The waterways of Italy are an integral part of the country’s history. The River Po, that stretches along 405 miles from the Cottian Alps, through the Lombardy and Veneto regions and out to the Adriatic Sea, is one of the more well known. Once serving as a vital trade route, today it is more famous for its place in Italian river cruises. There really is no better way to soak up the relaxed pace of life, indulge in the ‘bella vita’ and perhaps visit a local attraction or two than by travelling along this stunning waterway on one of the many superb Italian river cruises. |
The Importance of the Po
This region has always been highly industrialised and the Po Valley has consequently been a vibrant economic hub. It’s incredible to think that the river itself flows through 12 cities (Milan and Turin, Brescia and Mantua included - all of which can be visited on Italian River cruises), and this region is home to around a third of the entire population of Italy. It is thanks to its lush fertile land that the Po Basin boasts almost 40% of Italy’s home grown produce.
The Canal Bianco
Most of the river is completely natural, but the mid-section that measures around 50 miles is man-made. This canal, named the Canal Bianco, was created in 1604 to ensure that the section of the river known as the Tartaro-Canalbianco-Po di Levante (from Mantua to the sea) could accommodate the passing trade ships. Today, it is the most popular part of the Po for Italian river cruises.
Attractions on the Canal Bianco
This wonderfully picturesque part of the river offers any visitor the opportunity to see plenty of attractions. While it may be tempting to stay onboard your floating hotel, for those who do venture ashore there is much to be discovered.
The National Archaeological Museum at Adria is famous for its exhibition of Etruscan and Greek artefacts, but it also houses many Iron Age additions. The signature collection of relics is known as the Bocchi Collection, named after the family who founded the museum and made it their work to preserve and protect these findings for future generations. Filled with beautiful bronzes, ceramics, paintings and other creative pieces, the museum is well worth an hour or two’s visit.
Mantua is a fabulous city that lies at the end of the river. It is likely that you will have plenty of time to explore so, if you do, make sure you head to the Palazzo Ducale as a priority. Most definitely the highlight of the city, this breathtaking palace comprises towering turrets, manicured gardens and corridor after corridor of rooms adorned with Renaissance wonders. It is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
The best way to discover the Canal Bianco is on Italian river cruises. Not only can you enjoy the full-on floating hotel experience, complete with cabin crew, captain and chef, but you have the advantage of travelling through one of the most beautiful countries in the world at a pace that allows you to take in every detail - and all without moving from the deck of the vessel!
Of course, there is more to explore on land, but how you spend your days is up to you. However you envisage your trip, make sure you book with a reputable cruise operator. Small group travel, guided excursions and quality vessels will make your holiday on this beautiful waterway even more memorable.
Author Plate Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive luxury barge holidays. If you're looking for fantastic Italian river cruises, or cruises to other great destinations, they are the go-to experts. 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.
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