Growing up in the sweet, picturesque town of Bassano del Grappa, one gets used to the familiar backdrop of the stunning green Pre-Alps called Mount Grappa. The name itself suggests that Bassano belongs to Mount Grappa as much as the the sun belongs to the sky and if you’re a Bassanese, you inevitably have a soft spot for the “good giant” that watches over our town like a majestic god!
I decided to go pay a visit today and I forgot how truly beautiful it is. The winding roads, through rolling hills filled with a large variety of oaks and pines, offer breathtaking views all the way up to the top (5,823 ft). There are meadows spotted with darker shades of green pines and sparse chalets and farms are surrounded by the happiest cows I’ve ever seen (sorry, California!).
Rustic trattorias offering delicious meals made with traditional produces are popular destinations up here. My favorite is San Giovanni, a restored hotel with tons of red geraniums hanging from the windows, located across from a little church. I stopped here for a morning espresso and croissant and, as I was sipping my daily dose of highly concentrated caffeine (espressos are no joke, in my homeland!), I happened to notice a small room filled with army memorabilia. This tiny museum features dozens of bullets, rifles, helmets, medical supplies, watches, pipes, glasses, and a myriad of other personal objects that belonged to fallen soldiers and infantries who fought here during the two great wars. In fact, Mount Grappa was the stage of crucial battles during World War I and World War II.
During World War I, in 1917 it became the front-line of defense against the Austrian troops who, after the battle of Caporetto, were looking to conquest the river Piave and control the mountain area. In 1918 the Italian troops suffered two other Austrian attacks but they were able to crush the Austrians who retreated, giving the victory to the Italians. During World War II, in particular the period from the fall of fascism (25 July 1943) and its return to power after a few months (8 September), in the Bassano area brigade groups of antifascist partisans were formed and located, in the most part, on Mount Grappa. From here, they were able to control the Valsugana, a communication route for Germany with the nazi forces operating in Italy. This came, however, after the fascist-nazi regime responded to the partisans by conducting a tragic “clean up” operation involving 15-20,000 men against the 1,500 partisans. In their honour, an Ossarium and a bronze statue, the Partisan Monument, were erected at the very top of Mount Grappa. To this day, huge holes caused by grenades can be spotted all over the area.
Mount Grappa is also known to be the perfect training ground for cyclists, given that it has the most beautiful uphills in the country. Other sport activities include hiking, snowboarding, and skiing in the winter. In the last couple of years, a new outdoor adventure has become very popular: Climbing ropes with carabiners offered by Alpenise. I was tempted to try it, but I could not shake off my fear of heights and opted instead to take a few pictures. I also chatted with the guys who runs them and I promised them to be back armed with more courage and a few friends in tow next time! After that, I took a 5 minute stroll through the hills and had a delicious boscaiola pasta Alpe Madre.
I could not end my day trip without paying visit to one of the several farms open to the public for their produce sale. I got some delicious cheese and milk from the happy cows!!