Bassano del Grappa: white asparagus territory
Grappa: “a mountain sacred to Italy”
The Grappa massif, panoramically sited between the Brenta and Piave valleys, dominates Bassano with its splendid 1775m of height. During the First World War, together with the surrounding mountains, it was the site of some incredibly bloody battles, and traces of the war fought over the terrain are still visible today, with trenches, parapets, museums and memorial chapels. From Bassano access is along the Cadorna Road, built during the last two years of the First World War to facilitate troop movement under enemy attack.
The peaks of the Grappa massif over 1700m have been declared a national monument and a “mountain sacred to Italy” because of the decisive battles they witnessed. It has become a vast open air museum, and an Italian Military Memorial Chapel with the mortal remains of 12615 fallen soldiers, 10332 of them unknown, was built on the top of the mountain in 1935. Memorial cairns dedicated to the 14 battlefields in the Grappa area line the Via Eroica, which leads to a commemorative portal and the Museum. Close by visitors can see the Victor Emmanuel III fortifications (a huge, imposing work of military civil engineering dug out between 1917-18 just under the crest of the mountain that runs for over 5 km, complete with secondary tunnels and caverns where firearms were placed) and the Austro-Hungarian Cemetery where 10590 soldiers are buried, 10295 of them unknown.
Apart from its historic interest, this area is also famous for its pre-alpine flora which has been attracting Italian and foreign academics for several centuries, and for its lovely landscape with many fascinating walks. There are a number of paths with exceptionally fine views of the Brenta valley, or which lead up to the “malghe”, the herders’ chalets on the alpine pastures where the transhumance herds graze in summer. Notice boards along the paths describe the herders’ lives. Other signposted paths take visitors through the trenches and describe how the soldiers lived and fought.
Grappa is not just about tales of war. Its “malghe” produce the strongly-flavoured Morlacco cheese, made from the milk of Burlina cows, an endangered breed that every effort is being made to save from extinction. Olives are grown at Pove del Grappa, where a small amount of excellent quality olive oil is made.