The Cut-Off

The project consisted in an excavation of about 7,000 meters of length which, leaving from the right bank of Po delle Fornaci, headed east and crossed Valle Malipiera and the dune system. Beyond the dunes, the cut-off flew into a pre-existing channel called Gottolo Contarini. The excavation headed then south-east, with a sharp bend, and ended in Sacca di Goro. In September 1604 the work was finished. On 16th September of the same year, the superintendent Giacomo Zane informed Venice of the opening of the new riverbed.

Mappa nuovo taglio 1604
GIULIANO ZULIANI (1730-1814), Map of the new 1604 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)
Pennelli nuovo taglio
GIULIANO ZULIANI (1730-1814), Pennelli e sperone in bocca del nuovo taglio del Po, 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
Orologi
 DOMENICO MARTINELLI, Horologi elementari, Venice 1669. Rovigo, Accademia dei Concordi

The Cut-Off Opening Time

The superintendent Giacomo Zane, in his report to the Venetian Senate, writes that the cut-off was opened at 7.00 p.m. At that time, the time calculation, called Italian calculation, started from the sunset of the day before; therefore, considering that at mid-September the sun sets between 6.00 p.m. and 7.00 p.m., the cut-off was opened approximately between 1.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. on 16th September.

Avanzamento lavori
BARTOLOMEO CRESCENZIO or GIOVANNI BATTISTA ALEOTTI, Drawing of the cut-off with the work process, 7th September 1602. Venice, State Archive (the north on the right)

Abitato con lavori
Papozze: the town and the works of Santa Maria counter cut-off, drawing, 1602. Venice, State Archive

Gian Stefano Donghi
Gian Stefano Donghi, engraving. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea

The Reply from the Pope: Santa Maria Counter Cut-Off and Donghi Cut-Off

In September 1600 the Holy See had tried to hinder the works with a counter cut-off, called "Santa Maria", between Papozze and Santa Maria in Punta, with the aim to run most of the water of Po Grande into Ariano branch, but with no success. In 1647, Cardinal Stefano Donghi, the Pope's legate in Ferrara, decided to modify the inlet of Po di Ariano. This unsuccessful measure is called Donghi cut-off or Cavo Contarini, since it was performed in the estates of this Venetian family, land owner in the areas interested by Ferrara reclamation project.

Po Fornaci Ariano
ALBERTO PENNA, Po delle Fornaci and Po d'Ariano with Contarino cut-off. Begun but not finished in the year MDCXXXXVII, drawing, 1658 in Atlante del Ferrarese. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea (the north on the left)

Never-Ending Works

The works for the diversion of the river Po did not end in 1604, but went on for over one hundred years. In 1612, Po di Tramontana was closed. In 1630, it was decided that the waters of the last stretch of the "cut-off" had to flow out in Donzella branch. In 1648, Po delle Fornaci was barred. At the end of the 17th century, Po di Maistra branch became the main branch of the Delta. In 1721, it was observed that the extension of the new course had caused the raising of the riverbed, and consequently the danger of overflows. In 1725, a breach in the Cut-off in Contarina bend caused a devastating flood.

Rotte nel Delta
Routes in the Delta, 18th century. Rovigo, Accademia dei Concordii
Les travaux de Mars
A. MANESSON MALLET, Les travaux de Mars, Paris 1689
Polesine Taglio alluvioni
GIOVANNI BATTISTA ALEOTTI, Polesine d'Ariano with the Cut-Off and floods, 1611. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea
Mesola taglio Porto Viro
GIOVANNI BATTISTA ALEOTTI, Mesola with Porto Viro cut-off, drawing, about 1613. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea (the north on the right)

Settore Po Fornase
Stretch of Po della Fornase with Taglio Novo, 1615. Venice, State Archive

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"