Monday, August 16, 2010

Day Trip to Bassano del Grappa

This town provides a wonderful day-trip solution from Padua or Venice. Located 70 km from Padua, Bassano del Grappa is most famous for its grappa production, ceramic traditions and wooden bridge over the River Brenta.

Currently the cultural life in Bassano del Grappa is percolating with the programming for Opera Estate 2010. From the end of June to early September, a series of international dance companies, theatre groups, readings and opera will be performed in the area. For more information, click here.

Take a walk through the town and visit the many museums, dedicated to ceramics, the artist Jacopo Bassano, the tower and the civic museum. Visit the tourist information point near the old city walls by the train station for more information about all of them and a map of the city.

Around the old bridge, several shops sell Bassano's famous ceramics and stoneware. They feature painted plates and bowls, elaborate white stoneware and delicate ceramic fruit compositions.

Piazza del LibertĂ  during a summer shower

A café in Piazza Garibaldi with ceramic art on the outside walls

The lion with wings that marks all the towns that were once dominated by the Serenissima (Venetian Republic). After it's protection for a while in the 13th century by a Paduan, Ezzelino II, the Ventians took hold in the 15th century, followed by Napolean's reign. Eventually Bassano became officially part of the province of Vicenza, which it still maintains today.

The oldest building in town, built in the 13th century
A clock tower, the Torre Civica
Another clock (building)

Local specialties on display in the historic bread shop, here featuring ciamballone.
An antique shop in the city center
The large wooden bridge has many names: Ponte di Legno, Ponte degli Alpini (in honor of those who last rebuilt it) and Ponte Vecchio. Even Andrea Palladio was involved in designing and building this large bridge which crosses a rough river, the Brenta. A wood structure was thought to be able to withstand the river's force. Unfortunately that wasn't always true. The bridge has crumbled many times over the centuries, although the last demise came at the hands of the Nazi Germans. The bridge was bombarded during WWII. What you see now is the 1947 reconstruction, based on Palladio's original plans from 1569.

Ponte degli Alpini

A plaque on the bridge in honor of the fallen during WWII.

The most elegant outdoor ash tray I've ever seen.

When visiting the town, don't miss a trip to the bar Distilleria Nardini at the end of the Ponte degli Alpini. Have a shot of Italy's strongest spirit, grappa, and take home a bottle. I prefer the Acquavite stagionato (aged grappa) with its golden coloring. But beware, it is quite strong at 50% alcohol content. Drinking a shot in the old bar proves special since the decor envelopes you in heavy dark wood impregnated with the acquavite scent.

At the very least, Bassano del Grappa is a pleasant afternoon stroll with characteristic architecture and little local delicacies as wells as souvenirs to satisfy most touristy souls. Enjoy a day at the edge between the northern Italian plains and mountains. Witness how people can restore their splendor after the devastation of war. Make a jaunt to Bassano.

To get to Bassano, you can take the regional train or buses (SITA or FTV) from Padua. The trip takes about an hour. Or you can make Bassano your homebase by staying a couple of nights and exploring the nearby mountains and Padana plains. Bassano is strategic since it sits at the foot of the Prealpi (Pre-alps) of Vicenza.

Photo sources:
Overall bridge view:
Ceramics store: Cippetta-Vicenza @

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