Po Delta is a fantastic place for slow tourism: let's discover this land, recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2015.
The Po Delta Natural Park captured UNESCO's attention in 1999 when its southern portion became part of 'Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Delta'. In 2015, UNESCO recognised Po Delta Natural Park as a Biosphere Reserve (MAB).
It is an important recognition for such a great area. It lies on the border of Veneto (Land of Venice) and Emilia Romagna, where man and nature have learnt how to live together.
Exploring Po Delta is a fantastic journey among islands, floodplains, reed beds, beaches and small towns. It has to be a slow tour, to be done by bike, on foot or with a boat.
You will find out why this area is so essential to UNESCO and why it has become one of the Italian places that have earned this important recognition. Above all, however, we will give you lots of advice on what to do and what to see in the magnificent Po Delta.
Po Delta, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: let's discover an amazing natural area
Suppose you have ever been to Po Delta. In that case, you may know why this land has been recognized as Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (MAB, i.e. Man and Biosphere Program).
It's a beautiful and wild area almost untouched by men who decided to live here in total harmony with nature.
Po Delta is the land of the water, the marshland, the reed beds, fish and beautiful birds. It is a land that follows a slow rhythm of life, with little towns that seem to have come out from a different century, lots of bicycles, and many restaurants by the river that offer local specialities. It's an area subdivided into 2 regions: Veneto and Emilia Romagna, each with its characteristics.
Why Biosphere Reserve? The true meaning of the recognition by UNESCO
Among the 738 Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO in the world, 20 are Italian: one of them is undoubtedly the Po Delta Natural Park recognized in 2015.
What's the true aim of UNESCO?
The organization would like to preserve the only existing Italian delta, protecting the great area that meets the Adriatic Sea without barriers of any kind. We are talking about a place of quite a large size. It extends 180 square meters (18.000 hectares) and consists of 16 Municipalities. 9 are in Veneto (among which Rosolina and Porto Tolle), and 7 are in Emilia Romagna (the most famous one is certainly Comacchio).
This area is also getting bigger and bigger over time, since the Po River, coming from Monviso (another Biosphere Reserve in 2013), gradually deposits on its delta the debris it has carried with it on its long journey to the sea.
In the Po Delta, the main activities are agriculture (rice coming from here is extraordinary!) and fishing, following the natural course of nature. The towns are not so close to the delta, making this area one of the longest Italian coastlines untouched by men.
For these reasons, UNESCO has decided to recognize the intense synergy between men and nature. Man has built an important network of reclamation but also of water protection and control. The goal is to increase the value of the area through a sustainable development plan that recognizes its exceptional importance.
What to do and what to visit in the Po Delta Park: 5 must see stops
If we tried to picture a map of the Po Delta area, we would have to imagine a space that expands from the mouth of the Adige River in the north to the border with Emilia Romagna. This is the area of Po Delta Park. In reality, however, the historic site of the Delta encompasses a much larger area due to the presence in the past of essential waterways that flowed into the river.
For this reason, in the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve (MAB), UNESCO recognises a much larger area with a similar landscape, including the Comacchio Valleys to the south. From north to south, drawing an ideal line, the region stretches more than 60 km in length (40 mi approx.)
What to see then in this magnificent natural area of the Po Delta? Here are our 5 must-see stops on a trip from North to South.
5. The great Botanical Garden of Porto Caleri
Very close to the tourist area of Rosolina Mare with its vast sandy shoreline, Porto Caleri presents a botanical garden where it is possible to experience lush nature. Wetlands, dunes, a long shoreline, paths hidden in dense vegetation and a lush pine forest.
The walking and biking trails in this area are really many and of different lengths. The paths, often facilitated by footbridges over the water, plunge into the greenest nature and offer beautiful glimpses of the Delta's nature.
4. The Sacca degli Scardovari in Porto Tolle
This lagoon basin is one of the most typical areas of the delta environment. It is a water basin separated from the Adriatic Sea by thin sand tongues. The salt concentration here is variable due to the continuous exchange between fresh and salt water.
The best thing to do here is to come at dawn and join the boats of the gatherers of the delicious clams. Also typical of the place are the cavàne, fishermen's dwellings built on stilts on the water. This is a not-to-be-missed stop on a trip to the Delta to understand the close symbiosis between man and nature fully.
3. The Gran Bosco della Mesola Natural Reserve (Ferrara)
This wooded area was part of an immense forest heritage that once covered the Po Valley. The Gran Bosco della Mesola is now a protected area with forests and marshy vegetation. Due to the gradual reclamation of the sites around the woods, a wetland was created within the reserve where various animal species that would otherwise have disappeared could find refuge.
You can visit not all of the park today, but by following guided trails, it is possible to spot and fallow deer. A pair of binoculars will be perfect for the visit!
2. Comacchio (Ferrara), the little town by the Adriatic sea
Some call it 'Little Venice', because this small town on the edge of the Delta area is built on several islets connected by canals.
In reality, however, this town retains an atmosphere all its own, resulting from its proximity to the sea, which is only 3 km away, and the natural environment surrounding it. A walk here is a must, remembering to cross the Ponte degli Sbirri, from which there is a truly fabulous view of much of the town.
From Comacchio, it would be wonderful to take a bicycle or a boat or start a walking tour to discover its Valleys. Once much more extensive, this area is of naturalistic and historical importance. During one's visit, one will feel all its brackish charm.
1. Just one last advise: explore the Po Delta from the water
The best way to savour this natural region's calm and slow pace is to explore it from the water. By boat, or even by canoe for the more daring ones, this area releases all its charm to those who allow themselves to be lulled by its calm waters.
Let us remember that the balance between man and nature is very delicate in the Delta area. News stories these days tell how this placid ecosystem is at risk if man's hand becomes more pressing.
So, let's protect it and leave behind us nothing more than our footprints.