On our way to Slovenia, we passed through Veneto, the world-famous Italian region home to touristy destinations such as Venice, Padua, and Verona. We decided instead to spend 1 day in the incredible medieval town of Bassano del Grappa on the footsteps of the Italian Alps.
The city is known for its wooden pontoon bridge built by Palladio in the 16th century and its 12th century castle. Grappa, the renowned Italian spirit made of grapes, was invented here. I don’t know if we were that lucky or if it had to do with being there during the low season but we were almost entirely on our own!
Strolling around with no tourists in sight felt wonderful! The place belonged to us. Oh, and the views! Of course we tried the famous local spirit and ate tones of food. What can we say? Italy is all about experiences. Yes, you have superb architecture and art to see. However, it’s the Italian vibe that makes everything work.
- 1 Things to Do in Bassano del Grappa
- 2 How to Get to Bassano del Grappa
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Top Hotels in Bassano del Grappa
Terraglio Rooms (exclusive boutique hotel)
Le 33 (housed in a renaissance palace)
Hotel Al Castello (part of the medieval fortification)
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Things to Do in Bassano del Grappa
Walk Along the Old Bridge
Just like many cities in the Veneto region, Bassano is a wealthy town rich in history. There are plenty of things to do in Bassano del Grappa. Its medieval old town is full of cute squares, elegant palaces, and stone towers. The star of Bassano del Grappa is undoubtedly its famous Ponte Vecchio or Ponte Degli Alpini (the Old Bridge).
The original was built in the 16th Century by Andrea Palladio and destroyed three times. However, it was reconstructed according to the original design each time. The bridge is so important to the locals that they wrote a love song about it: the Sul ponte di Bassano (Over the Bassano Bridge).
Visit the bridge throughout the day. Everything changes color as the sun rises and sets. There are a couple of bars and restaurants next to the bridge. Founded in 1779, Graperia Nardini is the oldest in the city. They offer a wide range of grappas, aperitifs, and liqueurs. The views over the river as fantastic too!
Visit the Castle
Another important landmark is the medieval fortification of Castello degli Ezzelini originally built in the 10th Century. The castle was built around the Church of Santa Maria, Bassano’s Cathedral. Its owner, the Bishop of Vicenza, donated the fortress to the Ezzelini family in the second half of the 12th century.
The current structure is mostly from the 12th and 13th centuries. The Germans, Hungarians, and Croatians attacked in 1411, and the castle resisted wonderfully. Nevertheless, it did not survive the War of the League of Cambrai of 1508. It was never used as a military fort ever since.
There’s a theatre inside the castle, Teatro al Castello Tito Gobbi. Be sure to ask at your hotel what’s showing at the theatre. We listened to live music at night, with the dramatic castle behind, and loved it. Once done with the castle, spend some time in the garden.
Climb the Two Old Towers
Monumental city walls once surrounded Bassano. Two large towers still stand: Porta delle Grazie on the northeast and Porta Dieda in the south. The Porta delle Grazie is the best-preserved tower in the city. Originally part of the 16th century wall, you can still see some of its architectural elements such as the architrave, the frieze, and the tympanum.
The Porta Dieda has a giant Venetian lion symbolizing loyalty to Venice. This tower was attached to a 14thcentury lower castle destroyed in the 16thcentury. Houses occupy the area now. It’s amazing that such an ancient structure survived to modern times. Note that there are no signs indicating where the door is. Better for you. You will find it and avoid the masses!
From the door, walk to the Chiessetta del Angelo, a 1655 building that homes a museum and exhibitions. One of our favorite parks in the city is nearby. The Parolini Gardens is a great place to rest and get some shade in summer. Come spring, the garden blooms with beautiful flowers.
Explore Bassano’s Squares
The city’s two main squares are the Piazza Libertà and the Piazza Garibaldi. Some of Bassano’s most important landmarks are here. The Piazza Libertà hosts the San Giovanni Church and the City Hall with a large clock. On the square’s southwestern corner, we find the small statue of the Lion of Saint Mark, another symbol of Venetian domination.
Historically, the Piazza Garibaldi was known as the Piazza delle Erbe because of the vegetable market that took place here for centuries. It hosts the San Francesco Church and the Civic Tower. Climb to the top of the tower and you’ll be stunned by the views.
The Bassano Civic Museum is on Garibaldi square. The building used to be a convent. Now, it holds an impressive collection of local art. From there, walk half a block to the Agostinelli Palace. They host exhibitions throughout the year. We saw one on Italian industrialist Olivetti there and learned a lot.
Enjoy the Best Views
Bassano del Grappa is one of the most picturesque cities in Italy. For the coolest views of the old bridge go to the modern bridge on Viale Armando Diaz. You’ll be able to see the city’s beautiful skyline with the Palladio’s bridge and the Italian Alps in the back.
To enjoy the best views of the mountains, go to Viale dei Martiri. This tree-lined promenade has a terrible history. In 1944, German Nazis and Italian Fascists hanged 31 young partisans. The views from the promenade show us how beautiful earth is, while the trees planted on the Valley of the Martyrs remind us how evil Europeans can be.
If like us, you like parks, continue your walk to Catarina Lawns and Park Ragazzi 99. You can see the mountains from these lovely green areas. Loop around and walk along Catarina Street to the riverfront. Find your favorite spot and enjoy the views over the river and mountains.
