A gathering in Italian is ‘Raduno’ – in this case, organised by Riccardo de Nardis, long-time friend of FLYER. Ian Seager and his wife, Martine, gathered themselves – and Cessna – and headed over to Venice
15 November 2022
As well as loving me (I hope), my wife, Martine, loves both GA flying and Italy, so as soon as I mentioned that our Italian friend Riccardo was organising another of his famous Radunos, diaries were cleared and bags packed even though it was still months away.
I organised a couple of work things in France, so rather than heading straight for the Raduno’s first stop of San Marino, on the morning of departure we headed to Jersey for some cheap fuel, then Dinard for a quick customs stop before landing in Mende, where we’d spend a couple of days that were either way too hot for comfort or way too wet thanks to the storms.
Leaving Mende (which sits at 3,362ft) with full tanks on a windless, hot day required some pre-flight hard sums, but we were soon dodging buildups and heading for San Marino, just off the Rimini coast. An unexpected and uncommon benefit of climbing to FL95 was that the True Airspeed (TAS) and tailwind pixies worked together, giving us 178kt over the ground. Oh yes!
San Marino’s small grass airstrip is to me the epitome of fun General Aviation. There’s nothing in the way of official air traffic. It’s generally one way in and one way out, thanks to a decent slope.
There’s a hangar full of interesting aircraft, plus a bunch of friendly members, and a clubhouse stocked with cold beer and a pasta lunch organised by Riccardo. Not to mention lots of time spent sitting in the sunshine and catching up with everyone else’s flight stories.
Magically (thanks again Riccardo) a minibus appeared, whisked us to our hotel in San Marino where after a couple of hours walking (OK, sleeping), we all met for dinner.
With just one night in the fortified principality we took off, did a bit of a circuit to admire the perched town from the air, and headed north to Bagnoli, another amazingly friendly (huge) grass strip that was about to host the HAG (Historic Aircraft Group) fly-in.
A couple of nights, more beer, more food, more stories, a trip to Padua and an evening meal in the mountains, and a final ‘jolly’ that involved a small mountain of pizza, more beer and wine and the obligatory bottle of avgas, sorry, grappa…
From there we headed to Venice Lido, surely one of THE classic General Aviation airfields to visit in Europe. This time the FISO was a little more formal and the landing fee much more (€45) than the previous – erm, free – but it’s a very special place with the Art Deco terminal housing a nice bar and a very nice restaurant.
You only live once, so six of us clubbed together, asked the airfield to order us a water taxi and headed from the airfield’s very own taxi stop right into the centre of Venice. The bill was something like €110 for the six of us, definitely a pinch yourself GA experience.
Next day, as the group broke up and some headed for home, we spent a couple of days on Venice Lido, jumping on the water bus to head into Venice, or just wandering the beaches (and their restaurants) of Lido.
Others from the group had enjoyed a spectacular flight home though the Alps, but when our turn came, pretty much all of the Alps were decorated by a crescent-shaped series of storms. No thanks, it would have to be the long way round.
Full of expensive Italian fuel (€3.25/litre) we said goodbye to Lido, reported ‘Malamocco’ on the way out, and climbed towards the west, heading for Montpellier. Once in France our only real ATC hiccup of the entire trip came as the Nice controller wanted us out of his hair to the north.
I didn’t fancy the very high ground and turbulence and we reached an acceptable compromise after a brief chat.
The stop at Montpellier was to top off the tanks and clear Customs (a slightly comedic routine… but that’s not for public consumption as I’d quite like to go back one day), and after an awful vending machine lunch we paid the small landing fee, taxied out and took off.
The aim now was to get back to England, and 545nm and 4hr 15min later, having flown a straight line across the whole of France, we landed back at Lydeway.
Just wow. Thanks Riccardo, thanks Mrs S, thanks everyone else who came along and thanks to everyone for their amazing hospitality at the airfields along the way.
What a privilege, what a joy, make sure you add landing at Lido to your bucket list, that and making friends with Riccardo… if you don’t know him already!
Let me teach you some Italian: Raduno. Raduno means new airfields; new friends; good food; good drink; and, for some reason, inflatable animals.
Twenty years ago, an idea was born. For aviators to descend on Italy and be hosted by Riccardo de Nardis, who had heard about all the UK’s fly-ins from FLYER magazine and wanted a piece of the action. So, in 2002, five aircraft flew from the UK to Sabaudia and then Orvieto, and a new tradition was started.
Happy memories and tall tales about the event were shared on the FLYER Forums and, like the Olympics, four years later, Riccardo had recovered enough to organise a second. After the third event, under mounting pressure from Forum members, the four-year interval was reduced to two… with a brief hiatus due to covid restrictions.
