If you visit Bassano, you cannot miss visiting Ponte Vecchio and stop for a Mezzo e Mezzo (half and a half), a typical aperitif of the city, at the historic Grapperia Nardini, whose ancient premises have hosted taverns and inns since 1200.
Few people know that the Nardini family was originally from the Val di Cembra in Trentino and that, in the second half of the 18th century, during a commercial trip along the Brenta river, they were forced to stop in Bassano. During his “forced” stay, Bortolo Nardini fell in love with the place and, in 1779, he decided to buy the Osteria del Ponte to install his stills suitable for the distillation of grappa, constituting what is today the oldest distillery still operating in Italy.
The Grapperia, which is already worth a visit in itself for the charm that emanates from every still and from the bullet holes on the walls of the many battles it witnessed, hides a secret. The rooms of the ancient inn with adjoining cellar, in fact, today.
They have received visits from Queen Elizabeth, Ernest Hemingway (where he discovered grappa, citing it later in A Farewell to Arms), and Gabriele D’Annunzio, all great enthusiasts of this drink. On the lower floor, you can still admire, in addition to an unprecedented perspective of the Bassano Bridge from its foundations, the tunnel used by the raftsmen arriving here from the Brenta river to drink a grappa as well as the ancient cellar where very old bottles of grappa and spirits are still kept.
Among the many Nardini products that you can taste here, more than 22, a must is Aquavite di Vinaccia Riserva Grappa Invecchiata 60° Nardini to be tasted with the Antico Nostrano del Brenta 1763 cigar, another gem of the local craftsmanship tradition worth being “rediscovered”.
The label of Grappa Nardini was created in 1779 by the Remondini printing house and has remained practically unchanged until today. The graphics hide a subliminal message: the space between the letters BAS and SANO at the bottom has, in fact, been designed to induce the eye to understand the word “SANO”, highlighted by a small “x” frieze above the writing. A clear marketing message, as Grappa was born as a medicine, combined with medicinal herbs, for various kinds of ailments.