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Castelnovo Bariano - Castelmassa - Calto


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Starting location:  Castelnovo Bariano
Place of arrival:  Calto
Municipalities crossed:  Castelnovo Bariano, Castelmassa, Calto

Description

Itinerario 2 Lungo PoContinuing on our itinerary we meet the village of Castelnovo Bariano. It is not possible to spot any trace of the ancient castle from which the name of the town derives. Today the castle is portrayed only in the city crest. Floods and the course of history, not very interested in the preservation of defence efforts, make us lose any trace of the castle which was built in 1375 by the Estensi on an even more ancient pre-existing fortress. Today this town looks undoubtedly modern: even the parish church was totally rebuilt in 1929 in Gothic revival style. The XVIII century Parish Church in S.Pietro Polesine is more interesting from an historical and artistic point of view. Its main features is constituted by the two twin bell-Tower placed at the two sides of the façade. The village of S.Pietro Polesine is situated 6 kilometres inland, in an area that was reclaimed in the XVII century during the great draining works made by the earls of Bentivoglio. In this area there are some interesting archaeological findings dating back to different periods, preserved in the building that formerly hosted the elementary school, and now houses the Civic Museum, inaugurated in 1982 by Castenovo Bariano Town Council in association with the members of CPSSAE (Polese Centre on Archaeological and Ethnographical studies). The museum exhibits pre-historical findings of a pile-dwelling village dating back to the Bronze Age (XVIII sec a.C) which was located in nearby Canaro; moreover there are show-pieces dating back to the Roman Age and there is a remarkable collection of pre-renaissence ceramics which were found in Torretta, at the base of the ancient tower which marked the border between the Veneto Republic and the Duchy of Ferrara and Mantua.
Let us go back to Castelnovo on the bankside road, beyond which the majestic river unravels, ahead of which there is a wide flood plain and a fluvial island rises. Popular trees dominate on the rest of the vegetation, alternated by various species of shrubs and flowers. In the last few years one portion of the flood plain has been hosting researches conducting experiments on phyto-depuration sponsored by the University of Padua, exploiting the natural purifying power of reeds (Phragmites communis).
The bankside road undergoes a deviation to give way to the great bridge connecting the area to Sermide, that in 1971 replaced the boat transportation service, which had been planned after the unification of Italy, but came into being only in 1902. in the flood plain we can see a big furnace which today is used only in part, it is there to witness a period in which all along the Po there where many brick manufacturing companies that exploited the clay of the river.
The landing stage of the Nautical Club means that we have already reached the town of Castelmassa. We are immediately attracted by the rectangular square that stands from below the bank, closed at the opposite side by the beautiful church dedicated to S.Stephen. This very original square was chosen for the cover of the famous book “Don Camillo” by Giovannino Guareschi, a writer that here is commemorated by a plaque since 1992. The church was built in 1674, and its main feature is an elegant balcony with overlapping orders, reaching its climax with a curved gable that hosts a big shell. The church has a coeval slender bell-Tower, and it contains interesting works by painters of the Veneto and Ferrara Schools, among which one dedicated to S.Francis ascribed to Guercino.
On one side of the square there is a solid portico, on the opposite side, among the other buildings. The remodelled Palace Bentivoglio stands out, next to there is the “Oratory del SS.Nome di Maria”, on the façade it has three elegant XVIII century sculptures by Andrea Ferrari. From square “Libertà” let us proceed to square “della Repubblica” where we find Palazzo Conti, the Town Hall and Palazzo Riminaldi, that hosts the “Banca Agricola Mantovana”.
On the same square the beautiful Arcade of Theatre Cotogni, is an interesting XIX century building that has been waiting restoration works for years. The renovation of the “Tempietto del Crispo” is even more urgent. This name derives from the name of the totally degraded architectural complex to which it belonged and that in the XVII century was owned by the family of the marquis Crispi Manfredi. The small church dedicated to S.Rocco and S.Sebastian, built in the XVIII century, today is in a severe state of neglect. It is situated in Ca’ Matte, on the road that connects the town with the famous sugar factory Eridania, near the big industrial area, the main economic and occupational reference point of the area.
Let us go back to the bankside road towards Calto, with a look at the waters of the river Po and at the vegetation that in some points can develop next to the shore behind candid beaches. To our left the countryside opens up. It is divided into regular rectangles and its picturesque colours change according to the seasons and to the crops cultivated. In Calto there are flood plain as well with a private pier, where some boats are docked. On the opposite side, beyond the bank, a straight road leads to the main square of the village with a church and the town hall. The Parish church is dedicated to S.Rocco and it dates back to 1707. Next to it there is the vicarage, a Renaissence building refined by a beautiful portico. The Town Hall building derives from a XVIII century building that has been totally renovated in different moments; in the façade there is a commemorative plaque for Costantino Munari, a “carbonaro” that the Austrians sent to the prison Spielberg together with other patriots from the Polesine area, among whom the earl Oroboni di Fratta. The most flamboyant historical building is Villa Fioravanti (ne Roveri), dating back to the XVIII century. It is not far from the centre, following a typology deriving from the military Emilia architecture, it has two side bodies like protection turrets to the central part. The name Fioravanti reminds us of two important contemporary artists: Edvardo and Estevan, considered among the 100 painters that better represent the XIX century Po valley art. Going out of the centre and taking once more the bankside road, we are attracted by a very peculiar hamlet. The houses here, that we wish will soon be restored- have preserved the original typologies of the past: we are in Co’ dei Mulini, a place-name that reminds us of the main activity of the area: milling.

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