And then as reported, I discovered that we could take cruises around Mantova, and with the same company around the Venice lagoon. So I wrote to the cruise people and in a weekend workday instant I got this beautifully expressed email back, in language I am so pleased to see surviving in Mantova, language of a beauty which came over my desk in Rome in 1968, in curly cursive hand, but which seems more generally out of vogue these days:
Gentilissimo Sig. Dennis, in Aprile non vengono effettuate le navigazioni Mantova –Venezia in un unico giorno. Il programma può essere effettuato solamente come da locandina allegata.Restiamo a disposizione per ulteriori necessità e La salutiamo cordialmente.Elisa/Navi AndesIn which Elisa concludes so elegantly "We remain at your disposition for any further necessity and we send you cordial salutations." Also the letter says they have a different, two day, rather grand tour in April, which I have in a document and which we will consider. Not cheap. But cop this:
Ore 12.30 Pranzo a bordo con Desinar Mantovano:Antipasto: fantasia di salumi mantovani, primo piatto: risotto alla pilota (specialità tipica), secondo piatto: Arrosto alla moda dei Gonzaga con patate al forno al profumo di rosmarino, Dolce: Torta Sbrisolona (di produzione artigianale è il dolce simbolo della pasticceria mantovana), bevande Lambrusco mantovano DOC, acqua minerale.La navigazione offre scenari d'incomparabile bellezza; bisogna percorrere il Po navigandolo per comprenderne tutta l'attrattiva, e allora ci si meraviglia di scoprire quest'oasi naturale di silenzio dove par d'essere fuori dal mondo. [translation below]
At 12.30, dinner on board, in Mantovanian style:
Antipasto: a fantasia of Mantova salamis. First course: risotto a la captain (local specialty). Second course: Roast Gonzaga style, with potatoes baked with roaemary. Dessert: a brisolona (of artisanal production and a sweet symbol of Mantovan pastry). Drinking Lambrusco of Mantovan origin and mineral water. The journey offers scenes of incomparable beauty... attractive... marvellous to discover this natural oasis and its silence, all out of this world.Day 2 the Venice lagoon...
I have researched the history of the Po delta at greater length and discover that while the valley was altered by floods and calamities through the middle ages, critical things conspired to make big changes.
The map at right in this text (link also in right column) shows the delta in 1570, before effects of an earthquake that year. Note the great lake in front of Bologna, Mantova in a lake and Ravenna out to sea. Chioggia is in the northeastern corner of the map. Venice off the map just north of that.
Note Ferrara - pointer from the bottom. Ferrara a great rival of the Venetian Republic and hostile to Venetian desires to muck around with the delta and steal water. But then the Este family who had made Ferrara great (their works are what people go to Ferrara to see) ran out of legitimate heirs—and so Pope Clem 8 in 1598 sent in his army and grabbed the city. But then the same Clem 8 declared a Holy Year in 1600, meaning he would do no warring. The Venetians quickly upped spades and in four years diverted much of the flow away from their lagoon. And then in the south the land grew and the delta marched out to sea (continuing).
This growth of land creates a wonderland of low country which we can explore with a week with a car based in ....Forli? Or the delta? [more later]