Padua may rightly pride itself on being the city that has contributed more than any other to the development of modern flight in Italy and throughout Europe, since it has produced the individuals, ideas and organizational approaches that have combined to make flying what it is today.

Given this premise, any attempt at charting the history of flight in Padua - at least insofar as it relates to the historical figures and events from the early days of the first experiments up until World War I - necessitates the collection, collation and re-presentation of the documents and statements which constitute that history.

The skies above Padua formed the backdrop for two milestones in the evolution of hot-air ballooning: on the 22nd of August 1808, Pasquale Andreoli and Francesco Zambeccari's aerostat lifted off from Prato della Valle; seventeen years later, on the 31st of July 1825, Teresa Garnerin became an inspiration to would-be female aviators all over the world when her balloon rose up from that same 'airfield-ahead-of-its-time', to the delight of the transfixed crowd that had assembled to cheer her on. And yet, Padua's claim to being the crucible of flight does not end there. Not only was this the native city of Leonino da Zara, a true pioneer of the art of aviation, it also welcomed Aldo Corazza in his later years. Corazza had lived for years in Este, and it was in the area surrounding the town that planeur or glider he had designed himself. He was in close correspondence with the Wright brothers, Canute and Almerico da Schio, the Italian heralded across the globe as another important figure in the process of turning the dream of flight into a reality.


With the outbreak of World War I, several small airfields were rapidly laid out in the province of Padua: in San Pelagio, Isola di Carturo, Grossa di Gazzo, Gazzo, Arqu Petrarca and San Pietro in G, part of the low-lying Basse di Brusegana area. In the aftermath of the rout at Caporetto, Padua became the de facto capital of the Italian war effort. As a result, the airfields around Padua - particularly the one at San Pelagio - acquired an increased level of strategic importance. It was from San Pelagio, on the 9th of August 1918, that the Serenissima squadron - led by the poet and aviator Gabriele D'Annunzio in his biplane - set off on its celebrated peace-mission over Vienna. The airport takes its name from Gino Allegri, another early Italian aviator, who met his death while attempting to land at San Pelagio. Nowadays, the 1st Airborne Division - the modern-day equivalent of the 1st Fighter Wing, which was the first combat unit of the Italian Air Force - is stationed here.

This, the first volume of the 'History of flight in Padua', describes the period from the fledgling attempts of the earliest days up until the First World War and the foundation of the Aeroclub. The next volume, written - like the first - by Luigi Lippi, will cover the history of the airport from the 1920s to the present day, looking in detail at the role played by the City of Padua in the wider history of flight around the world. The second volume will include biographical accounts of some of the protagonists in the story of aviation, such as Gabriele d'Annunzio, Aldo Finzi, Granzarolo and others, as well as a history of the 1st Airborne Division and its direct antecedent, the 1st Fighter Wing unit. An extensive list of the members of these squadrons will also be provided.