The coolest day-trip to Mount Grappa
As summer temperatures continue to rise, with the mercury exceeding the 30°C and with a humidity level around 70-80% all over the Veneto plain, it couldn’t help but escape to the coolest spots: the Veneto Mountains. But, if you find yourself in the heart of Veneto, there’s no need to get stuck in the traffic jams on the roads leading to the Dolomites mobbed by weekenders, the Mount Grappa will do!
A short drive – 35-45mins – from picturesque Bassano del Grappa (also a good excuse to stop in this town for a sip of the typical grappa), in Monte Grappa, not only you will beat the heat beckoned by a sunny but pleasantly chilly weather, but summer brings to the visitors also a new seasonal, spectacular scenery: the snow-capped peak is now carpeted with grassy meadows and wildflowers which made it the perfect setting for a relaxing day trip or to get active. In fact Mount Grappa has the perfect conditions even for the most adrenaline junkies with activities ranging from gentle walks, cycling, trekking, hiking or even the latest mountain quad excursions to bungee jumping, para gliding and hang gliding.
Driving up the Grappa massif through its main winding, sometimes even narrow, road could be a bit of a challenge but once you reach the top of Cima Grappa you will be rewarded with an inspirational vistas stretching out for miles and miles at 360 degree. You could enjoy spectacular views to the highest Dolomites, the river Brenta, the Asiago Plateau and the Valsugana Valley to the west to the river Piave and the Montello Hills to the east and, on a clear day, you could even gaze at Venice and distinguish St Mark’s tower in the distance.
But Mount Grappa is not only a refreshing escape into the “wild”, it’s as well an historical, sacred battleground theatre of the bloody battle of the Italian against the Austro-Hungarian troops fought in the winter 1917 during the First World War. There were great losses on both sides of the lines and the massive, circular mausoleum standing at the summit hosts the remains of 12,615 fallen Italian soldiers (of which 10,332 are unknown) and 10.295 Austrian soldiers than never came back to their country.
Connecting the mausoleum with Portale Roma and the Observatory is Via Eroica delimited by a row of stone blocks on each side of the path carved with the locations where the battle took place.
But the most interesting thing I found about the Mount Grappa is that you could step back into history following the footsteps of those soldiers along trenches, paths all around the mountain and enter the 5km-long, network of tunnels “galleria Vittorio Emanuela III” carved under the mountain summit and built to host 15.000 soldiers, 72 field guns and 70 machine-guns for the counter-attack. The nearby Museum Storico (free), housed in the military station “Milano”, hosts also a limited but fascinating collection of military equipment, maps, documents and photos of the soldiers and the battle of Mount Grappa.
At the end of the day, whatever you have been working it out or just lazed the day away, you may want to try some local delights. Have you wonder what that “Malga” street-signs along the way was all about? A malga is a very typical, old-fashion dairy producing, during the summer months, local cheeses such as the Morlacco, Ricotta or Bastardo. Usually you could just stop by and buy these products, often even savour a hearty local meal such as polenta and “sopressa” (salami), selection of cooked cheeses and game dishes. Some, even offer visitors a rustic accommodation for the night.
Curiosities and tips:
- Monte Grappa stands at an altitude of 1776 mt/5826 ft, is the highest mountain in the Veneto Prealpi;
- there are 4 access roads to Mount Grappa: SP 141, the easiest and most popular, the Strada Generale Giardino, shorter but narrower and steeper accessible at Semonzo, if you are coming from Feltre through the SS47 Valsugana then follow SS148 from Seren del Grappa or for the adventurer one there are less know and tricky roads snaking around the mountain along the “malghe”;
- while on the road watch out for those bikers and big 4×4 standing in the middle of the road!
- If the case you are travelling with a dog, unfortunately your four-legged friend is not welcome up to the summit mausoleum, all sacred area and in the museum;
- on the observatory’s terrace there is a carved bronze map where you could test your sense of direction on the surrounding area;
- if you get on a trek you might get lucky to observe some chamois.