Exploring the Po River
Typology: Itineraries in the Rice
Exploring the Po River: nature and rice fields just a stone’s throw away fromMonferrato
In a predominantly agricultural area with many villages, the short stretch of the Po River near Vercelli separates the plain of rice fields from the green hills of Monferrato. With this itinerary, you can discover the charming area between Trino and Crescentino, exploring small villages, forests, and farms where the border between the river and the rice fields seems to fade.
1 The Po River and its Park
The Po is the largest Italian river with its 652 km in length. In the stretch between Crescentino and Trino, the river separates different territories in terms of environment, history, and traditions, but linked since ancient times: on one side, the green hills of Monferrato, and on the other side, the expanses of water of the Vercelli rice fields. The contrast between these two worlds that the river connects creates a truly evocative landscape, especially in spring when the rice fields are flooded and the hills are covered by thick forests. Established in 2021 to safeguard the last natural environments of the river, the Po River Park in Piedmont brings together in a single park the individual protected areas present along the river. A point of naturalistic interest for the variety of plants and animals that it hosts, the Park is particularly interesting for bird watching. Enthusiasts can admire numerous colonies of resident birds and terns that are among the largest in Europe. Near the river and within the protected areas, there are several marked paths, huts, and rest points that allow watching more closely the wildlife of the Park and enjoy nature in full relaxation.
Located at the confluence of the Po River and the Dora Baltea River, Crescentino in the Middle Ages was an important "free commune” thanks to its favorable position of control over the road network connecting Monferrato, Vercelli, Asti, and the Turin areas. Downtown, the village still features its ancient medieval urban plan and symbol of the city: The Civic Tower dating back to the fourteenth century that houses the largest bell in the province of Vercelli known as the "Crescentina”. Of interest are also the Parish Church Beata Vergine Assunta and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Palazzo, surrounded by a green park. Not far from the village stands the S. Maria Island Nature Reserve, one of the protected areas of the Po River Park.
3 Fontanetto Po
An important agricultural center bordering the province of Vercelli, Fontanetto Po is known as the birthplace of Giovan Battista Viotti, one of the greatest musicians of the eighteenth century. The village that took its name from the numerous fountains across its area still holds one of the jewels of the Romanesque-Gothic architecture of the Vercelli area: The Church of S. Sebastiano. Remarkably interesting, along via Viotti (where the house where Viotti was born is marked by a plaque) is the Parish Church of S. Martino with its sumptuous bell tower in Romanesque-Norman style. It is 56 meters high.
4 Ancient mill - "S.Giovanni” rice mill
Near Fontanetto Po, one can find the Ancient Mill - "S. Giovanni” Rice Mill, the only surviving example in the Province of Vercelli of a rice mill powered by water. The rice mill stopped production in the nineties, but it is part of the Ecomuseum of the Wet Lands since 2004. It is possible to visit it by booking to discover the ancient methods of rice processing and to admire the machinery of the rice mill operated by the power of water.
5 Palazzolo Vercellese
A small agricultural village, Palazzolo Vercellese was founded by the Romans along the Ticinum-Augusta Taurinorum road, which, passing along the Po River, connected Turin to Pavia. In addition to the charming square in front of the Parish Church of San Germano, it is possible to admire a unique airplane in reinforced concrete located at the entrance of the village. The three-engine plane, which certainly cannot go unnoticed given its size, was used as a shower at the heliotherapy colony on the Po River. From the village, looking at the hills of Monferrato, it is possible to admire the beautiful ravines and the very steep walls created by rainwater.
At the foot of the hills of Monferrato, stands Trino. It is an interesting example of a village in the lowlands of Vercelli, and it boasts a long history. Trino was within the feud owned by the Paleologis, a noble family that ruled the fate of the Marquisate of Monferrato from 1305 until 1532. There are many artistic and architectural jewels here: Palazzo Paleologo hosted the court of the Paleologis and boasts decorative elements of Moorish style unique in Piedmont; the Church of San Bartolomeo was built in the Middle Ages and the Church of San Michele in Insula, just outside town, still preserves its Romanesque appearance. To learn more about the history of Trino you can visit its Civic Museum "G. A. Irico”, located downtown that hosts several local finds. Not far from the village, one can find the Forest of the "Sorti della Partecipanza” in Trino and the Abbey of Lucedio.
Must-see stops: The rice fields seen from Monferrato
Departing from Crescentino or Trino, it is possible, heading towards the hills of lower Monferrato, to follow a beautiful scenic route that, in many places, allows enjoying wonderful views of the Po River and the Vercelli rice plain. This route is particularly charming in the clear spring days when the flooded rice fields create the spectacular view of the "checkered sea” framed by the Alps and Monte Rosa. The most beautiful points to admire this unique view are located near the fortress of Verrua Savoia, the Castle of Gabiano, the Parish Church of Cantavenna, the small hamlet of Rocca delle Donne, and the Castle of Camino.