From an ancient Roman river port, to the trading crossroads along the "liquid roads" of the Serenissima
❝The characteristic village of Loreo has been the centre of intense river traffic for centuries and, despite its current position far from the sea, it is a cornerstone of the history of inland water navigation. Its fortunes were tied to both those of the Roman Empire and of Venice. The historic centre is crossed by a navigable canal that reflects the multi-coloured simple and elegant dwellings, in a network of picturesque streets and “calli” (Venetian alleys).❞
The ancient Portus Lauretis (later known as Lauretum) was built in 225 BC halfway between Adria and the sea, close to the Romea road which for centuries was the route of pilgrims and crusaders, and close to an important navigable waterway. Its history was therefore firmly linked to Venice which, from the end of the 15th century, designated it as a military bulwark and strategic trading hub of the entire Delta, making it the protagonist of complex and deep hydraulic transformations of the territory, which are still clearly visible today.
A dense network of narrow streets leads to Piazza Longhena, the historical and symbolic heart of Loreo, which still preserves its ancient and noble appearance. Here you will find the cathedral, built in 1658 and dedicated to the Assumption, designed by the architect Baldassarre Longhena, author of the famous Chiesa della Salute (Our Lady of Health) in Venice. Not to be missed is a visit to the Oratory of the Holy Trinity, home of the Flagellant Confraternity, founded in 1603 and holder of an ancient devotional tradition.
Dressed in scarlet hooded habits, on the night of 14th June, the "fradèi" (brothers) still repeat the annual procession that takes them to the Church of Our Lady of the Pillar (Madonna del Pilastro), one of the oldest in the Polesine area, located in the hamlet of the same name.
Overlooking the canal, in the Civic Tower of the Municipality of Loreo, is the Antiquarium museum, which presents the materials found from the archaeological excavations of the Roman rustic villa of Corte Cavanella. This large and valuable villa, which stood on a salt marsh near a lagoon and near a navigable canal that put it in direct communication with the sea, was, thanks to its particular position, a strategic trading post both for maritime-river traffic and for land traffic. It is also possible to associate this villa with the Mansio Fossis, mentioned in the itineraries of the ancient world: a posting station located along the north side of the Roman Via Popilia. A part of this small but suggestive museum is dedicated to boats and river navigation in the ancient world, in the light of the important discovery at Corte Cavanella of two Roman wooden boats.
From Loreo, the historic capital of the Delta in the age of the Venetian Republic, following the canal that crosses it, we reach Tornova, where there is a simple and elegant seventeenth-century Venetian villa, with an adjoining rural court. In Tornova you can also admire what remains of the old navigation basin, bordered by fine Istrian stone, and used by the boats of the Serenissima Republic of Venice to pass from the sea and from the coastal lagoons to the river ways of the vast inland Po Plain. A plaque bears silent witness to this dense history of trade with a table listing the price of tolls charged on transported loads.
By train: the historical centre of Loreo is situated about 450 m from the local railway station.
By car: from SS309 Romea follow the signs to Adria-Loreo-Rovigo, go on along SP45 Via del Mare then, at the roundabout, turn right to Loreo city centre. Coming from Adria go on to Strada Romea-Loreo-Rosolina, then turn into SP45 Via del Mare, following the signs to Loreo.
Opening times for visitors:
Antiquarium di Loreo
Where to eat:
we suggest Ristorante Antica Trattoria Graziella (Via Tornova 51, Loreo; tel. 0426 336942) and Ristorante Pizzeria Articiocco (Via Cavanella Po 695, Cavanella Po; tel. 320 1464359).
Where to stay:
we recommend Albergo Ristorante Cavalli and residenza agrituristica Villa Anconetta.
Tours and bike & boat rental:
for bike and horse trips and boat tours please refer to the website of Parco Delta del Po.
An interactive journey recounting the history of "liquid civilizations" shaped by the Po
Immersed among liquid memories and mysterious legends: the oasis of nature that evokes Greek mythology