Caneva, Italy: A castle town for climbing

There really isn't much of a castle left at Caneva Castle. Just some walls and a church and its bell tower. So don't go expecting to see knights in armor, moats or a drawbridge.


By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 2, 2014

Except for the occasional tourist or mountain biker, there isn’t anyone storming the castle of Caneva, Italy, these days.

In fact, there isn’t much of anything left to storm. The remnants of a few walls surround a little-used church and a cemetery atop a hill overlooking this town about 12 miles from Aviano Air Base. On a clear day, there are sweeping views of mile upon mile of the countryside and villages southwest of Aviano.

But even when the weather is good, there often aren’t a lot of visitors. Exceptions include an annual medieval festival the first weekend in July and other special occasions. On most days, it’s possible to have the castle to yourself — discounting the lizards and other small wildlife inhabiting the area.

The trek up is certainly worth it, especially if the goal is to get some exercise on a bike or hiking. Although it’s a short drive up from the town below, walking up and back would take the better part of a day and burn more than a few calories.

Like just about everywhere in Italy, Caneva boasts some ancient history. There have been some archaeological finds indicating the area was inhabited well before Rome appeared on any map. The castle dates to at least the year 1000 and saw its share of wannabe conquerors.

While Caneva was probably a more important place during the castle’s heyday than it is today, it’s likely that most residents wouldn’t trade places with their ancestors if they could. Along with most parts of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, it’s more prosperous today in real terms than it’s ever been.

Interesting sights besides the castle include the town’s main square, Piazza Martiri Gari-baldini, a nod to those who died during the revolution that created modern-day Italy. It’s dominated by the parish church of St. Thomas the Apostle. The church dates to 1822 and features an interior that can be eerily dark even on the sunniest of days.

The hills to the west and north of the city quickly turn into mountains, and there are several trails to hike or bike along mountain roads that slowly wind their way into the clouds.

Wine has been produced in the area for centuries, and some older vineyards still churn out grapes. A few outside of town offer tastings to those looking for a new favorite wine.

The weather can change quickly near the mountains, and there isn’t a lot to do when it rains. So wait until the sun’s out and bring some sturdy shoes.



Caneva, Italy



Caneva is about 12 miles southwest of Aviano. The easiest way to reach it is to take the SS-13 to Sacile and follow the signs from there or via the Mountain Highway from Aviano. It’s about a 20-minute drive, depending on traffic and driving speed.


The castle and parish church of St. Thomas the Apostle are usually open to the public during daylight hours.


The main sites are free. There’s no admission charge for the castle or parish church.


There are a few places to eat in the town, including a gelateria in Piazza Martiri Garibaldini and a grocery store in the piazza for those interested in putting together a picnic.


Find more details and an interactive map at www.turismofvg.it/locality/caneva (in English). The city hall is located on Piazza Martiri Garibaldini.

There isn't much of a castle left on a hill above Caneva, Italy. But the site is still referred to as the Castle of Caneva and does offer sweeping views of the countryside west of Aviano Air Base on clear days.

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