Torre Abate, in the province of Ferrara, is one of the most interesting hydraulic structures in the River Po Delta Park in Emilia Romagna.
Built in 1569, it is also one of the most important results of the reclamation works carried out by the House of Este, when the family dominated the city.
Here is how local writer Giovanni Battista Guarini described the huge endeavor by Alfonso II d’Este in 1583:
“This year, His Highness completed the great Mesola factory, which the Duke had started near the marina, with a nine-mile-long circuit of walls, towers one mile apart, four doors standing opposite each other, and a grand palace with four towers. Between the walls, there was a very dense forest full of many wild animals such as deer, fallow deer, roe deer, wild boars, and more, kept here for the Duke’s enjoyment and specific taste.”
The Torre Abate was an example of extremely advanced, cutting-edge hydraulic engineering in its time, and also served to protect the Mesola estate that included the verdant woods now part of the Mesola Forest Natural Reserve.
“It was the last, great dream of the House of Este before the sea,” writer Guido Conti explains, “and now it’s a tourist destination with deer and roe deer, bike paths and guided tours, a protected forest and a repopulation and shelter area for a number of migratory bird species. The Mesola Forest is a memento of what the river must have been between huge trees, beaches, and canals full of fish and wild nature.”
Around here, “the purple heron lives with a predator like the western marsh harrier. This is where the black-winged stilt and many other duck species – such as diving ducks, tufted ducks, mallards, garganeys, and widgeons – take refuge. In lagoons and valleys, between the ‘barene’ – long stretches of land often submerged by the sea – and small humps, you can often find coots, common snipes, and with a pinch of luck even oystercatchers now extinct in almost all of Italy” (translated from G. Conti, “Il grande fiume Po”, Mondadori, Milan 2012).
Photos via: ©Vanni Lazzari