Published on: 24 September 2014 | Last updated: 3 January 2020
The Destra Po cycleway (also referred to as the Fe20) follows the right bank of the river Po as it heads towards the sea at Gorino on the Adriatic coast. It’s a high-quality surfaced cycleway along the top of the argine, the massive 10 metre-high flood defences along the river’s banks.
The cycleway forms part of the international eurovelo 8 cycle route. This guide takes the city of Ferrara as the starting point. However the complete cycleway runs for 120 kms along the northern border of Emilia-Romagna from Stellata del Bondeno in the west to Gorino on the Adriatic coast. At the western end it connects with the cycleways in the neighbouring provincia of Mantova, and at the eastern end you have the option of heading south towards Ravenna, or heading north along the coast of the Veneto towards Venezia.
As you’d expect, this section is almost entirely flat - with the climb to the top of the embankments probably the only climbing you’re likely to do.
The major sights are at either end of the route: the city of Ferrara itself and then at the east the Parco del Delta del Po nature reserve, with the Castello Estense. Together these are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
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|Ferrara to Francolino||9.8kms|
|Francolino to Mulino sul Po||11.5kms|
|Mulino sul Po to Ariano Ferrarese||34kms|
|Ariana Ferrarese to Mesola||10kms|
|Mesola to Gorino||25.4kms|
Ferrara is not only a World Heritage-listed site, but also claims proudly that it vies with Copenhagen for the title of the European city with the highest proportion of cycling citizens. Here’s an extract from the UNESCO citation:
Ferrara is an outstanding planned Renaissance city which has retained its urban fabric virtually intact. The developments in town planning expressed in Ferrara were to have a profound influence on the development of urban design throughout the succeeding centuries. The brilliant Este court attracted a constellation of artists, poets and philosophers during the two seminal centuries of the Renaissance. The Po Delta is an outstanding planned cultural landscape which retains its original form to a remarkable extent.
Among the great Italian cities Ferrara is the only to have an original plan that is not derived from a Roman layout… developed from the 14th century onwards and, for the first time in Europe, on the basis of planning regulations that are in use nowadays in all modern towns … Ferrara [is] the only planned Renaissance town to have been completed. ”
Read the rest on unesco.org
Show Ferrara highlights
Ferrara’s highlights include the great fortress of the Castello Estense in the centre of town. But if you only go to see one thing I would make it the Salone dei Mesi in the Palazzo Schifanoia (opening hours). You can have a little look around using Google Street View (yes really, and no, I don’t know how they got the car in there either) - although the best pictures are on the Web Gallery of Art. Sadly many of the frescoes are now very badly faded. The ones that there are are left are truly magnificent.
For the darker side of the life of the Este court you can visit the dungeons of the Castello. According to Wikipedia:
Parisina Malatesta was the second wife of Marquis Niccolò III, who was something of a rake and a great deal older than her. After seven years of marriage that had been generally quite calm, she ended up falling in love with her stepson Ugo, son of the Marquis and Stella dei Tolomei, and he with her. The two young people were discovered, subjected to a rapid trial and finally beheaded. It was 1425; Parisina was 20 years old, Ugo only 19.Coming down the stairway, on the left was Parisina’s cell. Following the corridor is Ugo’s one, having, on the ceiling, prisoners’ writing done with candle smoke. ”
If you fancy getting out into the sunshine you could also take a cycle ride around the city walls as well as its centro storico or explore the medieval centro storico.
From Ferrara to Mesola
The ride starts at the Castello Estense in the centre of town, and heads out to towards the Po following the Corso Ercole d’Este. The road takes you past the major palazzi including the Palazzo dei Diamanti, named after the diamond-shaped patterns on its facade. The bad news is that the road is cobbled with small stones - you can do what some local cyclists do and follow the paved strips on either side of the road. At the Porta degli Angeli the FE203 takes you to the banks of the Po at Francolino where you join the Fe20 itself.
There’s not much in the way of services along this section of the route, although there are a couple of fontanelle. However, enterprising local businesses have put signs up giving information about bars etc within striking distance of the route.
The next main point of interest on the route itself is the Mulino del Po - a reconstruction of a historic watermill used for grinding flour. The name also recalls a famous Italian novel set in the area (Il Mulino del Po by Riccardo Bacchelli. There’s a picnic area, drinking water source and a restaurant at the Oasi Mulino del Po. Alternatively there are a couple of restaurants and fontanelle in Ro itself.
After Ro there’s a 34-kilometre cruise to Ariano Ferrarese, and then a further 10 kilometres to Mesola. There’s a fontanella at Ariano Ferrarese, but places to stay and other services across the river at Ariano.
At Mesola, there’s the Castello Estense della Mesola. The Fe20 continues along the Po, to the little fishing ports of Goro and Gorino, but you also have the option of heading along the Canal Bianco to the Torre Abate, a much-photographed landmark. The Oasi Torre Abate nature reserve is also home to a hostel and restaurant.
South from the Torre Abate is the Bosco della Mesola nature reserve. the woodlands (‘bosco’ means wood) are the remains of a vast hunting reserve.
There are lots of alternatives on traffic-free or quiet roads, but I’d advise steering well clear of the SS309 Romea - a busy road that when I’ve encountered it, seemed almost to be one long convoy of lorries.
Places to stay
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If you use these links to book accommodation Booking.com will pay me a small part of their commission. This helps support the costs of producing this site.
I use Booking.com to find and book places to stay when there are no campsites in the area. The large majority of hotels and many hostels are now on ‘Booking’. I like it because it means that I can get almost-instant confirmation. The rating system is also a reliable guide to the quality of the accommodation.
I’ve never had a problem finding places to keep my bike —even if it’s a cupboard or store room. I always use the ‘special requests’ field on the booking form to tell the hotel that I’m travelling with a bike, which gives them the opportunity to let me know if there’s a problem.
Many properties offer free cancellation but it’s a good idea to check the conditions as these vary from property to property.
- Campeggio Comunale Estense (Ferrara)
- it might be possible to camp at the Oasi Park Bosco Mesola, although it advertises itself as a Camper Park (a camper is a campervan)
- more sites on the coast
Transport and services
There’s a regular Trenitalia train service to Ferrara. For the return journey, there’s also a train service between Codigoro and Ferrara operated by the regional transport company TPER (Trasporto Passageri Emelia-Romagna). According to Trenitalia timetable service you need to reserve a place for your bike by ringing 840 151 152. You can check the train times on trenitalia.com or download a timetable from the TPER website tper.it.
Useful websites about cycling in the area
General tourism websites
- emiliaromagnaturismo.it (it/en/de/ru)
- artcityemiliaromagna.com (it/en)
- ferrarainfo.com also ferraraterraeacqua.it/ (it/en/de/fr/es)
- ferraraterraeacqua.it - brochures some useful brochures and downloads
- ferraraterraeacqua.it/: Bike Maps excellent Bike maps - available from tourist offices or just click the links to send an email with your name and address (NB this page only on the Italian-language version of the site)
Abbazia di Pomposa (Pomposa Abbey)