The Great Reclamation Project by the House of Este

The Duke of Ferrara Alfonso II decided to drain, from 1564 to 1580, the marshy lands in the east of Copparo, between Po Volano and Po di Ariano. Five main channels were dug; in Mesola, three of them flew into Po dell'Abate, diverted from Po di Goro on purpose, and in the sea through Abate sluice-gate, built in 1570. Another sluice-gate was built in 1576 in Volano; after being destroyed by the sea, it was reconstructed in Pomposa and called dell'Agrifoglio. The reclamation project ended only in 1580. This work did not lead to long-lasting results: in a few decades Porto Viro cut-off, the sea-storms, the soil consolidation, and the several routes of the river Po made useless the efforts made.

Alfonso II
Alfonso II d'Este, engraving. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

Sacca di Goro

The ancient Sacca di Goro was a large inlet extending in the east of Contarina dunes. Its limits were represented in the north by Po di Scirocco mouth and in the south by Po di Goro mouth. The inlet was well-sheltered and deep, ideal for the landing of big vessels. While the works of the Great Reclamation Projects proceeded, Alfonso II started a project to build a river and maritime landing stage in Sacca di Goro.

Galea grossa
 Big galley from PIETRO BERTELLI, Diversarum Nationum Habitus, Padova 1594. Rovigo, Accademia dei Concordi

Mesola porto di Goro
ALBERTO PENNA, Mesola with the port of Goro, drawing, 1658 in Atlante del Ferrarese. Ferrara Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea (the north on the left)


Mesola was an island of the Po Delta between Po di Goro, Po dell'Abate, and the sea. According to the will of Alfonso II, curtain walls were built all around the island and a palace was built within the walls. The works involving Mesola did not pass unnoticed by Serenissima, worried about the creation of a possible free port in Sacca di Goro.
After Porto Viro cut-off and the following silting up of Sacca di Goro, this project was abandoned; Mesola fell into decline and was given by the House of Este to the Holy See in 1785. The famous curtain walls were pulled down in 1830 and the material used to build other structures.

Castello Mesola
Mesola Castle (Ferrara), photo A. Samaritani

Torre Mesola Ferrara
Torre dell'Abate (Mesola – Ferrara)
Disegno per taglio Po
GIULIANO ZULIANI (1730-1814), Drawing for the Po cut-off, in BERNARDINO ZENDRINI, Memorie storiche dello stato antico e moderno delle lagune di Venezia e di quei fiumi che restarono divertiti per la conservazione delle medesime, Venice 1811. P.g.c. Bottega delle Arti di Padova (the north on the right)

Polesine Ferrara
ALBERTO PENNA, Polesine di Ferrara from Traversagno Bank to the Sea and its Reclamation, drawing, 1658 in Atlante del Ferrarese. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

FERRANTE FRANCHI, Porto Viro cut-off. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea
Torquato Tasso incisione
Torquato Tasso, engraving. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

Giovan Battista Aleotti inc
Giovan Battista Aleotti, engraving. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

Leader+ Community Initiative Measure 2.1 Action 2.1a) "Interterritorial Cooperation"
Project: "Historical-Cultural Heritage Enhancement and Tourist Promotion of the Po Delta Territory"
Action A: Po Delta "Heritage Promotion"