Pô and Venezia cruises (Italy)
The Pô, "king of italian rivers", also leads to venice
Surrounded by the Alps, the Adriatic Sea and the Apennines, the Po plain is one of the most populated areas in Italy with in places more than 1,000 inhabitants per km². It is the premier economic region in the country and covers more than 46,000 km², or around a sixth of the Italian territory. Formerly a gulf, gradually filled in by fluvial alluvia, it presents various landscapes alternating between hills and cultivated fields. The area it covers can be divided into two parts: the upper and lower plain. The first, which is drier, is covered with heather and scattered trees. In the second, on the other hand, water is abundant and has enabled intensive agricultural exploitation.
The Pô delta, a unesco world heritage site
The Po rises in the Alps on Mount Viso at 2,022 m above sea level. It flows through Turin, Vercelli, Piacenza and Cremona and describes numerous meanders. It is Alpine in nature for 35 km and changes when it reaches the plain, upstream of Turin, to become sub-Alpine. At a length of 652 km, it is the longest river in Italy. As of Ferrara, it forms a large delta covering 100 km before it meets the Adriatic Sea.
UNESCO has proclaimed the Po Delta a World Heritage site. The region is also noteworthy from a historical point of view as its bears witness to Greek and Roman civilisations.
A number of beautiful towns in Lombardy and Veneto appear on the cruise programme:
Cremona: possesses the most beautiful medieval buildings in the north of the peninsula. Famous for the manufacture of violins, it is the capital of stringed instruments to which a museum is devoted.
Mantua: set on a peninsula surrounded by lakes, it is famous for its patron princes, the Gonzagas. The tour of its ducal palace is a must. A veritable town within a town, it comprises numerous buildings, churches and interior squares punctuated by gardens and loggias.
Padua once enjoyed such a cultural and spiritual influence that Shakespeare called it the "nursery of arts". Saint Anthony, a Franciscan monk and patron saint of lost property, founded a school of theology here in 1229. A basilica was constructed in his name as a large number of miracles have occurred in the vicinity of his burial place.
Straying briefly from the PO, the tour of Verona, which is situated in a meander in the Adige, is worth the trip as it represents a lovely romantic port of call. After Venice, the city of Romeo and Juliet is the most beautiful city of art in northern Italy.
Venice, an ali baba's cave on a "submerged forest"…
Where the Po spills into the sea is Venice's lagoon. The largest in Italy with a surface area of 550 km²!
118 islets, 177 canals and 400 bridges. No earth, no trees… Anchored for fifteen centuries in the silt of the lagoon, Venice was an island before it became a city. Built on thousands of wooden piles which form a veritable "submerged forest", it defies the laws of nature and architecture and makes its inhabitants pull on their Wellington boots when the aqua alta floods the city from October to December.
With its gondolas, its carnival, its Piazza San Marco, its myriad churches and its Doges Palace with its fretwork of facades in white and pink marble and its ceilings painted by Veronese, Venice is an open air museum, an opera set, a mirror which reflects the magnificence of Venetian art.
Today, the city of all splendours has become too expensive to live in and its inhabitants are moving on to pastures new. But each year more and more tourists come here. Several million come to fill its unique gondolas, which slip quietly through this cityscape of dreams.
Islands of tradition
The majority of the islands in the lagoon are abandoned. Some are still inhabited and form a valuable historic heritage for Venice. Among the most remarkable and the most picturesque are Burano and Murano, pretty fishing villages which have other strings to their bow:
Burano, around 9 km from Venice, offers a different appearance to the other islands. No palaces but a uniform backdrop of houses painted in vivid colours. Since the 16th century, its name has been associated with needlepoint lace.
Murano, the largest of the islands in the lagoon, 1.5 km from Venice, owes its wealth to its glasswork, transferred from the city of the Doges at the end of the 13th century because of the risk of fire.
Chioggia, a fishing village, is a kind of plebeian version of Venice. It stretches along two parallel islands, with numerous streets cutting at right angles across the canal and the main street, the Corso del Popolo, giving the town its particular appearance.