“And remember, I will be there. I’ll be there, in the air. Then, from time to time, if you feel like talking to me, put yourself aside, close your eyes and look for me. We’ll talk to each other. But not with the language of words. In the silence. “
And what if they will tell me no? Well, I’ll try anyway. It’s Sunday afternoon. I leave my in-laws’ house by bicycle. Lunch 100% made in the Italian mother style, still stuck between the esophagus and the stomach. My camera in the basket. I ride like a modern Girardengo, but gasping like a cocker. The appointment is at 15.00 at the Caffè Italia, near Viale delle Fosse. I received all the info from Anna, the promoter of the day, via email as my confirmation arrived too late.
The program is a visit to the city of Bassano del Grappa, my city. The “Teamleaders” are Anna Manfredi, organizer of the day and promoter of events for deaf people and not, Silvia Bresolin, tourist guide, and Linda Cecchin, LIS translator (Italian Signs Language).
In for a penny, in for a pound!
When I arrive Linda translates for me and explains to Anna that I wrote her, but my confirmation arrived too late. For the universal philosophy “in for a penny, in for a pound” Anna nods and smiles at me. I’m in the group: let’s go!
I take the camera out of the case. Not only I brought the old model instead of the digital one, but there isn’t even the shadow of an ancient film inside … Everything in my style, as usual…
Silvia begins to explain with enthusiasm the story of Bassano and Linda starts what is in all way a dance. I am enchanted. In love with languages and raised by “bread and communication”, a new world opens up in front of me. The whole group is focused on Linda, on her hands and the expressions of her face. Outside noises are far away and unrelated to all this magic. For the rest of the afternoon the communication in the group will be made of smiles, thumbs up and words written on the notebook I use to take notes.
Monte Grappa, Prato Santa Caterina (“Parco dei Ragazzi del ’99”) and Viale dei Martiri
In front of us the Monte Grappa (its peak is a sacred place), which does not take its name from the homonymous and widespread alcoholic beverage, but from the term to cling (the name means top, peak) and which was the protagonist of both world wars. After the defeat of Caporetto the mountain became an outpost of the Italian defense while during the II world war it was a refuge for the partisan groups. To remind us the huge human sacrifice of the wars the Parco Ragazzi del ’99 at our feet, in memory of the very young guys (often not even of age) sent to the front in the last desperate phases of World War I, and Viale dei Martiri next to us.
Viale dei Martiri, with its oak trees and the helmet-shaped crowns of the soldiers, with the names of those men, those boys – partisans and non – hanged or shot in September 1944 by the Nazi-Fascists. I grew up with the images of those faded black and white photos in my eyes, bodies left hanging for days as warning to the population and with the stories of my grandmother whose brother’s name is written on one of those trees.
Silvia’s voice continues to explain. Linda’s hands hover in the air. Sadness gives way to brighter images. I discover that the climb that leads from the Parco Ragazzi del ’99 to Viale dei Martiri (if you made it at least once in your life I’m sure it will have left you literally breathless!) is dedicated to Gerhard Ott. He was a German, a lover of Europe and of contacts between peoples (also thanks to him the city of Bassano is twinned with the city of Mühlacher) whose ashes are, by his will, in the cemetery of Santa Croce in Bassano. The idea of dedicating him a place that overlooks Monte Grappa and leads to Viale dei Martiri was a choice of high symbolic value that reminds us the desire to overcome the past and the importance of peace.
Bassano del Grappa: an history of solidarity
Solidarity in the city of Bassano has deep roots and showed back in the 1200s when the first Ca ‘di Dio were established. Bassano is placed in a favorable position, between the Valle del Brenta, the Valsugana and the Massiccio del Grappa. It is at this crossroads that foreigners and mountaineers could find shelter and hospitality in these private houses.
The image of Saint Christopher, protector of travelers, appears on the facade of the town hall (near the clock of 1700 which marks the twenty-four hours, built by Bartolomeo Ferraccina) and welcomed the pilgrims who went from Rome to Germany and here could find a shelter in Bassano.
I am moved while hearing the story of the barber Jacopo Cima (known as “Feltrin”), who spent Sundays cutting beard and hair for free to the poors of the city and who transformed his home (now Via Torino) in a winter’s shelter for homeless. When his project became bigger, he will be helped by Don Luigi Colbacchini: they will build a home for the elderly, headed by who will be known one day as Blessed Gaetana Sterni.
