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!
Things to Do in Bassano del Grappa
- 1 Things to Do in Bassano del Grappa
- 2 How to Get to 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 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.
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 14th century lower castle destroyed in the 16th century. Houses occupy the area now.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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’.
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. Our favorite hotel is Terraglio Rooms. This exclusive boutique hotel set in a neoclassical villa has just three rooms. The views from its terrace are unforgettable. Another great place to stay in is Le 33. Housed in a renaissance palace, it has direct views of the old bridge. Another beauty is the Hotel Al Castello, part of the medieval fortification.
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!
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.
Bassano del Grappa Map