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Ponte Vecchio of Bassano del Grappa, symbol of resilience

Ponte Vecchio of Bassano del Grappa

“On the bridge of Bassano we will shake hands”(“Sul ponte di Bassano, là ci darem la mano” in italian). This i show a folklore song of the town of Bassano del Grappa starts telling the love of the locals for the Old Bridge (ponte vecchio), symbol of the town and at the same time of resilience and rebirth. Three times destroyed and three times rebuilt, the Old Bridge has been holding on to its architecture for over 500 years, having witnessed wars and peoples passing by.

Entirely covered in wood, with its pillars immersed in the cold waters of the Brenta river: it is the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) of Bassano del Grappa, also known as the Ponte di Bassano (Bassano’s Bridge) or Ponte degli Alpini. Considered to be one of the most typical bridges in Veneto and in Italy, Ponte Vecchio dates to 1567 designed by Andra Palladio, and in 2019 it was declared national monument with the Law n.65 of 5 of July 2019.

It is a bridge made of wood 58 meters long and 11 meters high, the construction of which took about two years, although it had to be rebuilt a few times due to sudden collapses. The Old Bridge is the symbol of the town of Bassano del Grappa, so much so that there is an ancient folk song that is dedicated to it and tells the love and appreciation of the locals for the bridge.

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The ancestor of the Old Bridge 

A communication route that gave the city of Bassano del Grappa a way to be connected with Vicenza exists since the beginning of time. Being able to cross the Brenta river was essential to facilitate commerce and trading with the towns nearby, without having to rely on boats that were affected by weather conditions of the river.

For this reason exactly, already before the building of the Old Bridge that we know today, there a wood structure covered with a roof. However, this structure was often damaged. First, by a flooding, then a fire set by the French troops in 1511, to then collapse in 1567 as a result of a river overflow that crushed the structure entirely. 

The project by Andrea Palladio 

Following the collapse, the architect Andrea Palladip was immedietely involved in the project of the new bridge. First he designed a Roman-style stone river, with three arches and very different from the previous one. However, this proposal did not meet the favour of the locals or the decision-makers who requested that the architect recover the original structure of the bridge. 

About two years later, the architect presented a new project: a wooden bridge that recalled the previous structure but that was very innovative as it relied on more resistant materials. In the Palladio version, the lintel was supported by Tuscan-style columns and the pitched covering had wooden trusses. 

The bridge was composed of five 13 meters long spans and ressted on four intermediate pillars and two lateral trusses. The pillars, unlike the previous structure, featured a hydrodynamic shape that would enable the bridge to stay put and resist the Brenta river’s overflows.  

Sul Ponte di Bassano Andrea Palladio creò la sua la piazza
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The collapse, the rebuilding and the role it played in World War I 

The bridge built by Palladio was preserved for about 200 years, however a collapse due to the overflow of the river in 1748, and was then rebuilt by Bartolomeo Ferracina

The story of the Old Bridge, however, continued to be troubled and in 1813 it was set on fire and destroyed once again, this time by Eugenio of Beauharnais and built again in 1921 by Angelo Casarotti. 

The Old Bridge played a very important role in World War I, as it served as crossing for the Italian troops who had the order to defend the plateau of the Sette Comuni. 

The last rebuilding and the myth of the bridge built by the Alpini 

However, the bridge was torn down for the third time in 1945 because of an explosion at the hands of a group of Partisans. Following the upteenth – and last – destruction, the bridge was built once more and inaugurated in 1948 in the presence of the then Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi

From this event comes to be the myth according to which the bridge was builts by the Alpini. It appears in fact that the workers of the company that renovated the bridge were the sons of Alpini and worked on renovating the bridge while wearing the hat typical of the Alpini uniform.

 Since then, the bridge had to undergo only a few renovation projects, both ordinary and extra ordinary, remaining one of the main symbols of reliance and unity in our country.   

Una domenica a Bassano del Grappa – Posto finestrino
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Cover Image: inItalia

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