The Po Valley: information and 10 places to visit

The Po Valley is an area in Northern Italy which includes parts of the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

The Po Valley is the vastest plain in Southern Europe and its name comes from the River Po (Padus in Latin) which crosses it from West to East with a major impact on the land and the economy. Other important rivers which cross it, in addition to minor tributaries of the Po, are the Adige, the Brenta, the Piave, the Tagliamento and the Reno.

 

The territory of the Po Valley

From the point of view of the characteristics of the territory we must distinguish between the upper and lower plain.

The upper plain extends from the foot of the Alps and Apennines and its soil is composed of gravel and sand which allow rainwater to penetrate and filter through to the waterproof rock before resurfacing from the phreatic layer resulting in resurgences which have allowed for the diffusion of farmlands called water meadows.

The lower plain starts just south of the line of the resurgences and has a fertile, well irrigated soil where water gathers to create marshland.

 

The economy of the Po Valley

The Po Valley is one of the most important European economies thanks to the presence of key companies in the manufacturing, services, banking and commercial sectors. Tourism is another strength of the Po Valley thanks to the historic and natural heritage of the region.

 

Tourism in the Po Valley

The Po Valley and surrounding mountains have the highest number in the world of Unesco designated sites and sites included on the World Heritage list with a total of 18 sites. Here is the list and the year of Unesco designation:

  1. Cave Art in the Camonica Valley (1979)
  2. The Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie with Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in Milan (1980)
  3. Venice and its Lagoon (1987)
  4. Crespi d’Adda (1995)
  5. Ferrara, Renaissance City and the Po Delta (1995)
  6. Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna (1996)
  7. The Sabaude Residences in Piedmont (1997)
  8. Padua, Botanical Garden (1997)
  9. Modena: Cathedral, Civic Tower and Piazza Grande (1997)
  10. Archaeological Area and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia (1998)
  11. The City of Verona (2000)
  12. Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy (2003)
  13. Mantova and Sabbioneta (2008)
  14. Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes (2008)
  15. The Dolomites (2009)
  16. Longobards in Italy. Places of the Power (2011)
  17. Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps (2011)
  18. Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato (2014)

Tourists deciding to visit the Po Valley have their choice of places to visit, depending on their preference for nature, culture and architecture, art or cities.

 

The Circuit of Art Cities of the Po Valley

The Circuit of the Art Cities of the Po Valley was created due to the wish of some of the cities of the Po Valley to join forces in order to work together on the promotion of the cultural and natural places to visit in their territory.

There are currently 10 participating cities, listed here in alphabetical order:

  • Bergamo
  • Brescia
  • Cremona
  • Lodi
  • Modena
  • Monza
  • Parma
  • Pavia
  • Piacenza
  • Reggio Emilia

 

For each of these cities I have suggested below one must-see visit during your tour of the Po Valley.

Bergamo: the heart of the Città Alta (high part of the city), within the Venetian Walls. Piazza Vecchia including the Palazzo della Ragione, the Civic Tower, the Palazzo del Podestà and the Piazza Duomo with Sant’Alessandro’s Cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Colleoni Chapel.

Bergamo

Piazza Vecchia

 

Brescia: the monastic complex of San Salvatore – Santa Giulia and the archaeological area of the Capitolium, important Longobard constructions which were designated as Unesco World Heritage in 2011.

Brescia Santa Giulia

Brescia santa Giulia

 

 

Cremona: the Piazza del Comune, splendid example of medieval architecture and the Torrazzo monumental complex

Cremona: street market in piazza Duomo

Cremona: street market in Piazza del Duomo with Torrazzo in the background

 

Lodi: the octagonal Tempio dell’Incoronata: the inside is a Renaissance work of art, where golds and blues preside, and where the Bergognone panels are conserved.

 

Lodi: Tempio dell’Incoronata

Lodi: Tempio dell'Incoronata

Lodi: Tempio dell’Incoronata

Modena: the Unesco site: Piazza Grande, the heart of the city with the pietra ringadora stone used to address the people, the Romanesque Cathedral, the Ghirlandina belltower. Much of the history however can be found in the Palazzo dei Musei, with important civic collections and the renowned Galleria Estense, in the Palazzo Ducale, famous example of eighteenth-century civil architecture and today home to the Military Academy, as well as in the Casa Enzo Ferrari Museum.

Modena: Torre Ghirlandina

Modena: Torre Ghirlandina

Monza: the museum and treasury of the Duomo, housing a rich art collection, testimony to the royal magnificence of the Longobard court, and the Arengario in Piazza Roma, the thirteenth-century city palace characterised by the great portico on the ground floor. Certainly, however, the highlight of Monza is the park: almost 700 hectares in size, it is one of Europe’s key historic parks.

Monza: l'Arengario

Monza: Arengario

 

Parma: the medieval Duomo square with the Romanesque church and the Antelami Baptistery. Palazzo Ducale, once residence of the Farnese, to whom the majestic Palazzo della Pilotta must be attributed, today housing important museums and the fantastic Farnese Theatre, built entirely out of wood.

Parma: il Duomo e il battistero

Parma: Duomo and bapistery

 

Pavia: the Viscount Castle – today home to the civic museums which house works by Bergognone, Antonello da Messina, Gian Domenico Tiepolo and Francesco Hayez – San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, a Romanesque jewel with the remains of Sant’Agostino and the Certosa di Pavia, a Renaissance masterpiece with the tombs of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice d’Este.

Pavia: il Castello visconteo

Pavia: the Viscount Castle

Piacenza: Palazzo Farnese, ordered by Margherita of Austria and today housing the Civic Museums. Piacenza’s noble architecture peeks out everywhere, in medieval and Renaissance churches as well as in elegant buildings whose splendid wrought-iron gates reveal unexpected and elegant gardens.

Piacenza: Palazzo Farnese

Piacenza: Palazzo Farnese

Reggio Emilia: Piazza Prampolini, San Prospero, Fontanesi: the classic itinerary through the city centre, with the Duomo, the fifteenth-century Palazzo del Comune, San Prospero’s Basilica, the belltower whose design was approved by Giulio Romano. The surprise here is the Basilica della Ghiara, with its anthology of seventeenth-century Emilian painting, including works by Guercino, Carracci, Tiarini.

Reggio Emilia: Piazza Prampolini

Reggio Emilia: Piazza Prampolini

 

As you will have seen in these introductory images, the Po Valley and its cities offer very significant architectural jewels: keep following us to discover much, much more!