After we left Padua my cousin Lidia and her husband Roberto wanted to drive to the town of Bassano del Grappa at the foot of the Italian Alps. Bassano del Grappa is 27 miles north of Padua, north of Vicenza. Described as an “authentic Italian river town”, Bassano del Grappa has a spirit and history that is both touching and unique. The historical center (centro storico), with its cobblestone streets, is split in half by the Brenta River and a covered wooden bridge designed by Palladio. The views of the town from the bridge are postcard perfect with wine bars and grappa shops on either side. The Nardini grapperia and the Poli Grappa Museum on Via Gamba are a must for grappa afficiandos and interesting stops for those who would like to learn more about Italy’s most famous distillate.
Bassano’s grappa is what Roberto wanted us to taste but the bridge at Bassano is what Lidia wanted us to see. In 1569 Palladio was commissioned by the citizens of Bassano to design and replace the town bridge, destroyed by the flooding of the river Brenta. Palladio designs a stone bridge with three arches, inspired by the buildings of ancient Rome.
There is a heritage of heroism from both World Wars associated with the bridge at Bassano and the piviotal role of the bridge in the military history of the region is long standing. Our grandfather crossed this bridge during WWI as a young interpreter with the Italian Army. During WWII Italian resistance soldiers organized raids on the German army from the craggy slopes of nearby Monte Grappa. You can still see the machine gun bullet holes on the buildings next to the bridge. The bridge was destroyed by the retreating German army at the end of WWII and rebuilt in 1948 by the Alpini, Italy’s elite mountain military corps, and named Ponte degli Alpini (Bridge of the Alpini) as a memorial to their fallen comrades in arms.
Although Bassano is only about an hour’s drive from Venice many travelers have yet to discover this quaint medieval town with a unique and touching heritage that holds a special place in our family’s history.