice lunch before continuing our drive winding through the canyons below massive, towering granite walls.  Small villages appeared around bends in the road and it was a really lovely drive.

We visited the nearby city of Pordenone with it's impressive pedestrain street and lovely architecture.  We spent a couple of hours roaming, did a bit of shopping, and headed home for a picnic lunch on our terrace overlooking the base.

For a week we kept admiring the village perched halfway up the mountains behind our own and decided to find the road up to it.  The village is called Mezzomonte (middle mountain) and was a nice enclave of high end homes, many Airbnbs, a few restaurants, and to-die-for views.  The road was winding and took our breath away over many curves up and down.  At the top we the view was a bit cloudy...this is a photo of the place on a sunny day.  You can see the plains and the base far off in the distance below.
The road up ended in the village so we headed back downhill and decided to drive to the coast.  It was a nice journey through the farmland reaching the town of Bibione within an hour.  We had our picnic on the beach and then took a short walk on the sand.  It was a lot cooler and overcast and we cut our visit short.  In the summer it is a typical beach resort town.  Here is a photo.
Our last day was devoted to busy work.  We went on base and used the laundromat, shopped for some supplies for our next road trip after Venice, and began packing for the next day's early depart to Venice.

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