The Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni (Gianni Caproni Aeronautical Museum), founded in 1927 as a corporate museum of the Caproni industry, is the oldest Italian museum dedicated to aviation. Although relatively small, it houses unique pieces and prototypes that marked the birth of Italian aviation and offers a fascinating insight into the development of the aviation industry.
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The Caproni aviation industry in Trento: from prototypes to the conquest of the skies
The Caproni aviation industry in Trento is a milestone in the history of Italian aviation. Gianni Caproni was a true pioneer of military and civil aviation. Born in 1886, he graduated in civil and electrical engineering in 1908, but in the following years, his passion for flying led him to start a company for the design and production of aeroplanes with his brother Federico. Aircraft models such as the Caproni Ca.1, Caproni Ca.6 and Caproni Ca.12.L contributed significantly to the development of pre-war Italian aviation.
During the First World War, the Caproni company became a reference for the Allied military aviation industry, producing notable bombing trimotors such as the Caproni Ca.32, Ca.33, Ca.36 and Ca.40. The link with the Italian state was later consolidated with the advent of Fascism, favouring the company’s transformation into an industrial group. However, after World War II, in a very different political and economic context, the Caproni industry had to turn towards the civil market and lost competitiveness.
The transformation of bomber models into airliners and transport aircraft marked the 1920s, together with the development of new aircraft such as the Caproni Ca.48, Ca.59 and Ca.60 Transaereo, the latter unsuccessfully tested. Although Gianni Caproni’s industrial history and engineering talent are almost unknown today, his industrial adventure made Italy, albeit briefly, a protagonist of the skies and a pioneer of aviation.
The birth of aviation in Italy
The tour of the Caproni Aeronautical Museum deals with aviation from a sporting, military and technological point of view. As the Air and Space Museum in Paris explains very well, in the early days, aviation was considered a sporting activity in which designers vied to conquer the skies, building aircraft that could fly higher and further.
Aviation in Italy and Fascism
In Italy, after the First World War, Fascism took possession of the image of the brave aviator and exploited it for propaganda. Atlantic crossings, air raids, and the Regia Aeronautica, the military aviation corps of the Kingdom of Italy, are exalted and exploited to promote a modern, futurist, and positive image of the regime.
Italy also pioneered the warlike use of aviation, using planes for bombing and reconnaissance in the Italo-Turkish War of 1911-1912. The First World War then accelerated the industrial production of aviation as a weapon to create a large fleet capable of annihilating opponents with bombing.
It resulted in indiscriminate attacks against civilians in the colonies in Libya and Ethiopia in the following years, in the Spanish Civil War and during the Second World War.
Already tried by the unequal confrontation with the Allied forces, after the armistice of 8 September 1943, the Italian air force was divided between the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana in Nazi-fascist-occupied northern Italy and the Aviazione Cobelligerante in the south liberated by the Allies.
Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni collections: a journey through planes and aircraft
Founded in 1927 in Taliedo, on the then-site of the Caproni factory, the Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni is the first Italian museum dedicated to aviation and the first Italian corporate museum. Initially conceived to preserve the historical heritage of the Caproni aviation company, the museum has expanded over the years to cover every aspect of aviation history, particularly the years of the First World War.
Managed by the Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino, the museum has an extraordinary collection that includes historic aircraft, aircraft parts, works of art and documents related to the history of flight and the Caproni industry. The collection consists of rare or unique aircraft related to aviation history, including Natale Palli’s Ansaldo A.1 aircraft and Gino Allegri’s SVA5, related to the ‘La Serenissima’ squadron involved in the propaganda flight over Vienna in 1918.
Aeroplanes at the Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni
Among the aircraft on display at the Caproni Aeronautics Museum, the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter, an American fighter that served the Italian Air Force from 1960 to 1990, stands out in the forecourt. As for older aircraft, the Ansaldo A.1 Balilla, which belonged to Captain Natale Palli, is a biplane used in the First World War. This aircraft, the same one that accompanied Gabriele D’Annunzio on his famous flight over Vienna, is one of the two Ansaldo A.1s that have survived and the only one to preserve intact the original silk covering, painted with the coat of arms of San Giorgio.
The Breda Ba.19, on the other hand, is a famous aerobatic aeroplane that, in 1933, set the world record for endurance in inverted flight. It is the only surviving example of this model. It underwent extensive restoration before being exhibited in the museum, with many missing parts rebuilt.
The Caproni Aeronautical Museum also preserves innovative designs that, although unsuccessful, contributed significantly to the history of aviation. One example is the Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo, a giant seaplane designed to carry 100 passengers on transatlantic routes, unsuccessfully tested in 1921.
Practical information for visiting the Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni in Trento
The Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni in Trento is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays and specific holidays, such as 25 December and 1 January at the time of writing. Sometimes, the Caproni Museum offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month. Check the museum’s website for the latest updates.
The ground floor hosts the aircraft, and a small gallery on the mezzanine houses temporary exhibitions. Because of the limited space, you can visit the museum in less than an hour. The entrance ticket to the Caproni Museum costs €4.50 for adults, with concessions for children and young people. Families can get combined tickets to save money and make the visit accessible and convenient.
Activities at the museum: flight simulators and guided tours
Every Saturday, the Caproni Museum offers various free activities for visitors of all ages. There are three flight simulators, two SPADs and a Cessna, to experience the thrill of flying without leaving the ground.
On Saturday afternoon, there is also a free guided tour of the museum, recommended for those not aviation experts but curious to discover the importance of the collection on display. On the other days of the week, guided tours, to book in advance, are available for a fee.
The Caproni Museum with children
Although quite small, the Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni has a children’s area with a plane to play on, tables, chairs, and drawing materials to entertain the little ones. After visiting the museum together, my son entertained himself in the children’s area while I reviewed the aircraft on display more calmly. Since the museum is all contained in one room, the children can stay in their area while their parents visit the museum without losing sight of them.
How to get to the Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni
The Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni is located at Trento’s Gianni Caproni Airport, used by tourist planes, gliders, helicopters and the nearby Italfly flight school. At the time of writing, no public transport serves the museum, so you have to get there by car and park for free in front of the museum.
There is a bike hotel next to the museum. Still, I advise against getting there by bicycle or on foot because the road is very busy and has only one lane, making it risky to move other than by car. The entrance to the museum is at the end of the street, right next to the hotel, after the façade marked ‘Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni’.
Museo dell’Aeronautica Gianni Caproni (Gianni Caproni Aeronautical Museum)
Via Lidorno, 3
Where to stay in Trento
In Trento, you can choose various accommodation options, from charming historic villas to centrally located hotels and B&Bs. The four-star Be Place Hotel is a short distance from the University of Trento and Piazza Duomo. For a more economical solution, the Habitat Guest House, in the heart of Trento, is convenient for the main tourist attractions.
If you want a quiet accommodation to explore the surroundings by car, Hotel Villa Madruzzo is ideal. Located in the hills of Trento, this four-star hotel offers a modern wellness centre with an indoor pool, experience showers, Turkish bath, steam bath and a mini outdoor pool with hydromassage.
Visiting the Caproni Aeronautical Museum in Trento is like taking a journey into the past of the Italian aeronautical industry, from its birth to its decline. The exhibition of unique pieces makes this museum a must-see for aviation enthusiasts and history lovers. Feel free to comment if you already know the Caproni Museum or if you decided to visit it after reading this article.