The Hemingway and Great War Museum
Fans of American writer Ernest Hemingway are able to visit his childhood home in Oak Park, Ill., the house where he lived and worked in Key West, Fla., and even the home he made outside of Havana, Cuba. For Hemingway fans living in or visiting Italy, there is yet another place to go where one can pay homage to one of the masters of minimalistic writing: Just head north for about 45 minutes to Bassano del Grappa, at the mouth of the Brenta River, to tour the Hemingway and Great War Museum.
A museum tour explains Hemingway’s connection to the town. It comes from his military service during World War I, when he was a United States soldier stationed as an ambulance driver on the Italian front. According to the Ernest Hemingway Biography on the website www.IMDb.com, part of Hemingway’s job included picking up human remains. At the time, Hemingway stayed at Villa Ca’ Erizzo, built in the 15th century. In July 1918, he was seriously wounded by a mortar shell that left shrapnel in both his legs, and it was after that incident that Hemingway was sent back to the villa to recuperate. (A side note here: Hemingway’s wartime experiences formed the basis for the 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms.)
The museum is located in part of the villa, but guests cannot tour the building in its entirety because it is a residential home today. However, five large rooms on street level have been dedicated to an exhibition area that includes historical information, photos, and displays of Hemingway’s editorial publications. For those who do not speak/read Italian, the video at the beginning of the exhibit may not be understandable, but the footage is interesting. As it will also be difficult for non-Italian speakers to understand captions on the displays, those guests are encouraged to borrow an iPad from the volunteer at the front desk. He or she will assist in setup so you can read your way through the artifacts in English.
Many glass displays showcase the famous novels, including some first editions. A special treat is seeing the various novel covers in different languages, especially The Old Man and the Sea, for which Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. The writer is also known for his love of nature, and a passion for hunting and fishing. According to information from the self-guided tour, Hemingway spent long visits in Italy, especially the Veneto region, where it was said he hunted several times. In the last room of the tour, a life-sized mannequin of Hemingway greets visitors. The mannequin’s background is a photograph taken on one of the writer’s final African safaris. It’s worth taking a photo of yourself with him, just for fun.
After many years of struggling with alcoholism, depression and mental deterioration, Hemingway committed suicide in 1961. But visitors to the museum won’t find much of his later life here, except for a mention in the reading. The focus on his time in Italy is a refreshing way to view the great American writer. Even if you are not a Hemingway fan, the museum is worth a visit.
So what’s left to do but find your way to Via Ca Erizzo, 19, 36061 Bassano del Grappa (Vicenza). Museum hours are Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3-6:30 p.m. Groups are welcome by appointment Monday through Friday. Tickets are 5 euro for adults; 3 euro for children ages 7-12 and groups with minimum of 15 people; and free for children ages 6 and younger. For more information, visit www.museo hemingway.it. If you’ve never been to Bassano del Grappa, do some further planning ahead of time. Once you complete your Hemingway visit, you’ll want to check out some of the other sights to see in the picturesque town.