The ancient Roman lighthouse of the port on the Adriatic that became a sacred building at the dawn of Christianity
❝The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta is in the urban part of the city of Adria, which lent its name to the Adriatic Sea because of the rich mercantile traffic there had been since prehistoric times. The church is called "della Tomba" (of the tomb), and tradition has it that it gets its name from an ancient Roman cemetery. Today the sacred building embodies the noble origins of a lively river village, built near the ancient Roman lighthouse on the Adriatic.❞
The primitive Basilica of the Tomb, which dates back to the first centuries of the Christian era, is built on the remains of a pre-existing building linked to paganism, near to what archaeologists identified as the ancient river port of Adria. Its name derives from the discovery made here of the tomb of a famous Roman figure, Quinto Tizio Sertoriano, whose tombstone is now set in the bell tower. According to another hypothesis, the name is linked to the elevated area (ad tumulum) as compared to the areas surrounding the church.
The current Venetian-style bell tower, designed by the architect Giambattista Scarpari, was inaugurated in 1931 and stands on the site of the previous 14th century bell tower. This medieval structure was, in fact, a lookout and command tower built, in turn, on the trunk of what tradition has was “the ancient Roman lighthouse” of the Adriatic. A plaque in Latin on the south wall of the plinth recalls the origin of the structure: “That which I once was - tower - and I guided the course of ships - I am still today - tower - rebuilt in 1931 - and with my guidance I indicate the Heavens to men - and with my voice I call those who must go to the Temple.”
In order to understand the historical importance of river navigation for Adria it was quite significant to discover the famous tombstone dated the 1st century AD and relating to the "Collegium nautarum" - the college of sailors, a sort of guild of sailors.
The interior of the basilica contains some valuable works of art: a baptistery dated 1472, consisting of an octagonal basin that incorporates a precious marble basin from the Roman era, and a 15th century fresco depicting Mary of the Graces (Maria delle Grazie) while nursing the Child, known as the Nursing Madonna (Madonna del Latte). Then, within a recess at the base of the bell tower is a refined 15th century terracotta representing the Dormitio Virginis. The current appearance of the Basilica is the result of various renovations and interventions made over the centuries, especially during the 18th century and the first half of the 20th century.
By train: the basilica is situated about 1,5 km from Adria station (railway lines Verona-Rovigo-Chioggia and Adria-Mestre-Venezia), with good cycle-rail interchange facilities.
By car: from the highway exit of Boara-Rovigo Nord (Autostrada A13) go on along Via dell'Artigianato and Via dello Sport to SP1 in Boara Pisani, then take the road Tangenziale Est/SS16 and SR443 to reach the city of Adria.
From SS309 Romea, follow the signs to Adria, turning into SP45 coming from Venice or SP46 coming from Ravenna.
Where to eat:
we suggest pizzeria Tablà - Farine Antiche per Pizze Moderne (Via Leonardo da Vinci 45, Adria; tel. 0426 23770) and Ristorante Gastronomia Le Quattro Stagioni.
Where to stay:
we recommend Hotel Leon Bianco and Albergo Minuetto e B&B La Mansarda.
Tours and bike & boat rental:
for bike and horse trips and boat tours please refer to the website of Parco Delta del Po.
Discovering the ancient Roman "piscinae piscariae" among lagoons and casoni in the Delta
Immersed among liquid memories and mysterious legends: the oasis of nature that evokes Greek mythology
From an ancient Roman river port, to the trading crossroads along the "liquid roads" of the Serenissima
The history of a river village and its inhabitants told through the uncertain and changing current