I live by a river. Not a huge one like the Po’ but big enough to make understand that is guiding the life of all those who live there: humans, animals and nature.
Pò River is the big father of Padana plane, one of the longest rivers that goes from the North of Italy to the center, throwing himself in the Adriatic Sea, at the end of its run.
A giant that for centuries lived together with people who get used to his intemperance but also to his generosity. The river gave them ways to eat, to work, to live.
Through the centuries, man and the river found their way of living together: sometime fighting very hard, sometimes cooperating. The so-called Delta of the Pò River is a huge water surface and one of the biggest wetland areas in Europe. Exploring it means spending many days trying to understand this marvelous and complex piece of Emilia Romagna and getting deep in the life of the inhabitants, included the many animals that are living here
The Vallette of Ostellato
I decided to start from a little natural oasis, managed by Atlantide, a society that is working on natural oasis all over Romagna. Ostellato is a little village near Ferrara, the Estense family town. Once upon a time, this place was mainly covered with water. The Comacchio Valleys (totally 24.000 hectares) were a unique land together with this area until an oak forest slowly started to grow, conquering pieces of land and separating little by little the tow areas. The consequence was that the flat land of Pianura Padana grew under the sea level.
A long and interesting history that I learned thanks to the two lovely girls (Monia and Angela) that are working here, who guided me the whole day and that are the heart of this place.
Even before the romans, the Etruscan governed the area around Ferrara, covering a large part of the Pò River. The ancient city of Spina with its harbor was the most important town in the Mediterranean area. The Etruscan tried to recover the land to avoid illnesses coming from the bad and rotten water. The protection system of the embankment (still existing) made by oaks and willows tried to avoid water from floating outside.
The Vallette (little valleys) of Ostellato are a good example of how man, during the ages, tried to live together with water.
In Vallette are 150 species of water birds, nesting and migratory. You can see all kinds of herons (white egret, heron and red), numerous wading birds, including the Knight of Italy, raptors, such as marsh harriers, buzzards. The vegetation is typical of freshwater wetlands, characterized in permanently flooded areas by reeds, water lilies and yellow, flowering rush. On the banks are the white willow, chestnut of water and the willows.
The Pò River history
The great drainage work did by the Estense Family during the Renaissance was completely destroyed by the cut of the Pò River northbound (Pò di Taglio) due to a request made by the Venice State at the end of the XVII century. The Papal State, after the end of the Estense family, regained the power over this area and accepted the request of Venice.
As a result, the waters flooded in the lands again. People had to wait until the ‘60s of the last century to gain these lands and have a better life. Here life was very poor The valley nowadays are a perfect system of water control: through a system of communicating vessels, the waters pass in and out the valleys, also keeping alive the eco-system where a lot of animals and especially birds live.
Near the center of Le Vallette, there is also a very famous astrological observatory: the sky here at night is clear and dark, a perfect condition to look at the stars. In the summer, it is possible to come here and look at the stars with the help of scientists.
This place is a perfect starting point to visit the area: near this you can visit the flooded forest of Sant’Alberto, the town of Ferrara and the nice city of Comacchio.
Special guest of my visit: Checco
During my visit I also met Checco, the lonely swan of the place, who always come to say hello to children.
If you decide to visit the Vallette di Ostellato, contact the info point here, http://www.atlantide.net/jsps/296/MenuSX/540/Vallette_di_Ostellato.jsp?lang=EN
Tips and info
The center has two very important services for tourists: a little B&B where you can stay and also a very good Osteria where you can really eat typical dishes of the area, such as the Tortellacci di Zucca, which I encourage you to taste.
I visited the place in autumn, which is almost the best, together with spring, where birds have their nest and are more active. Always contact the info point, there you can find expert people who will guide you and explain everything. If you want you can also book a boat trip to explore all the canals that are in the area and also see the rationalist building that is the House of Water.
Disclosure: I would like to thank Atlantide and Fabiana Succi for the support in all the details of my visit and also the two wonderful girls who helped me understand this place.