The Volano Branch of the Po

Written by  Sergio Raimondi
New ideas and projects for the development of tourism in the province of Ferrara.
Although it represents an enviable example for all cities of art, Ferrara is still a long way from balancing resources invested and income. We ought therefore to begin considering the Po's capacity for development from a mercantile as well as from a tourist standpoint. This holds good for the Po and all the branches of its delta, including the Volano branch that breaks away from the Great Po not far from Ferrara to flow close alongside it on a parallel course all the way to the sea.

It is worth pointing out that the Volano has a thousand year history; but just as it was important in times long past it could become important again today as the hub of a series of tourist itineraries that might be decribed as integrated in comparison with certain routes already tried out in recent years in the Ferrara region. In other words, the Volano could be used to explore a little known region with a considerable history and cultural heritage.

On its way from Ferrara to the sea, the Volano offers two tourist routes because after its descent from Valpagliaro it flows on to Migliarino-Fiscaglia before forking.
If you embark at San Giorgio di Ferrara and moor shortly afterwards at Ponte Prinella, you can easily reach Voghiera-Voghenza, where stands the Este's medieval "pleasaunce" of Castello di Belriguardo and where you can visit the ancient Roman necropolis and the Massari-Ricasoli villas in Mazza.
Following the course of the river, just upstream of Valpagliaro, you can disembark at Sabbioncello San Vittore, on the left bank, where stands the 15th century "villa della Mensa", from where you can reach the delightful Romanesque church of San Venanzio, the old Villa di Zenzalino and the majestic Torrione, a relic of the Este family pleasaunce that Ercole II had built in Copparo in 1540. A quick trip to the nearby town of Ro would enable a visit to a series of villas: the Saracco-Riminaldi, the Malagoli-Recchi, "La Belcamina", the Scutellari, the Buzzoni, the Conforti and finally "Il Collegio" and "Il Palazzone".

A few kilometres from the Final di Rero mooring, on the outskirts of Tresigallo, stands the 16th century Palazzo Pio. The next mooring, after another ten kilometres of river, is at Massafiscaglia, from where you can visit the sanctuary of the Madonna della Corba, the Bishop's Palace and the 15th century Torre di Tieni, one of the outposts in the Este family's military defence system.

The next stop is at Migliarino, with some villas, including the majestic Villa dei Forti; a few kilometres from the little town stands the parish church of Fiscaglia, which dates from 1187 and whose prior in 1511 was Ariosto. Another twenty minutes of navigation bring you to Migliaro with its 18th century Palazzo Boccaccini and the Palazzo Rosso, the 16th century seat of the local magistrate's court for «petty offences». Another interesting sight in the area is Palazzo Gallare, built in the first half of the 19th century while work on the great local land recovery scheme was underway.

Where the Volano forks at Fiscaglia, an artificial branch proceeds towards Ostellato, where we find the medieval parish church of San Vito (13th century), the Dal Buono and Tassoni villas (where Lucrezia Borgia played host to her poet friend Pietro Bembo). In Ostellato it is also possible to visit the Delta Natural History Museum and the nature reserve "Le Vallette". The Navigable Canal then makes it possible to reach Comacchio and Portogaribaldi: an area that has now been developed for tourism.

The norther branch of the river leads from Fiscaglia to Lido di Volano via Codigoro, where you can visit the old Bishop's Palace, "La Tagliata" (an Este hunting lodge) and the former church of the Little Friars (16th century). Also worth seeing are "La Garzaia", a former industrial estate that has been spontaneously transformed into an ideal habitat where some extremely rare birds nest, including the red heron.

A few kilometres from Codigoro, as is well known, stands the very old Abbey of Pomposa (6th-8th century), with the nearby Great Wood and the Castello della Mesola (on the frontier of the Duchy), the last of the Este pleasaunces and the last of the pleasaunces on our jaunt down the Volano.