Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The Po is a mighty river. The Po is a muddy river. The Po floodplain is very flat. These facts became apparent to us as we left Ravenna and headed north along the west shore of the great Valli de Comacchio, the delta formed by the exit of the Po River into the Adriatic Sea. We cycled for several miles along bike trails passing through rich agricultural land and protected wetlands. Canals were everywhere, and fisherman line the banks with some of the biggest fishing poles I have ever seen.

We stopped for an afternoon in the town of Comacchio. Just a small town located on the coast, it was a discount version of Vencie, with canals passiing through town. Famous for its pickled eel and the Trepponti Bridge, which spans the intersection of five canals. It was a warm day, and we parked ourselves under a canopy in some plastic chairs while we waited for the museum of a Roman ship discovered in the silt of one of the canals nearby to open. We did not know it was the afternoon hangout place for the town's retired gentleman. They sat down by us, and with our limited Italian we had a good exchange, they being most fascinated by our bikes and how it was possible that John could ride with any comfort on that bike saddle.

The next day we pushed on to the inland town of Ferrara, and we spent an extra day getting to know the town. The main historical focal point is the Castel Estense, with a real moat. It took us a couple of hours to tour the museum inside, mostly due to the highly detailed placards in each room.
North of Ferrara we followed bike trails along the Po River. Flat and lush, it is perfect country for farming. Along this stretch we followed the route described in our guidebook, and our goal by noon was a ferry crossing to take us to the north side of the river. When we arrived there, we were disappointed to find out it was not operating. So an extra 20 kilometers to get to the next bridge caused us not to reach our destination that night. So late in the afternoon, after finding groceries in the small town of Loreo, we pulled into a farm that had a sign advertising "agricamping". It took us a good half hour to locate anyone, but soon we were greeted by the head farmer himself. He was not open for camping, but taking pity on two sweaty cyclists he let us stay anyway. He led us over to an open grassy area, and worked for another half hour lighting the water heater and getting the water and electricty working. We had the place to ourselves, and the stiff breeze kept the smell of cow manure at a minimum.

Our only neighbors were the two horses penned nearby. As we set up our tent and cooked dinner, we saw our host working tirelessly until the last light in his fields nearby. He was up again at dawn, working his tractor as we left for our next day of travel. We had nothing but appreciation that he took time from his other demands to make a place for us.

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