It wasn't too long ago that Aviano, Italy nabbed the top spot in our list of the Best Overseas Military Base Towns.
Aviano is a small, sleepy town located in a non-touristy part of Northern Italy -- although Venice is only 45 minutes away. The town is known mostly for its Air Force presence, but the surrounding area is marked by rolling vineyards and rural farmland situated at the base of the Dolomite Alps. What it lacks in tourist hotspots it more than makes up for in family-owned wineries that go back generations. And since there's no housing on base, military personnel settle into surrounding towns like San Quirino, Polcenigo, Sacile, Brugnera, Budoia, or Vigonovo -- and learn to live like the locals do.
Although many servicemembers add Aviano to their wish lists, getting assigned here involves the mysterious interplay of job openings, rotation schedules, and supreme favor in unseen places. And since Aviano is an Air Force base, it's primarily airmen that are lucky enough to call Aviano home. However, fear not: sailors, Marines, airmen, and Coasties are full of disparaging Air Force jokes that almost even the score.
Uncle Sam can send military personnel to all sorts of places (especially some not-so-great ones), but we tracked down some lucky locals, both past and present, to get the scoop on what makes living in Aviano so unforgettable.
Eating local is easy
City markets offer local produce that's super fresh and far less expensive than anything you would find in the States. Italians shop here, rather than at a supermarket, for fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, honey, and fresh flowers. If you'd rather leave the cooking to the experts, restaurants here offer the finest genuine-article Italian cuisine you could ever want, all sourced from the nearby countryside. Of course you'll be drinking coffee all day in those teeny mugs that make your hands feel huge, but if you want to mix up your libation routine, sgroppino is a refreshing lemony cocktail that's a staple of the northern region.