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About the River Po

The River Po, Italy's longest river, flows through many important cities through its 562km course, including Turin, Piacenza, Cremona, and Ferrara. The Po is connected to Milan through a network of channels called "navigli", which Leonardo da Vinci helped to design. The River Po is only navigable from its mouth to the city of Pavia.

River Po, Italy - Introduction
Map of the River Po, Italy

During the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods, the lower valley of the Po was occupied by people who built structures on pikes along its swampy banks. River-regulation works originated in pre-Roman times. The reclamation and protection of the riparian lands continued rapidly during the Roman period. In several places their rectangular divisions are still visible. During the Barbarian invasions, much of the protective system decayed. In the later Middle Ages the works resumed so that the present arrangement existed in the main by the end of the 15th century.

The Po River forms the boundary between the regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Veneto. Among the many streams that drain into the Po from the south, the Tanaro, Scrivia, and Trebbia are the most important. Many of the other tributaries are rain-fed and torrential in the winter but carry little water for much of the year. Throughout its middle and lower courses, the Po River encounters many meanders, which have left circular lakes in their wake.

Rower on the River Po, Italy
Rower enjoying the River Po, Italy

The Po River rises in Monte Viso, close to the Crissolo in Piedmont, flowing eastwards in its upper course. The upper Po is rapid and precipitous, descending approximately 5,500 ft in its first 22 miles, before turning sharply northwards through the city of Turin, and then east to continue to its mouth on the Adriatic. Towards the end of its course, the river creates a wide delta with hundreds of small channels. It is among the most complex of any European river with at least 14 mouths, usually arranged in groups of five. Of these mouths, the Po della Pila carries the greatest volume of water and is the only navigable one.

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