5 reasons to visit Bassano del Grappa, Italy

Bassano del Grappa is a beautiful, but little known Italian town with wonderful Palladian architecture, a special place in the local history, and unique foods and wines. Located in the province of Vicenza in the Veneto region, the city lies at the foothills of the Prealps, where Brenta river emerges from the southern end of the Brenta valley and begins its traverse of the lowlands past Vicenza and Padua on its journey to the Adriatic.

Originally the town was known as Bassano Veneto. The artist Jacopo Bassano lived most of his life in this town, and took it as his last name. The town is also famous for the renowned Italian digestif, grappa, made from distilling the remains from the winemaking process after pressing: grape skins, seeds and stems, called pomace. It is commonly believed that the spirit was named after the town, but the town itself was not called Bassano del Grappa until 1928, long after the spirit was invented.

Bassano was located right on the front line in both World Wars. During the first World War, terrible battles ensued on neighboring Monte Grappa, where the Italian army regrouped after their devastating loss at Caporetto and made a heroic last stand against the Austrians. At the top of the mountain lie the remains of over 12,000 Italian troops and over 10,000 Austrian and Hungarian troops who lost their lives during this battle. In 1928, the name was changed to Bassano del Grappa, in memory of the soldiers killed. Hemingway fans may recall the role this town played in his novel A Farewell to Arms.

Here are 5 activities not to miss on a visit to this unique town:

Ponte degli Alpini

The most famous symbol of Bassano del Grappa is the beautiful covered pontoon bridge, designed by famed architect Andrea Palladio in 1569. This bridge has been destroyed many times, most recently during World War II. The Alpine soldiers raised money and paid for the rebuilding of the bridge, known as the Ponte degli Alpini.

Ponte degli Alpini

A taste of the local prized white asparagus

Bassano is also renowned for one of the rarest delicacies in Italy, its white asparagus that appears between mid-March and mid-June. The oldest legend attributes its introduction to the area by Saint Anthony of Padua, who was very fond of the vegetable and spread knowledge of it to Bassano. Here, it found its ideal environment in the sandy, soft, well-drained and calcareous soil along the Brenta River. In the 1500 and 1600s, the white asparagus of Bassano was prized, and reserved for the banquet of the Venetian nobility. Today, it is impossible to find outside the region.

Cycling in the lovely surrounding countryside

The terrain surrounding this lovely city offers options for every level of cyclist. To the south of the city are pastoral farmlands, where casual cyclists can enjoy a gentle ride, stopping at picturesque small towns such as Marostica, Castelfranco Veneto and Cittadella to enjoy a snack at a local cafe. Expert climbers can challenge themselves with a ride up Monte Grappa, one of the most difficult climbs in Italy, and included in the Giro d’Italia in 2010.

Post-ride grappa tasting

A perfect place for a cyclists to meet and relax after a ride is at one of the two local grappa distilleries in Bassano. The only distilled spirit produced from the grape pomace, there are two famous producers located in Bassano, right on or near the Ponte degli Alpini. Nardini is on the bridge itself, and you will often see the locals gathered inside and spilling out onto the bridge enjoying a drink. Across the street is the producer Poli, where you can taste a few varieties of grappa after you visit their grappa museum to learn how the spirit is made. You can also ‘smell’ many of their varieties – they have about two dozen or so stations that deliver a whiff of various flavors at the push of a button. A good way to experience the flavors without the alcohol!

Grappa tasting

Wine tasting and dinner at Contra Soarda

In 1999, Gloria and Mirco purchased the fields are now the vineyards of Vignaioli Contra Soarda, with the desire to produce their own wines and olive oils that truly reflect the traditions and terroir of their land. Today, they have a beautiful estate, with their vineyards, production facility, tasting rooms, the new home of da Pulierin, their well-known restaurant. Located just outside of Bassano, it is a wonderful place to visit for a tour of their award winning facility, built into the hillside to minimize environmental impact and blend into the land. Stay for dinner, indulging in their locally raised beef, and of course sampling their amazing wines, from a crisp Garganaga, robust reds made from native grapes like Marzemino and Grupello, and their sweet dessert wine, a local specialty called Torcolato.

Kathy Bechtel is Owner of Italiaoutdoors.

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