Thoughts on Bassano del Grappa

Very misty in the morning. BA flight from Gatwick to Venice Marco Polo delayed by one hour due to mist, then further delay due to change of take off direction. But why only my flight delayed?

BA flight far better than Thomson Airways, but not in the same league as Turkish Airlines.

Stunning view of Alps, and of Venice as plane came into land.

No 15 Bus to train station, not the airport bus (No 5) which takes to Venice.

Need to buy ticket from a machine before boarding bus.

Not obvious when arrived at station, had it not been for a woman on bus telling me, I would not have got off.

Train to Bassano del Grappa, hot, overcrowded and standing room only. About an hour and 20 minute journey through not very exciting countryside, singularly unattractive countryside.

Venice to Bassano del Grappa by train

Taxi to Hotel Alla Corte. I was shattered!

I ate at Ristorante Alla Corte. Excellent. Many claim to be gourmet, few are.

I saw on arrival (it was dark) what I thought was old buildings of Bassano del Grappa across the river. Turned out to be a nearby church.

Morning to my surpise I look out and see mountains. I am in the countryside outside Bassano del Grappa.

From my bathroom window view of a 16th Cent villa, from my balcony ploughed fields and a hillside.

I take what I thought would be a short walk to establish my surroundings. Turns into a three hour walk along the river. But not in the direction of Bassano del Grappa.

A walk along the River Brenta

In the afternoon I walked into Bassano del Grappa, part way along the main road, then dropped down to the river and walked along the river. I got as far as crossing the covered bridge across the river, but no further.

I was very surprised to find the bridge was cobbled and paved.

I got no further than the other side, then walked back.

I somehow got lost walking back. I missed picking up the main road, but once I realised I was lost, I could see where I was.

Saturday I walked into Bassano del Grappa and spent the day wandering around the town.

A pleasant morning down by the river. Walking into Bassano del Grappa, I relaised how I went wrong the day before.

I found two lovely bookshops.

I got thrown out of the museum for not having a ticket.

Not as sunny or warm as the day before. Afternoon cloudy.

Down by the river very warm and sunny. I walk to the water’s edge and sit on a large rock. Very pleasant.

Paulo Coelho was due to dine where I was eating, but flight delayed.

Sunday. Cloudy, rain forecast for the afternoon. I am so soo tired.

I walk into Bassano del Grappa, along main road, then cut down to the river.

As I am crossing the river a voice shouts out. It is my friend Jane. A couple of other people say hello who seem to know me, but I cannot recall who.

Bassano del Grappa very busy.

Saturday I found a lovely bookshop, a former palace where Napoleon once spent the night. I look in again. The lady shows me a newspaper article about her bookshop. Bookshop is very very busy.

It is good that a large and three other small bookshops can all survive and do well in Bassano del Grappa. But then they do not have as in the UK a publishing industry hell bent on destroying independent bookshops.

Bookshops in Bassano del Grappa

Sunday night my friends from Japan arrive. They introduce me to their lovely friend Mio.

Monday, I take my Japanese friends into Bassano del Grappa.

Monday, it seems everything is closed. We try to find a couple of places I saw the previous day to eat, but I cannot find.

Why is there nowhere decent to eat in Bassano del Grappa? What we find is overpriced and not good. On Sunday I ate in a place just past the bookshop in a palace. I had pasta and it was disgusting.

The day started off very cold. We set off late as it was raining. As we are having lunch, it goes dark, it rains, it pours, thunder.

We now have to walk to Montegrappa. We are due at a press conference for the launch of The Alchemist pen by Monetegrappa. One of the reasons we are in Bassano del Grappa.

It is about a 20 minute walk. We get soaked.

We arrive at the press conference at 3pm just as it starts. It is packed. We somehow squeeze in at the back. We cannot see much, too far back to take photos. I had intended to arrive at around 2-30pm, but I notice had we arrived early, all the seats are taken. I do though notice my friend Elaine has somehow managed to grab a front row seat.

Montegrappa launch The Alchemist pen

Paulo Coelho, who had invited us to the launch, talks about his life, The Alchemist, and says it is the first time he has seen the pen. It has a lot of symbolism.

A man talks about alchemy, goes on and on and on, does not seem to know what he is talking about and in the end is cut off by Montegrappa. All very odd, as the expert on alchemy and best qualified to talk on the subject is Paulo Coelho.

Then a tour of the Montegrappa factory. As Paulo Coelho comes out he greets my Japanese friends and I. We introduce Mio. Had she died on the spot she would have gone to heaven happy!

