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Italian park offers food and fun for kids

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 24, 2016

It’s been 47 years since Bruno Ferrin set up a stand to sell wine and local produce from his property in the hills above Nervesa Della Battaglia, Italy.

To attract more customers, he started building rides for children. And kept building.

The area’s infrastructure at the time was severely lacking, according to his grandson, Francesco, the third generation of his family to work at the complex called Osteria ai Pioppi. So the attractions are not powered by electricity.

There are plenty of swings, slides and things that spin. Several rides involve sleds propelled downhill via dozens of small, rotating metal rods.

And there are more than a few screams and laughs from delighted children, who seemingly don’t need loud sounds, blinking lights or people dressed in goofy costumes to have fun. Who knew?

Francesco Ferrin says the play park, which he estimates has 40 attractions, is the reason people come to Osteria Ai Pioppi. Visiting the park is free. It’s technically for guests of the osteria, or restaurant, and most visitors seem to have at least a little to eat. Francesco Ferrin said the osteria can seat about 1,000 people at a time on benches that resemble what you’d find in a German beer hall. But rarely is there a big crowd, though there are more visitors in August, when the park is open every day.On a recent Saturday, there were a few hundred visitors, almost all Italian.

Dominic LaForgia, who works for U.S. Army Garrison Italy, was an exception. He brought two daughters.

“We’ve been meaning to come for a while, and now just seemed like a good time,” he said. The presence of the osteria meant that Dad didn’t have to cook.

Bruno Ferrin only speaks a few words of English, but greets American guests warmly.

The complex is a bit out of the way for most Americans living around Aviano or Vicenza.

Not far to the north are numerous routes that wine enthusiasts can take to sample some of Italy’s best.

Younger Americans probably couldn’t care less about those activities. But french fries and dozens of things to play on? It might be harder to get away than it is to get here.

harris.kent@stripes.com

 

Osteria ai Pioppi 

 

DIRECTIONS

Nervesa Della Battaglia is southeast of Conegliano, Italy, about a 45-minute drive from Aviano Air Base and about 75 minutes from Vicenza. From Aviano, the easiest route is to take the SS13 through Conegliano, turning right toward Montebelluno (onto the SP248) just after crossing the Piave River. The complex is located at Via VII Armata 76, about a five-minute drive in the hills above the town.

TIMES

10:30 a.m. until sunset on weekends the last weekend in March through the first weekend in November. There are no lights in the park. It’s open every day in August.

COSTS

Entrance to the park is free for guests of the osteria. So is the parking and the roads if you avoid the highways.

FOOD

The osteria, which generally opens for meals about noon, has seating for about 1,000 customers. Don’t expect that many unless you’re there on a weekend in August. The food isn’t fancy and dishes from Vicenza — baccala and polenta — are prominent. Menu items, including a cheese plate, various polenta dishes and vegetables range from 1 to 8 euros. Beverages include water, wine, beer and coffee ranging from .50 euros to 5 euros.

There are lots of other eating options in the area, though few are as convenient and inexpensive.

INFORMATION

Phone: (+33) 0422-773-303. Web: www.aipioppi.com

The attractions at Osteria ai Pioppi outside Nervesa Della Battaglia, Italy, aren't just for kids. Marco Baldiserri came to the play park for his son, Giovanni, but tried out this swing himself.
KENT HARRIS/STARS AND STRIPES

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