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Melara - Bergantino

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Starting location:  Melara
Place of arrival:  Bergantino
Municipalities crossed:  Melara, Bergantino


Itinerario 1 lungo poThe Polesine itinerary along the left bank of the river Po starts from Melara, the town which is situated in the most western part of the Rovigo province. The environment here is very interesting from a naturalistic, artistic and architectural point of view. From the bankside road, visitors are mainly attracted by the right hand side, the water of the great river, the wooded margins close to the shore, swallows and seagulls flying on their heads. Since ancient times man has drawn precious means of sustenance from nature, elements such as honey, from which the place-name Melara derives, as the an authoritative Roman naturalist Plinio the Old suggested: “Mellaria a melle colendo”…After the dark days of the Middle Ages the village reflourished in the X century, thanks to Empress Adelaide, wife of Ottone I, that donated Melara Court to the Benedectine Friars to drain the land and favour the flourishing of a thriving community.
From the bankside road looking to the left, the village stands very close to the river bank. The big church dedicated to S. Materno immediately draws the visitors’ attention. The church was designed in 1705 by Vincenzo Santini, the most appreciated XVIII century architect from Ferrara. Inside the archpriest quarters there are very interesting paintings among which the one depicting the Madonna du lume, that a local historian, on the ground of archive researches, claims it can be ascribed to the great Renaissence painter Sandro Botticelli. In front of the church, on the left hand side, stands the turret shaped Bell-Tower. The belfry is much more antique than the church, because it was erected in 1404 on the remains of a pre-existing fortress. On the opposite side of the road there is the Chigi Arch, a commemorative building that was built towards the middle of the XVII century by Cardinal Sigismondo Chigi. A visit to the Town hall is strongly recommended, as it was recently restored. Once it used to be the residence of the marquis Villa, with two slender pyramid chimney-pots. In the square, within a central flower-bed, there stands a monument dedicated to Amos Bernini, a patriot of Italian Risorgimento, one of the most prominent characters of the Polesine area, who was engaged in the draining activities, a member of the Italian Parliament and Mayor of Rovigo. Inside the Town Hall some archaeological findings on the pre-historical site are exhibited. They were found in the so-called Mariconda area, where more than 3000 years ago there was a village dating back to the Iron Age.
Villa Borghi Leati stands out. It was restored very recently, it dates back to the XVI century and was rebuilt in the XVIII century; it has two great die ridges and it used to be the residence of the Viscount and Estensi Governor.
Back to the bankside road, taking the path in the direction of the river flow, we meet the little Church of S.Croce. It was built in the XVI century and it was recently restored. In the distance the structures of the modern carousel factories can be noticed. The talent of the inhabitants of Melara is well-known from the XIX century with the staging of the famous Carnival. In the last few years this embraced the most advanced technologies thus creating very sophisticated carousels that are also exported overseas to the United States, together with the fireworks manufactured in one of the most important Italian companies in the sector that has its headquarters here. Our itinerary proceeds along the great hook designed by the river Po, at the summit of which stands Bergantino, that owes its name to a brigantine, i.e a sailing vessel that can sail on rivers. Also in this case the first encounter we make is that with a blooming nature, that seems to invite us to a break near the running water. We then reach the wide flood plain composed mainly by willow groves, where the White Willow tree (Salix alba) prevails together with False Indigo Bushes (Amorpha fruticosa) and by examples of White Poplars (Populus nigra). Some trees are covered by a liana called Sycios angulatus that during the summer gives a luxuriant aspect to the scrub, evoking views which are typical of tropical forests. As far as birds are concerned, apart from many examples of passerines (Wrens, Tomtits, Robin Redbreasts, Ouzels, Pendulines), the area is steadily populated by Royal and common Seagulls, Mallards, Little Grebes, Baldicoots, Moorhens, Grey herons and Dwarf herons. The core of the village are Vittorio Emanuele street and Matteotti square. The latter is marked off by the historical buildings of Bergantino. The Parish Church was built at the end of the XVII century, next to it stands a streamlined bell-Tower designed and built by Vincenzo Santini in 1731. It contains valuable paintings among which the “Pala della Sacra Famiglia” (Sacred Family) made by the Bolognese painter Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747).
On the northern side of the square there is Diani Palace, historical building, its main feature is a central turret which was erected in the XVI century (on the ruins of a small fort destroyed by the Venetians during the Salt War) by Giovanni Romei, who was appointed Earl of Bergantino by the Este family. Carlo Diani purchased the building in 1841 and had the drawbridge and the pit that still surrounded it removed. On the southern side of the square there stands Strozzi Palace, that derives from the extension and refurbishment of an old hunting lodge. One portion of the building hosts the National Museum of Carousels, that documents the evolution of the entertainment offered since the Middle ages by the so called “factory of dreams”...This activity has strong roots in Bergantino and Melara where thriving manufacturing companies extend up to the town of Castelnuovo Bariano. The area is considered the “District of Carousels” from an economic point of view. 

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