Seeing giant balloons suspended in the sky is a familiar sight in the Italian town of Mondovì.
The first hot air balloon in Italy was registered in the area more than 40 years ago, and it’s now home to the International Epiphany Balloon Rally, Italy’s oldest hot air balloon gathering.
But after COVID-19 restrictions prevented an official festival from taking place this year, balloon enthusiasts gathered in the northern Italian town to honour the age-old tradition.
Founded in 1988, the festival brings up to 50 hot air balloons from across Europe to the Monregalese region. Once there, pilots depart from the Piedmont town’s aptly named airfield - ‘Balloonporto’.
And with such dramatic views, it’s little wonder that this small Italian district has become a popular stepping-off point for air-enthusiasts looking to soar across the Alps.
“Mondovi is the capital of hot air ballooning, it is our main take-off base’” says Alain Cruteanschii, a hot air balloon pilot and member of Monaco’s ballooning club. “It is a beautiful place in Piedmont, surrounded by the Alps, to fly.”
Once in the air, Alain switches off the burners and allows his balloon to fly in perfect silence across the cloudless sky.
"It's true that ballooning is really very special and it's the kind of thing that once you start, you're in it for life," he smiles.
"We are at one with nature, we don't have an engine, we just have a burner that makes us go up and down, and then we will use what nature gives us. So it's something we control but it's somehow uncontrollable.”
Watch the video above to see the balloons take flight.