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Bike, Art and Nature in Po Delta Park

by /// January 11, 2023
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes



Most of you won’t probably remember, but a couple of weeks ago I talked about the shivers and thrills when riding a bike through the territory of Emilia Romagna, face to face with neverending hills, wide flatland, breathtaking glimpses and ancient art cities.

After a theoretic introduction, now it’s time to get going and follow one of the itineraries that I suggested the previous time. We will start from Cervia’s salt mine along the state street SS16 Adriatica. First stage is Ravenna, the capital city of mosaics, then Ferrara passing through its hinterland. Its old town is really worth a visit, then with a thrust of the back we will head to the heart of Po Delta Natural Park a few km away from the Adriatic Sea, and then southern towards Comacchio Valleys and finally back to Ravenna.

A round itinerary in flat areas, not particularly demanding, but able to balance out the lack of adrenaline with the stunning beauty of the endless streams of water, rushes, protected areas and rare species of birds, art and charm of an heritage unique to the world.
So let’s rocket…but respecting the speed limits!

Duration: 2/4 days including stops in the different cities
Length: 260 km
When: spring and early autumn. In the summer the weather is hotter, but by bike you should be fine

Let’s leave the coast of Cervia behind us and head for the salt mines, which are considered the South Gate of Po Delta Regional Park.
After a few km along the Via Salara Statale here they are: expanses of water rich in salt and only a few cm deep, that at sunrise shine and reveal an amazing variety of flora and fauna.
I can’t prevent myself from stopping and taking some photographs of the pink flamingos, inhabitants of these areas.

Le saline di Cervia | Foto by Massimo Briganti, via Flickr

The Cervia Saltpans | Photo by Massimo Briganti, via Flickr

I’m pretty satisfied of my first sighting so I should take advantage of this moment of grace and continue along the SP 254 until I reach Castiglione.
There, I take the SP51 to the point where it crosses the SS16 Adriatica, direction: Ravenna. It’s a smooth ride and the gentle turns of the street allow for some steps on the gas.
Nature here is stunning, cultivated fields alternate with green pine forests, but also with pubs and restaurants, where people can stop and have a good piadina.

Le basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Cervia | Foto by Paolo dell'Angelo, via Flickr

Le basilica di Sant’Apollinare in Cervia | Foto by Paolo dell’Angelo, via Flickr

If you reach Ravenna from the south, the first thing you see is the high round bell tower of Basilica Sant’Apollinare in Classe, one of the eight Unesco World Heritage Sites of the city. A must-do is a selfie in a historical place, so why not here? It’s a way to share my experience with other riders.
Ravenna is well-known for its Early-Christian monuments and above all for the mosaic that they preserve. The city was also house and refuge of Italian “Supreme Poet” Dante Alighieri during his years of exile from Florence, so don’t forget to include Ravenna in your plans. To enjoy the city centre and the old town, you’d better park your beloved bike in one of the signalled parking spaces and continue your visit on foot.

Argenta | Pieve di San Giorgio

Argenta | Pieve di San Giorgio

After a quick tour – not even a day – let’s get back to the itinerary. On the way to Ferrara, you should avoid busy roads and prefer isolated country roads: Alfonsine, Anita, Longastrino, and Menata are but a few villages on the border between the two provinces (Ravenna and Ferrara), that you will pass by on your quest for silence along the banks of former Po di Primaro.
When you reach Bando, take the SP48 towards Argenta to visit the suggestive tiny church Pieve San Giorgio, the most ancient in the territory of Ferrara (VI Century AD) and the pumping station in Saiarino – remember?
I’ve already talked about the reclamation works of this area.

Delizie Estensi

Delizia del Verginese | Photo by Vanni Lazzari

Another town that you will cross is Portomaggiore: first, you reach Gambalunga (worth a mention are its Castle of Verginese, a former summer residence of the Estensi family); then Voghiera and finally Ferrara.

Delizie Estensi

Delizia di Belriguardo | Photo by Paolo Benetti

This is a visit you just can’t slip. 80 km away from Ravenna, Ferrara was an important medieval fortress and one of the most significant courts during the Renaissance. Park the bike in the parking space at Porta Reno and go for a walk in the city centre, it’s a World Heritage Site.
In the list of not-to-miss, not only monuments will surprise you, but also the cappellacci: traditional pasta filled with pumpkin and Parmigiano. I decide to enjoy this particular delicatessen, and since the day is almost over, I’m staying in Ferrara for the night.

Ferrara | Corso Martiri per la Libertà

Ferrara | Corso Martiri per la Libertà

The morning after I’m ready to leave. Riding my faithful bike I take via Pomposa first, then SP15 for 21km to Finale di Reno. From Finale, let’s head south to Migliarino and then follow river Po di Volano to Massa Fiscaglia. On the way to Codigoro, first you will admire the Tower of Tieni.
Here, take the SS495 and enjoy its surreal agricultural atmosphere. Once you reach Ariano Ferrarese head for Mesola, now protected area. Even though the itinerary is grudging of pauses, I take my time for a coffee and a spirit in its choreographic yard, and then I’m ready for my way back to Ravenna.
The Via Romea (SS309) ventures into the Woods of Mesola, the widest in the province of Ferrara. My moment of grace strikes back and I can even admire a deer. While my eyes are still mesmerising, I head for Goro, where with a small fee I can access to the mouth of river Po through a bridge and admire the river flowing into the Adriatic.

Goro | Ponte di Barche

Goro | Boat Bridge

After having lunch at a fish restaurant in Goro, I follow the directions for the Abbey of Pomposa. It stands out against the green of the plain with its stunning bell tower, like the one of Classe, and encloses unexpected treasures of art and history.
A parking space in front of the abbey is exactly what I need to leave my bike and enjoy a relaxed and accurate visit of the interior.

Abbazia di Pomposa

Abbey of Pomposa

The visit leaves me astonished and in awe. After 30 minutes I’m riding again along the ancient Via Romea, and I take the SP54 on the left towards Lido di Volano. The road is straight so I can hit the gas and reach quickly Bertuzzi Valley.

The ride to Porto Garibaldi is a smooth one. One I reach the village on the coast, I decide to run along the harbour; even though the scent from the restaurants is appealing, I don’t have time for that and I force myself to leave this place for Comacchio, famous for its ship canals – partly navigable – that cross the city centre.

Canali di Comacchio | Foto di Roberto Fantinuoli, da Visit Ferrara)

Comacchio Canals | Photo by Roberto Fantinuoli, da Visit Ferrara

After a quick tour of the city, including the brand new Museum Delta Antico, next stage of the itinerary is Comacchio Valleys passing by the Argine Agosta. The street is nearly empty so I can enjoy a mesmerising and privileged view of the expanse of water at twilight. I have the feeling to be in the Eden, with plants and birds everywhere I look but actually, it’s placed on Earth: the peninsula of Boscoforte.

After a hundred photos and after crossing the bridge over the river Reno, finally the village of Sant’Alberto is at the horizon.
But it’s getting late and there’s no time to stop, so I take Via Mandriole and then Via Romea along the Valle della Canna and then San Vitale pine forest and the oasis Punte Alberete, natural treasures northern of Ravenna.
It’s dusk at the capital of mosaics in front of me.
The journey is complete.
Now, a shower and a good plate of cappelletti before going to bed.


Davide Marino

Davide Marino was born archaeologist but ended up doing other things. Rational – but not methodic, slow – but passionate. A young enthusiast with grey hair

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