The River Po: a Barger’s Guide
Searching for great river cruises? Italy’s lovely rivers and canals offer tourists a chance to explore the wonders of this beautiful country. When you navigate down the River Po, you can travel through the various Italian natural landscapes, marvelling at unique lagoon islands, gorgeous lakesides flocked with birds and charming Renaissance cities with awe-inspiring architecture.
Length and Route
The River Po is a 650-kilometre long stretch of water that will take you from the canal city of Venice to the cultural hotspot of Mantua. Starting in the Venetian Romantic city, you can travel up the river through the Po valley, along the river and the Bianco Canal to San Pietro in Volta, before heading towards Zelo and Governo and finally reaching the lakeside city of Mantua. Along the way, you will encounter both the upper and lower Po plains which are surrounded by the Alps, the Adriatic Sea and the Apennines. You can admire the contrast between the two levels, as the first is a drier landscape with few trees and the second is abundant in water and greenery.
History and Feats of Engineering
The Po River has a very interesting and intricate history. Although it is a bit temperamental, in some places being extremely shallow and in others flooding the landscape, the River Po has enabled centuries of settlers to prosper. It is Italy’s largest waterway and ensured that the region grew into the country’s most important economic area. Its water fed the fields on the bank and led to the flourishing of agriculture. Connecting Turin, Vercelli, Piacenza and Cremona, it was also used as a trade route by the early Mediterranean settlers and later by the Romans too.
This extraordinary river also gave birth to the iconic canals of Venice, as it forms a 100-kilometre long delta which feeds the city’s lagoon. Creating the famous 118 islets, surrounded by 177 canals which host many river cruises, Italy is able to attract many tourists to The Floating City every year. It would not feature its unique architecture of colourful houses built on the ‘submerged forest’ of wooden piles without it. It is also thanks to this legacy that the Po Delta has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Attractions en Route
You can gain brilliant insight into the Roman, Etruscan, Istrian and Byzantine empires by going on Po river cruises. Italy is a treasure trove of culture, with stunning architecture and artworks just waiting to be explored. I’d recommend visiting the beautiful seventeenth-century Villa Ca’Zen. Located on the riverbank, it is a breathtaking stately home where the great Lord Byron courted his muse, Countess Guiccioli, and composed some of his most famous verses. You will also want to explore the city of Mantua, with its neoclassic Palazzo Canossa and the impressive Renaissance dome of the Basilica di Sant’ Andrea. For a bit of musical history, head over to the Teatro Scientifico where the young Mozart first wowed his contemporary with his extraordinary piano skills.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury river cruises and barge holidays throughout Europe. If you’re looking for the most exciting river cruises, Italy is an ideal choice. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.