The Po River (Italy) and Venice on a cruise

The Po, "King of the Italian rivers” and Venice

Surrounded by the Alps, the Adriatic Sea and the Apennines, the Po Valley is one of the most populated areas of Italy with more than 1000 inhabitants per square kilometre. It is the first economic region of the country and covers nearly 46,000 square kilometres, about one sixth of the Italian territory. This region presents diverse landscapes with alternating hills and cultivated fields. It can be divided into two parts: the high and the low plains. The high plains are more arid and are covered with heather and sparse trees. Because agriculture has always been difficult here, many industries have established themselves in this region. In the low plains, on the contrary, the water is abundant and has allowed intensive farming.

The Po Delta, UNESCO World Heritage

The Po River has its source in the Alps, Mount Viso, at 2022 meters above sea level. It waters Turin, Vercelli, Piacenza and Cremona and has many twists and turns along the way. Its climate is alpine for 35 kilometres and changes as soon as it enters the plain, upstream of Turin to become subalpine. With a length of 652 kilometres, it is the largest river in Italy. At Ferrara it forms a large delta for 100 kilometres before flowing into the Adriatic Sea. Composed of a multitude of rivers and lakes, it is home to countless species of birds such as flamingos, herons and snipes. The region is also important historically because of its Greek and Roman civilizations that settled here. UNESCO proclaimed the Po Delta a World Heritage site.

CroisiEurope cruises include some beautiful cities of Lombardy and Veneto. Cremona has some of the most beautiful medieval buildings in the north of the peninsula. Renowned for the manufacture of violins, it is the capital of violin making to which is devoted a museum. Mantua, located on a peninsula surrounded by lakes, is famous for its patron princes, the Gonzaga. A real city in the city, it has many buildings separated by gardens and loggias. Padua enjoyed such cultural and spiritual influence that Shakespeare called it "the nursery of the arts." St. Anthony, Franciscan friar, saint of lost objects, founded a school of theology there in1229. A basilica was erected in his name because miracles were multiplying around his grave. A small offshoot of the Po, on a meander of the Adige, is the city of Verona; worth seeing because of its beautiful romantic sentiment. The city of Romeo and Juliet is, after Venice, the most beautiful city of art in northern Italy.

Venice, an Ali Baba’s cave on a “sunken forest”

When the Po finishes its course in the sea, it becomes the Lagoon of Venice; the largest in Italy with a surface of 550 km². 118 islets, 177 canals and 400 bridges. Moored for fifteen centuries in the lagoon, Venice was an island before being a city. Built on thousands of wooden piles that make up a veritable "sunken forest", it defies the laws of nature and architecture as it exists today. With its gondolas, its carnival, St. Mark's Square, its many churches, its Doge's Palace and openwork facades in white and pink marble and its ceilings painted by Veronese, Venice is an open-air museum, an opera set, and a mirror reflecting all the magnificence of Venetian art. Today the city gains new tourists every year. They fill the gondolas, unique to the world, which take them into a universe dedicated to dreaming.

The Islands of tradition

The majority of the islands in the lagoon are abandoned but some are still inhabited and constitute a precious historical heritage for Venice. Among the most remarkable and most picturesque are Burano and Murano, pretty fishing villages that have other strings to their bow: Burano, about 9 km from Venice, offers a different face than the other islands. No palace but a uniform decor of houses painted in bright colours. From the sixteenth century, it was associated with lace- making. Murano, the largest of the lagoon islands, 1.5 km from Venice, owes its fortune to the glass blowing which was transferred from the city of Doges at the end of the thirteenth because of the risk of fire. Chioggia, a fishing village, is a kind of popular version of Venice. It is located on two parallel islands with many streets crossing over at right angles to the canal and the main street, the Corso del Popolo, giving the city its particular physiognomy.