Buy a Book at the Libreria Palazzo Roberti
If you love books, you’ll love Bassano’s most famous bookstore, Libreria Palazzo Roberti. Architecture lovers will fall in love too. The bookstore is inside an 18th century palace owned by the Manfrotto Family, the same one that manages the shop.
The palace is full of stories. Apparently, Napoleon stayed here for 6 months. The bookstore spreads over three floors. The first two display books, while the third one, Noble Floor, is used for special occasions. Wonderfully restored frescoes cover some of the walls. Don’t forget to check out the lovely garden.
If you like music, head to Pick Up Records, next to the bookstore. We could have spent an entire day going through old vinyl records. They have two floors of music! Our favorite sandwich shop in the city is in front. Piadineria Al Vicola has a wide selection of mouth-watering sandwiches.
Visit the Grappa Museum
You cannot leave Bassano del Grappa without visiting a museum dedicated to its world-famous pomace brandy. Besides, the Poli Museo della Grappa is probably the best museum in Bassano della Grappa. The museum is inside the old Palazzo dell Teste, right in front of the Old Bridge.
It has five different rooms with texts in both English and Italian and video projections in five different languages. You’ll be able to learn how Grappa is produced traditionally and taste five different spirits. Walking about Bassano afterward will be a totally different experience!
As mentioned above, the oldest grappa bar in the city is next to Ponte Vecchio, one block from the Museum. If beer is your thing, go to Birreria da Ponte. They offer all types of beers and delicious food to nibble on. To eat simple yet delicious food with views over the river, head to Ostaria Ca Brando, meters from the bridge.
Go on a Day Trip
If you have more than 1 day in Bassano del Grappa, you have enough time to explore the surrounding area. This is Italy, so prepare to be dazzled! You will find Castelfranco Veneto to the south. This medieval town inside a massive square fortification seems taken out of a movie!
On the other hand, if you want to spend time in the mountains go to Asolo, another medieval town. Take your time to inhale the fresh air, admire the views, and walk about the numerous villas and lush gardens. If you are short of time, go to Palladio’s Villa Angarano, 2 km from Bassano. In 1996 UNESCO included it in the World Heritage Site ‘City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto’.
The Sentiero Naturalistico is a lovely path next to the river that begins next to the Villa. Walk towards the New Bridge. The views from there are memorable. The best trail for walking is along the Brenta Path, on the eastern bank of the river, next to Ponte Vecchio. You can walk for an hour under the shade to Campese.
Stay in a Historical Hotel
As you can see, Bassano del Grappa offers plenty of things to do. Since most of its sights are around the old town, you should base yourself there. Better still: stay in a historic building. Though Bassano del Grappa has several historical hotels, these are usually fully booked. So remember to book a bit in advance.
The best hotel in Bassano del Grappa is Le 33. The beautiful building overlooks the river! It’s next to Porcinai Gardens, half a block from Ponte Vecchio. Everything is classy and authentic here, including the high ceilings and wooden floors. The hotel has a cute little garden and patio. Book a room with a balcony to further your experience.
Then we moved to Ca’ Garibaldi Rooms and loved it! It’s a traditional Italian building in an unbeatable location, Garibaldi Square. However, it’s very quiet. The staff is great and very helpful. We loved having our complimentary breakfast overlooking the square. They have secure parking nearby. It’s the best place to stay in Bassano del Grappa.
Have a Drink in a Palace
Bassano del Grappa has tones of restaurants and bars. Pick the one that ticks your fancy and then go out for a drink. As you know, Italians have mastered the art of mixing drinks and preparing cocktails. Bassano has the perfect place to enjoy your perfect Italian cocktail.
The Palazzo delle Misture is a delicately decorated bar inside a 14th century building. Its huge glass, tones of bottles, colored lamps, and leather armchairs are beautiful. Open the menu and prepare to be dazzled. The amount of cocktails and other mixed drinks is impressive. No matter what you like, you will find it or even better: go with their suggestions. We trust you will behave even if you are drunk!
The city’s best wine bar is Corte Sconta, a block from the palace. Locals love it! They serve delicious antipasti and tapas and fantastic wine. The music is pretty cool too. Though not in a palace, Oficina is next to the palace and is a local’s favorite. The best winery is Le Vie Angarano, just 40 minutes’ walking from the city. They offer tours and a wide selection of wines.
How to Get to Bassano del Grappa
Trains connect Bassano del Grappa with the rest of Italy. Though Bassano is in Vicenza province, there are no direct trains from the city of Vicenza. Instead, you have to change in Castelfranco Veneto. Direct trains from Venice to Bassano del Grappa depart every half an hour, and the journey takes a little over an hour.
If you are coming from Milan, you can change trains in Vicenza and then in Castelfranco Veneto. Another option is to go from Milan all the way to Venice and take the direct train to Bassano. There are several daily direct trains from Padua. Take note that Bassano del Grappa’s train station is only 100 meters east of the old town.
The best way of moving around Bassano del Grappa is walking. Though the city is packed with wonders, it is not that big. Besides, if you get tired, sit in a coffee house or bar and enjoy. Biking is another great option, especially along the river and on the outskirts of the city.