Here’s a thing about my wife and me: wherever we go, whatever we do, we usually end up in an aviation museum. That’s exactly what happened to us during our holidays in early May. On our way to San Marino, we stumbled upon a nice little aviation museum on the outskirts of Rimini, Italy.
When driving on the road no. SS72 from Rimini to San Marino, Parco Tematico – Museo dell’Aviazione is hiding in plain sight – there is a couple of planes positioned in a steep hill. A few hundred meters down the road, there is a sign and two aircraft – former Italian military C-47 and a Fairchild Metro II – in a very deteriorated condition, waiting to be restored.
If you choose to turn off the road and park at a small parking lot some 300 meters uphill, you’ll be surprised to discover a quite unusual, unique collection of airplanes that, for the most part, wasn’t visible from the road below.
Many of the displayed aircraft served in the Italian Air Force – obviously some more or less known Italian types, such as the piston trainer Fiat G.46 3A, several examples of Fiat G.91 jet fighter, Piaggio P.148 primary trainer, Piaggio P.166M utility aircraft and a few more. But some other examples may be surprising for somebody who’s not familiar with the Italian Air Force history: North American T-6 Texan, Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, Republic F-84F Thunderstreak and RF-84 Thunderflash, the legendary F-104S Starfighter and even the carrier-capable Grumman S-2 Tracker.
Apart from what seems to be a pretty solid coverage of the Italian Air Force history, the museum also has a very nice collection of Warsaw Pact aircraft – MiGs (15, 17, 19, 21, 23) and Sukhois (7, 17), an Il-28 jet bomber as well as the archaic yet magnificent Antonov An-2, the largest biplane ever built. I was also surprised to see our Czechoslovak Let L-410 Turbolet.
And then, there are a few specialties. The icing on the cake. Aircraft that are either of a pretty rare type or special in a particular way. For me, the biggest surprise was to see a Gloster Javelin FAW Mk.9 – a beautiful delta-wing fighter aircraft from the golden era of British aviation. As far as I know, there is no other Javelin in the entire Europe (apart from the UK, of course).
Another treat was the LTV A-7E Corsair II, a carrier-based attack aircraft. This particular plane, although clearly not displayed in its original paint scheme (there was a typo in one of the markings), carried out six strikes in the Desert Storm campaign. Again, not really common to see the A-7 outside of the US and a very cool type.
Also very nice was the Douglas DC-3 which used to belong to Clark Gable, the famous Hollywood actor (and a WWII bomber aircrewman). The list of high-profile people who flew in this particular plane supposedly includes John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan, just to name a few.
If you are ever in the area, you should seriously check this museum out – don’t worry, I have left out a few surprises which are still pretty neat. Although all of the exhibits (meaning the aircraft, there is also a hall full of uniforms, medals and other memorabilia) are standing outside, slowly losing their struggle with elements, they still mostly are in a pretty good shape.
As mentioned before, the setting is very interesting – the museum is set up on a sideslope of a hill and the tour involves quite a workout – you are either going up or down a pretty steep hill the entire time.
All in all, it was a nice surprise and a welcome opportunity to stretch our legs while traveling by. Hope you liked this short review – please let me know in the comments. I am going to try to post articles like this from time to time. I think there might be some aviation history buffs out there who could find this stuff interesting.