When the Italian front was broken in WW1 the troops retreated to Monte Grappa and although crushed and exhausted, heroically built a defense barrier that prevented the Austro-Hungarian army from reaching the Venetian plains.
Nowadays the only battles the mountain sees are those against gravity and although it doesn’t have a long history with the Giro d’Italia it has played host to two summit finishes, firstly in 1968 when Emilio Casalini triumphed and more recently in 2010 when Vincenzo Nibali won. Racing aside, the mountain is also famous for the Brevetto del Monte Grappa, a challenge to any rider who can complete all ten ascents in the space of a year.
- From Semonzo -
Of the ten ascents we focus on the climb from Semonzo which although not as popular as the ‘classic’ route up Strada Cadorna from Romano d’Ezzelino packs far more punch. Kicking off with a barrage of hairpins the road ramps up through the forest twisting back and forth so rapidly it almost makes you dizzy.
Set on an 8-9% gradient the first nine kilometres are tough, yet harder slopes lie ahead. Following a brief flat section the gradient then rises above 10% and really bites, but the rewards are worth it as the colossal views out over the plains come into sight. With what looks like the whole of Italy laid out beneath you push on up through the final bends to arrive at the wonderful Rifugio Bassano which is just the perfect place for lunch.
Points of interest
The Nardini Grappa
Bassano del Grappa is home to the Nardini distillery which has produced its famous spirit since Bortolo Nardini purchased an inn at the eastern entrance of the wooden covered Bassano bridge in 1779.
The Rifugio Bassano
The Rifugio Bassano a cima Grappa houses a restaurant that can seat 250 and serves traditional Venetian cuisine with the amazing panoramic view of the Venetian plain and the Dolomites.
The Murer's Memorial
The bronze sculpture by the artist Murer stands as a memorial to the slaughtered anti-fascist partisans who made Monte Grappa their base after the fall of Mussolini in 1943.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III
The Italian army’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III, is an underground fortress with five kilometres of tunnels and machine gun positions and accessable from Via Madonna a Del Covolo.
The Ossuary Memorial
The ossuary in the giant white stone war memorial at the summit contains the bones of 22,910 Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers, of which only 3000 were ever identified.
"The Grappa has absolutely everything, between them its ten climbs offer every challenge imaginable"
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