Thursday, September 30, 2021

Marostica and Bassano del Grappa

 September 9, 2019

While visiting friends in Cadoneghe, near Padova, I had the chance to visit several unique and interesting villages, thanks to their willingness to provide transport and share their knowledge of the area. Gianluigi and Ilde were welcoming, generous and amiable hosts during my short stay in their home.

The medieval wall surrounding the city of Marostica.
Our first stop was Marostica, the City of Chess, where we spent the morning climbing up to the medieval wall that encircles the hill town like a serpent. The main event in Marostica is a biennial human chess game (known as La Partita a Scacchi), played on a painted chess board that takes up most of the town’s main piazza. According to legend, the original match took place on September 12, 1454, and the tradition usually continues to this day during the second weekend in September.

The main square of Marostica

A view of the main square from above.

Next we drove east to Bassano del Grappa. Some might think (as did I) that the town is named for its production of the strong alcoholic beverage, grappa.  Grappa is produced in Bassano, as in many other towns in Northern Italy, and Bassano sports a small museum touting its history and production.

Bassano's main square

However, the name actually refers to Bassano of Mount Grappa, a memorial to the thousands of soldiers killed in WWI on Mount Grappa. Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver during the war and spent many days in Bassano, as did Scott Fitzgerald, and Hemingway drew from his experiences there when writing his book, “A Farewell to Arms.”

The view from Ponte degli Alpini

The main attraction in Bassano is its famous wooden bridge, Ponte degli Alpini (Alpine Soldiers’ Bridge), which has existed in various forms from 1209, though it has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. Palladio designed the current version of the structure, built in 1569. During our visit, however, it was being restored yet another time and was covered with scaffolding, so was not a pretty sight. Still, the views of the mountains to the north of Bassano were spectacular, and we spent a leisurely time sitting and enjoying the view.

Looking north from Bassano

My wonderful friends, Gianluigi and Ilde

Back in Cadoneghe that evening, Gianluigi and Ilde made a splendid meal of polenta and finferli (chaparelle) mushrooms, accompanied by grilled sausage from Gianluigi’s hometown in the mountains. I feel so fortunate to have friends like these, who make my travels so much richer and enjoyable.

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