Along the banks of the Adige

 

The Adige starts at 1.550 meters above sea level, not far from Lake Resia, and flows for 409 km through the Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto regions where it then goes on to the Adriatic sea. Until the mid-1800s, it was an important trade route: river boats ferried goods between Adriatic cities and those of central Europe. This gave origin to the alzaia, the elevated path above flood level and a couple of meters wide, once used by pairs of horses drawing the boats upstream by means of long ropes. Places of rest, the restare, were to be found along the path, where both horses and people could regain their forces. As well as navigation and fishing, the waters of the Adige were used for running the mills, irrigating the fields, domestic use and artisans' workshops.


The town of Pescantina was an important node along the Adige for river trade. Business was concluded in the square overlooking the river, traffic was subject to controls and there were boat-building yards. Even today, this small square is the town's fulcrum. The particularly characteristic narrow streets all lead to the square, the central meeting place for the inhabitants, which is surrounded by ancient buildings and shops that overlook the Adige. A parapet now protects the square from river floods which in the past reached impressive levels as shown by the marks left on the Cà del Comun, once the town councile offices. Also facing onto the square is the church of San Rocco, inside od which are remains of wall paintings.


Pescantina in home to Work and Traditions Along the Adige River at the Ethnographic Museum. It was created to preserve the memory of a type of lifestyle that died out long ago. The museum has been opened in the restored Romanesque church next to the Duomo of San Lorenzo Martire, only a few hundred meters from the town centre, in the direction of Arcè and close to the river. Here you will find artefacts of ancient village activities carried out by all the people living along the river banks: navigation, milling, artisan work, agriculture, domestic work. The exhibition has a wonderful collection of photographs.


The Duomo San Lorenzo and its 80-metre tall bell was built in the Neoclassic Baroque style in the XVIII century according to plans drawn up by the architect Alessandro Pompei. The sculptor, Daniele Peracca, played a important role in the architectural planning of the façade and the whole of the church. The seven statues that adorn the façadeare by his hands. The interior consists of a single majestic nave with more than twenty paintings by Veronese artists done between 1600-1700; the great altar and the other six altars lining the walls are decorated with marble inlays. The DUomo can be visited during the opening hours of the nearby ethnographic museum.


The itinerary continues in Arcè: upon arriving in the town, where the road narrows, Villa Albertini can be seen on the left. This is one of the many beautiful historical aristocratic residences in Valpolicella. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public. From the road you can see the northern façade, the two imposing statues overlooking the gate, the complex of buildings and the garden. If you cross the narrow bridge in the direction of Bussolengo, you can see the southern side facing the Adige, which is surrounded by protective walls and four uniquely designed turrets. The whole building was renovated in the mid-1800s on the orders of Count Alberto Albertini.

 

The next destination is back to the centre of Arcè, to visit the ancient San Michele Church with its protective stone wall and gateway from the Adige. It is a simple construction, with a gabled façade and single nave, and was built between the end of the XI century and early XII century using stones from the river bed. A curious inscription appears on the vault above a secondary entrance on the southern side: Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas, which scholars tend to consider a magic formula. The church conserves a small number of extremely important frescoes dating from 1300-1400. The church is usually closed but its beautiful surroundings are worth a visit.


Not far away is the small village of Santa Lucia, with its XII century Chiesetta di Santa Lucia, which is hidden in among the houses and is usually closed. Next stop is Potnon, where the XV century Villa Nichesola-Conforti, commissioned by Fabio Nichesola, should be seen. With the help of his son, Reverend Cesare, the villa had a botanical garden added to it - destroyed in the XVII century - along with a collection of ancient stone inscriptions that would later become the first nucleus of Verona's Museo Lapidario Maffeiano. The only bas-relief remaining in the villa is embedded in the wall under a window in the loggia-style courtyard. In the residence there are three rooms frescoed with allegorical and mythological scenes by the Veronese painter Paolo Farinati : these are the Sala delle Dee, the Sala Rossa and the Sala Verde. From the garden you can enter the grotto to admire the wonderful mosaic floor and its "pseudofossils".


All the places we have mentioned up to now can also be visited on foot or by bike along the old strada alzaia flanking the Adige, which was transformed some years ago into a natural/cultural pathway. (From the church of San Lorenzo in Pescantina to Ponton about 7 km - difference height: 15 m.a.s.l.). The path is bordered by the river on one side and cultivated fields on the other, isolated farmhouses, and the towns and villages already mentioned which can be reached through cobbled laneways. Immersed in the greenery of poplars, willows and locust (false acacia) trees, the path runs through a nature reserve where there are various species of local and migrating birds such as grey herons, royal owls, marsh tits, redstarts and water nightingales. Along the path you will also find the remains of artefacts used for working purposes - water wheels, irrigation channels, mills, ovens - in a period when the people lived in direct contact with the river.



Visit the section Publications of this site in order to download the flyer of this itinerary.

 





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