The history of coffee in the US military is long-standing. Throughout the years American soldiers have made a hot cup of coffee a daily ritual on and off the battlefield. During WWII, a strong demand for coffee by U.S. troops lead to such a shortage that Americans at home were subject to coffee rationing. Although American soldiers stationed in Italy during the Second World War were issued instant coffee from Maxwell House in their ration kits, they much preferred a Cafe Americano, the Italian version of their cup of Joe. Italian baristas found that adding hot water to espresso came close to the taste of drip coffee that the American GI’s were used to.
The Italian soldiers as always and forever still relied on their espresso as evidenced by this Vintage Italian Air Force coffee cup intended for use in the Officer’s dining halls of the Italian Air Force circa 1960.
Each piece bears the logo of the Aeronautica Militare – the Air Force of the Italian Republic.
What town in Italy is known for a bridge, a spring time vegetable and fragrant liquor that is part of its name but is not the reason for it? The answer – Bassano del Grappa, an hour’s drive southeast of Venice. Let me explain.
First the vegetable.
In April and May visitors from across Italy come to the Northern Italian river town of Bassano del Grappa to sample the delicate white asparagus. Grown entirely underground, it has been described by Lidia Bastianich as the “epitome of seasonal food”. Delicate and unique, sweet and slightly bitter, it has a cult following that draws food enthusiasts to feste and weekend festivals throughout the season.
Next the bridge.
The historical center of Bassano del Grappa is split in half by the Brenta River. A covered wooden bridge, designed in 1569 by the famous Italian architect Andrea Palladio was rebuilt at the end of WWII by Italy’s special mountain soldiers (degli Alpini) and renamed Ponte degli Alpini, the Bridge of the Alpini, in honor of their fallen comrades. The piviotal role of the bridge in the military history of the region is long standing. Our grandfather crossed this bridge, during WWI as a young interpreter with the Italian Army.
And finally the fragrant liquor.
Although many people think that Bassano del Grappa is named after what is considered to be Italy’s strongest spirit, the town gets its name from nearby Monte Grappa (grappa means crag in ancient pre-Latin). There is a world-famous grapperia in Bassano, Grapperia Nardini. Founded in 1779, it is considered to produce one of the most exquisite grappas in Italy.