Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini

July 3, 2015 / Places
Bassano del Grappa, Veneto
Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.comNormally, my satnav directs me to the front gate of a UNESCO World Heritage villa that bears the imprint of High Renaissance master builder Andrea Palladio, the architect of Palladianism.

However, this time around, I have to walk a fair amount of cobble in order to frame the only timber bridge designed and realized by the Maestro: the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) of Bassano del Grappa in the province of Vicenza in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy.

Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.com

Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.comBassano, the Town of Fine Arts and home to world-famous ceramics, prized white asparagus and strong, aromatic grappas — the grape pulp-based brandy that is the preferred beverage of the bassanesi — is best known for the iconic bridge that Palladio built across the Brenta in full view of Monte Grappa.

Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.comStraddling both sides of the river, the expanse stands above the flow as it passes through the Valbrenta on its way to the Adriatic Sea just south of the Venetian lagoon.

The original wooden bridge, built in 1209, was swept away by raging flood waters in the fall of 1567.

Following that disaster, Palladio was commissioned by the City of Bassano to rebuild on the exact same spot, and in the summer of 1569 he presented his design for a timber-truss bridge that somewhat resembled the original, but was radically different with its technical and structural innovations — four trapezoidal piers and a deck covered with a continuous roof supported by Tuscan order columns — and its elegant looks.

Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.comPalladio’s construction stood for nearly 200 years until the Ponte Vecchio was destroyed in 1748 by yet another violent flood. It was rebuilt exactly as Palladio designed it and stood again until it fell victim to a fire in 1813.

Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.comRebuilt once more to Palladio’s specifications, it was sabotaged and collapsed during the end of World War II.

Resurrected one final time, in 1948, by engineers of the Associazione Nazionale Alpini (National Association of Alpini) — Italy’s elite mountain troops with the signature black feature in their caps — it was rechristened Ponte degli Alpini (Bridge of the Alpini).

Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini | ©thepalladiantraveler.com

by Tom Weber

Tom is a veteran print-broadcast journalist who resides in the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the province of Padova in the Veneto region of northestern Italy. He hosts the eclectic travel/foodie/photography blog The Palladian Traveler.com, is a regular contributor to Los Angeles-based TravelingBoy.com, and is a member of the International Travel Writers Alliance. Feel free to follow Tom as he “meanders along the cobblestone to somewhere.”

16 Responses to “Framing Palladio: Ponte degli Alpini”

  1. Marcia Bailey

    Although I have been to Bassano I did not know the origin of the bridge. I just knew I loved it and the lovely town and the great grappa. Thank you Tom for enlightening me.

    Reply
  2. Antoinette Shapiama

    Great memories of walking across that bridge and stopping for a “tagliatella”! Didn’t Napoleon figure into the history of Bassano as well?

    Reply
  3. Arlene Lopas

    Thank you for sharing the fascinating history of this bridge.

    Reply
  4. Chuck Rita

    I have an interest in architecture and have enjoyed your articles about Palladio’s structures. I hope to soon visit the many wonderful sites of the Veneto and do a mini-Palladio tour as part of that trip. Please write more about Palladio and the Veneto.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the feedback, Chuck. Don’t worry, I’ll be posting more articles on Palladio’s works along with the many historic villas that dot the landscape around the Veneto.

      Reply
  5. Intriguing bronze statue in one of the photos. It appears to show two men– one a member of the Alpini– kissing. Is that what it actually portrays?

    Reply
    • Judith — The sculpture is an alpino and his girlfriend kisses before he crosses the ponte and heads off to war.

      Reply
  6. marianna raccuglia

    Very interesting article. This bridge has had many lives! Thank you

    Reply
  7. Maria Ingham

    Very interesting story. The bridge and the area played a great role in WWI. My grandfather fought for Italy in the Grappa Mountains and lost his life due to injuries incurred in those mountains. Yes, he was one of the many ‘soldatini dell’Armata del Grappa’ and a decorated hero.
    Grandpa was engaged to my grandma at the time and I suppose he sang his love songs while traversing il Ponte Degli Alpini. “Monte Grappa tu sei la mia Patria”.
    Thank you for this post, it brought back the history that I learned while researching my grandfather’s service in WWI

    Reply
  8. Victoria De Maio

    Ciao, Tom…I visited Bassano a few years ago and wrote about this very bridge, too. Loved Bassano for it’s picturesque setting and for the touching history. Lovely to revisit with you!
    V.

    Reply

Leave a Reply