Forests and green pinewoods, an abundant flora and fauna population, valleys of freshwater and brackish water and rivers that flow into the Adriatic: these are some of the pieces that make up the extraordinary mosaic of the Po Delta, a magnificent example of biodiversity, in which water has been the absolute protagonist for centuries.
Here, where the land and the sky blend together, there are captivating natural treasures like few others that exist in the world, so unique as to have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
Two parks protect this wonderful natural district, which covers an area of more than 66,000 hectares and stretches over two regions. A maze of scenic possibilities that includes, on one side, north of the mighty River Po, the Veneto Regional Park; and, on the other, towards the south, the Emilia-Romagna Regional Park.
Anyone would be amazed at the wide variety of environments and cultural attractions that this area can offer. Located next to each other, in an uninterrupted flow, there are the remains of primitive Mediterranean scrubland, hygrophilous woods, coastal lagoons, brackish valleys and freshwater wetlands that intermingle with the ancient vestiges of Etruscan and Roman settlements, Byzantine mosaics and the charm of Benedictine and Este-era architecture.
Woods reminiscent of dark, gloomy forests where deer prance majestically (the Mesola Woods), flamingos and cormorants, surrounded by reed beds, stroll in the fog through shallow brackish lagoons, and small fishing villages linked to clam and eel fishing (Goro and Comacchio).
From the River Po to the valleys of Comacchio, this is the landscape that presents itself to those who visit the Ferrarese part of the delta.
The possible itineraries are endless and the amazement that accompanies them, indescribable. The same amazement as you will feel when you come across the monumental Pomposa Abbey or in one of the many Delizie Estensi (such as the Belriguardo at Voghiera, Del Verginese at Portomaggiore and Mesola Castle), traces of the splendour of the past that was in perfect balance between nature, harmony and beauty.
The Ravenna part of the park leads to the south of the valleys of Comacchio, and from here opens up, with pinewoods and “piallasse” [flat area of plains, valleys and lagoons in the area around Ravenna], to fascinating natural areas and sites of cultural interest, such as the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, a UNESCO monument since 1996. There are silent valleys stretching out to the sea where specimens of vegetation grow and rare species of fauna reside, the Boscoforte and Punte Alberete oases, the ancient pine forests of San Vitale and Classe, which were praised by Dante and Boccaccio and, finally, further down, you come to the ancient Salt Pans of Cervia, a favourite place for flocks of pink flamingos.
Despite the heavy intervention of man over the course of the centuries, starting from the sea and entering inland, you will encounter many different habitats. There are dune and sand plants, ancient wooded areas (such as the Mesola Woods), coastal pinewoods and submerged forests, as well as ash trees, willows, poplars and aquatic species, such as the white water-lily or the common reed.
However, it is mainly from the point of view of fauna that this area surprises. Well over 300 species of birds have chosen this area as their stopping point and reproduction area. A unique ecosystem that, every year, sees cormorants, Mediterranean gulls and common terns return to nest here.
Along with the birds, on the golden beaches, between the reed-beds, the lagoons and the valleys, you can see fallow deer, red deer and small mammals, as well as amphibians, sturgeons and eels.
On foot, by boat, by bike or on horseback: depending on the season, there are many relaxing ways to experience this unique natural ecosystem, nestled between the beautiful sites of three art cities – Ravenna, Ferrara and Venice.
The many species of birds have transformed the area into a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts with specific itineraries, picnic, service and recreational vehicle parking areas and observation sites, as well as an international festival (The Birdwatching Fair).
A visit to the Po Delta Park means having the opportunity to make direct contact with the culture, local traditions and culinary specialities of a land that has always been on the “margins”, far away from the chaos of the town centres.
Events such as Primavera Slow – which take place every year from March to June – help lovers of outdoor life to interact with the Po Delta region through slow and sustainable tourism.
The best advice is to go to the visitor centres scattered throughout the region (Alfonsine, Argenta, Cervia, Comacchio, Massenzatica, Mesola, Ostellato, Sant’Alberto and Savio) to get all the information you need to fully enjoy a dream holiday in the area.