A Japanese girl’s dream come true

A quick tour of what I learn later is the final assembly of The Alchemist and other limited edition pens, then up to the showroom, where many pens are on display, plus watches. Drinks and eats, then a detailed tour of the factory in small groups, and many thanks to our guide who patiently answered all my technical questions.

Montegrappa factory tour

I notice many of the workers have Paulo Coelho books at their sides. Is this to impress their VIP visitor? I ask. They are all keen Paulo Coelho fans and he kindly signed all their books.

More food and drink laid on, but sadly we have to go. We give our apologies. Too our surprise, Montegrappa lays on a driver to take us back to our hotel.

I notice a few press packs left. I ask if I could please have one. Are you a journalist? No I answer, but widely read. I get handed a press pack.

Back to our hotel, quick change, then back into Bassano del Grappa, to be picked up for a party. The second reason we are in Bassano del Grappa.

Paulo Coelho’s St Joseph’s Day Party at Castello Superiore di Marostica

About half an hour later we arrive at a Venetian Castle. Steep climb up to the castle. A police road block at the top to check we are bonafide guests, then at the top we are greeted by Venetian soldiers holding flaming torches.

We are probably the last guests to arrive. Some sort of pageant is taking place. Stunning views of surrounding countryside. Castle walls lit up.

We are guests of Paulo Coelho at his St Joseph’s Day party in a medieval Venetian Castle!

And what a party it is! Food, dancing, drinking.

Once we are settled at our tables, prayers in many languages. Very moving payer by Yumi on anniversary of Tsunami. One year, one week, one day. Yumi was in tears. Mio and and I held hand. Mio was in tears. I was in tears.

The Narrow Road to the Disaster Zone

Many many courses. Not sure what most of them were. There was also food and drink outside. I was told it was good. I did not have any.

Paulo Coelho explained why St Joseph’s Day Party. This year was special year. Silver Anniversary, ie 25 years, of party, also of the publication of The Pilgrimage.

Just before midnight, Paulo told us to go downstairs for dancing.

Incredible performance by Rudolf Schenker (founder and lead guitarist of German rock group The Scorpions) on guitar (which had been painted earlier by Christina) and Paulo Coelho on guitar and vocals, then joined by Rudolf’s girlfriend on vocals!

All great parties have to end sometime. We arrived back at our hotel 3-30am in the early hours of the morning.

I only had a few hours sleep. I awoke not long gone 6am.

Somehow I staggered down to breakfast Tuesday morning feeling bloody awful. My Japanese friends some time later.

Mio and I went for a walk to a church, then decided to climb to the top of the mountain. It was a lovely walk, very peaceful and quiet. We found spring flowers in the woods, and at least four or five species of butterfly.

In the afternoon we all walked into Bassano del Grappa, our last visit, but too tired.

It was a lovely day, warm and sunny. A pleasant contrast to the previous cold wet day.

And could we find a pizza place to eat? No we could not. Italy and we cannot find Pizza!

Eventually we did, but it was now early evening, we were passed hungry, cold and very very tired.

Why, why, why no decent places to eat, over charging and rip off the tourist.

The pizza was good, but over one third of the bill added as cover charge!

Earlier we had excellent fresh crushed orange juice in a lovely bookshop cum tea shop, but this was three euros for a small glass only two-thirds full.

We look in the large bookshop in a palace. They have a wonderful window display of Paulo Coelho books.

This morning (Wednesday) we caught a train to Venice. For me a half hour visit to Venice, then very sad farewells.

On the train Mio made me lovely origami figures to remember her by. On the flight from Venice I was very uset to find I had crushed them and all I had was a couple of pieces of crumpled up paper.

Synchronicity: We learn to read the signs. On waiting for a shuttle between terminal buildings I noticed the man in front of me had a bag with a Paulo Coelho book. I asked him what it was. It was The Alchemist with a new cover which I had not seen before. The man said he had picked it up on trip to Geneva. Paulo Coelho lives in Geneva! He had never heard of Paulo Coelho before. He asked his colleagues. They had not either. He was enjoying it and was saving the last part for the final leg of his trip to the Isle of Man. He said in the morning he would be going to a bookshop to buy more. I told him of The Alchemist pen. I looked in an airport bookshop. I saw Aleph was now in paperback. It and The Alchemist was joint No 7 (in the non-fiction section!). I bought both as special present for Mio (Aleph has not been published in Japan). It is going to cost me a fortune in postage!

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on Bassano del Grappa”

  1. ileanardz Says:

    Thanks for share Keith, I enjoyed imagining the landscapes and situations.

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