Venice and its lagoon, the Po river
The Po, "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 Po 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. At 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 civilizations.
*A number of beautiful towns in Lombardy and Veneto appear on the cruise program:
Bologna: It is on the site of the ‘Villanovan culture’, where 2000 years before Jesus Christ, a Neolithic
culture of metalworking and the city of Bologna was founded. The city was called ‘Felsina’ by the
Etruscan while ‘Bononia’ was her Latin name. At the end of the Roman Empire, the city had experienced a huge decline, and only regained its splendor during the XI century when Bologna became a free town. The rebirth is related to the founding of Bologna University, founded in 1088. Nowadays, Bologna is
famous for its many arches and balconies, brick palaces and churches, medieval towers and its wall.
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, Verona, which is situated in a meander of the Adige, is worth the trip
as it represents a lovely romantic port of call. After Venice, the city of Romeo and Juliet, it 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 new pastures. 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 colors. 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.