This year saw the eighth edition of Raduno. Eight pilots and their passengers made their way in five aircraft from across the UK and France, joining Riccardo and Kate, who flew up from southern Italy to host.
We should have been flying too. It would have been my first trip abroad as P1 so I was gutted when the aircraft got stuck in maintenance. I was not going to miss the fun though, so we joined two others who also went via Ryanair and hire car.
Long-distance touring flights are not without their challenges. The first (myself excluded) to experience trouble was Mark Saunders, who had been my pilot for the first (and last) Raduno I attended, way back in 2014.
Making his way through France in his TB20GT, a fast, retractable, touring aircraft, he was cruising at FL55 when the undercarriage pump light illuminated and the two main wheels came down. A quick call to his engineer (hurrah for Bluetooth headsets!) and he was able to get the nosewheel down, and make a diversion and emergency landing.
“The gendarmes were keen to see this unscheduled, international arrival and went through both the aircraft and my documents with a fine-tooth comb before I’d even had a chance to look for the hydraulic leak,” explains Mark. “I subsequently forgot to go and see the douaniers, so I was now in France illegally.” Oops.
Meanwhile, Dave White – joining his first Raduno – was making his way more sedately south in his Jodel, so Mark and his inflatable rhino (there’s no point asking; no-one knows!) thumbed a lift from Troyes.
Reaching Cannes, Dave describes that, “Soon we had a truly spectacular ‘not above 1,000ft’ routing along the Mediterranean coast off Cannes, Nice and Monaco, then into Italy. We landed at Massa Cinquale: five minutes from aircraft to hotel, four more minutes to the restaurant on the beach. This is the way to travel!”
The Raduno officially kicked off at Torraccia Airfield – the only airport in the Republic of San Marino. Here we were joined for the day by two pilots from Spain.
A freshly cooked lunch, with plenty of cold drinks, was served. We were then treated to a tour of the hangars by Marco Mula, who told us he was the Italian aerobatic champion. Presumably also the San Marino aerobatic champion.
A slightly confused woman from San Marino TV arrived at this point, not knowing why she was there or what to film. We stood around for a bit, equally confused, while being recorded for national television. The group then headed by road into San Marino town. That evening we made our way up steep cobblestone streets for a glass or two (or several) of prosecco at the top of the mediaeval walled old town. Dinner followed, with more incredible views.
“Flying around ‘The Rock’ on departure was the highlight of the trip for my partner, Susan,” said Rob Young. “We heard the controller say to a local pilot, “There are too many aeroplanes flying from San Marino to Bagnoli, be careful out that way!”
At Bagnoli, a disused military airfield, the gang once again convened for lunch and beers in the blazing heat.
We were then transported by coach for a short, guided walk around Padua with Fabio Cappellato from the Italian Historic Aircraft Group.
Padua is home of the Aperol Spritz, so it would have been rude not to stop and drink one!
Back to the coach, we then made our way up into the cool of the mountains for more food. After joining the FLYER Livestream, the evening wound down with the now traditional ‘toast to Raduno’. With grappa.
This was the end of the main Raduno, and time for several people – including those of us travelling commercially – to depart. The following day, the remaining aviators continued to Venice Lido: “Surely one of THE classic general aviation airfields to visit in Europe,” according to Ian Seager.
“It’s a very special place with the Art Deco terminal housing a nice bar and a very nice restaurant. You only live once, so six of us clubbed together, asked the airfield to order us a water taxi and headed from its own taxi stop right into the centre of Venice – a ‘pinch yourself’ GA experience.”
“This was a very special Raduno,” summarises Riccardo. “Most of us knew each other, so it was like meeting up with family. Everyone and everything was relaxed, with no problems or organisational emergencies.
“There were two firsts this year – it’s the first time a Raduno has been ‘outside’ of Italy; and it’s the first time people have flown in on a commercial flight!”
From all of us who attended: thank you to Riccardo for all the hard work that goes into creating such a fantastic event every two years.
For all of those who didn’t attend: come along next time! Even if your aircraft breaks en route or you have to book a last minute commercial flight, the Raduno High is worth it.
See you in 2024!
Riccardo & Kate; Ian & Martine; Rob & Susan; David & Karen; Dave W; Mark; Paul & Shameel; Annabel & Graham; Fiore and Sergio.
20 years of Raduno
2002 Sabaudia and Orvieto
2016 Asiago and Nervesa
2018 L’Elba – 14 aircraft
2022 San Marino, Padua and Venice – six aircraft plus Ryanair. 16 people.