We have to mention Don Giorgio Pirani, who in November 1750 open the first shelter for single women or Dr. Pietro Agostinelli, chief of the hospital, who moved the hospital – in a single night of 1831 – from the current Bassano Civic Museum in the most spacious Convento di San Bonaventura (in Viale delle Fosse).
In what is now Piazzetta Guadagnin (Palazzo Prestorio’s yard), thanks to the offers collected by grace received, the citizens build the Church of the Madonna del Patrocinio.
The Churchs in City Centre
Chiesa di San Francesco – on the south side of Piazza Garibaldi. Legend tells that the church was built around 1150 by Ezzelino il Balbo for a vow to Virgin Mary for having survived during a storm at sea returning from the Holy Land. It is the church of the Bassano’s people, where today religious services are celebrated.
Then there is the Chiesa di San Giovanni, whose first original construction dates back to 1308. Its majestic façade almost completely closes the south side of Piazza Libertà but looking at it from the side, it is actually not deep. The facade and the church structure underwent important renovations works around the end of the 18th century.
The arcades in front of Piazza Libertà (formerly Piazza dei Signori) used to be the place of the coffee in the past. The small portion of the square just under the loggia, was called piazza dei “Siori”: it was where speeches and public speeches were held and it was slightly elevated, just to symbolically avoid mixing the lords with the common people.
La Chiesa di Santa Maria in Colle (whose first historical attestations date back to around the year 1000) is what is known as the Duomo: it has a single nave and no façade, which was leaning against the walls. The corpses were buried in the churchyard until the end of 1800 when, for logistical and hygienic reasons, the cemetery was moved to the Santa Croce district.
Towards the end of the 1900s, because of the will to provide Bassano a new cathedral, larger and more suitable for the religious needs of a growing population, begins the tormented story of what would later become the Tempio Ossario. The idea of building a new cathedral outside the city walls did not like to Bassano people (the Virgin was dispossessed of her Cathedral!). Even before laying the first stone they baptized it “Santa Maria in Busa” (in the ditch) as opposite to their beloved “Santa Maria in Colle”. The Temple was inaugurated in 1934 and, during the bombings of 1945, the facade was heavy damaged. Today 5,405 fallen soldiers of World War I, some civilians who died in the aerial bombardment of February 1945, several wounded soldiers on the Albanian front and died in homeland, and of some partisans shot by the Nazi-fascists in 1945 are buried here.
The mind must be open and free…
We say us goodbye in Palazzo Sturm (which, until February 2020, will host a wonderful exhibition on the graphic treasure of Albrecht Dürer collected by Remondini!) under the shadow of King Kong Rhino and smiling at the Ponte Vecchio: the promise is to meet us once again once the restoration work will be completed.
I’m going to get my bike. I pedal back home and I am overwhelmed by a thousand sensations: by my city, by the group with which I spent the afternoon and by the magic behind communication in all its forms. But it is Anna, the organizer of this day, who will be able to translate all these emotions into words. She will send me a few days after that afternoon an email as answer to my request to tell me something about her:
“This is important to me, my goal: the mind must be open and free, like an open suitcase that can be filled with this knowledge that we collect in each visit. Also for the deaf community and deaf culture it is very important because we want to do these activities for the pleasure of discovering, of knowing! Furthermore, they are good opportunities to show that we are here too, that an exchange between hearing and deaf people is possible. It is an opportunity for socialization and integration and also a special occasion to communicate in LIS!“
- Here you can find the email address to contact the three women who made this day possible:
– Anna Manfredi (firstname.lastname@example.org), promoter of events for deaf and non-deaf people;
– Silvia Bresolin (email@example.com), registered on the list of Vicenza tourist guides (Languages: Italian / English / Spanish);
– Linda Cecchin (firstname.lastname@example.org), LIS translator (Italian Language Signs)
- If you are in Bassano you cannot miss a visit to the splendid Civic Museum (one of the oldest in Venetian region): the access is through the Cloister near the Church of San Francesco.
- Did you know that even the Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway loved Bassano and that he took inspiration from the city for some of his novels? Spend some time at the museum dedicated to him and the world war I in the splendid setting of Ca ‘Erizzo Luca, where he stayed as a driver of the American Red Cross.