The Mincio Park covers an area of more than 15thoiusand hectares in Lombardy between the lake Garda, the Po river and the wonderful Mantua. This territory is crossed by this river and the biodiversity, the art and the history make a perfect balanced match to give the visitors and the tourists a unique experience that is lived following a low pace. It belongs to the Unesco heritage and it is featured by unspoilt natural breathless landscapes that are inhabited by protected animal species and plants. It is not by chance that the Mincio territory, this is the “brand” of this destinations and specifically the humid area which is important at an International level with its villages of Grazie di Curtatone, Rivalta sul Mincio and Soave have been entered among the thirty Italian Eden (acronym for European Destinations of Excellence) since 2009 because of the natural importance of the area. Actually there are three hundred species of birds among which different types of herons, the cormorants, the coloured bee- eaters and the kingfishers.
The Mincio valleys and their villages
The natural reserve of the Mincio valleys is the heart of the park and one of the most important areas of natural interest. It is shaped by the Mincio river that is branched into several streams that run through the cane fields in a landscape that reminds the Eastern ones that finally converge into the three lakes of Mantua. Whether you decide to cycle or walk in order to explore this area there are many equipped tracks and cycle routes that run across the canals and the pools of water surrounded by beautiful loto flowers, floating islands and water lilies. The navigation on the river Mincio is beautiful as well, you can leave from the pier of the tiny fishers’ village of Grazie, a bunch of narrow houses gathered around the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary dating back to the 14th century that was born as an ex-voto during the plague. The nearby Rivalta deserves a visit too, you can see the church dating back to the 18th century that was built on the ruins of a castle, the Arrivabene Court, a Patrician house inhabited by the local Earls, the interesting ethnographic museums of trades and the characteristic pear from where you can leave on exciting excursions by ship or canoe. There’s another interesting park area to visit that is the Garden of Bertone, on the trees tops the white storks have been nesting and between April and May you can admire the incredible “flight tests” of the baby storks.
Back to the Middle Ages: Castellaro Lagusello
The most romantic people can’t miss the visit to the Medieval village of Castellaro Lagusello which is laid down on a tiny lake with the shape of a heart that is surrounded by huge walls and dominated by a clock tower that keeps some interesting boards that explain the rich mosaic of habitats of this area. Water is once again the protagonist, you can go on peaceful walks along the village and you can also walk around and be amazed by the variety of the biodiversity of the natural reserve along tracks and wooden walkways that enable you to reach the humid area by the lake and the canals and see the plants and the animals. If you are lucky enough you’ll be able to see the kingfish “having lunch” on the southern shore of the lake. All around there’s a chain of hills covered in forests and fields where you can easily see some precious wild orchids.
Cycling? Yes, please!
The cyclo-tourism is becoming more and more popular thanks to its slow pace that relieve your stress and mainly because of the amazing views that you can see when you cycle so you can organize your cycling holidays. Whether you are “professional cyclists” or “Sunday cyclists” the Mincio Park offers a wide range of routes that cross different landscapes that are all worth to be experienced. So the “greenest highway of Italy” is unmissable; 37 kilometres that connect Mantua to Peschiera del Garda surrounded by breathless views: walkways on the water, forests, villages, vineyards and canals where the time has stopped. The Roman country church of Massimbona and the nearby Medieval mill that is still working are unmissable stops as well as Volta Mantovana with its castle dating back to the 10th century and the Renaissance Gonzaga palace together with Monzambano dominated by a castle dating back to the 9th century.
Sailing on the river: the slow charm
If its shores hide incredible surprises the sailing along the quiet river will be an unforgettable experience too whether you decide to go canoeing from Pozzolo to Mantua stopping at the three tranships by their artificial dams then have a stop in Goito, the city of Bersaglieri (the riflemen)or if you chose the more comfortable electric ferries or the ones that use the solar energy or even the bigger motor-vessels that reach Mantua. The theme excursions by boat are really interesting too, you can follow the herons or you can go on an excursion along the Mincio river by following the memories of the great Italian poet Virgilio and you can also sail along the different lakes that are spread in this area. A cocktail on the shores of the Lake Superior in the Summer evenings is a must in one of the many outdoor locals where you can sip your drink in the sunset surrounded by the view of the landscape of the humid valleys of Mincio. From the Lake Inferior on the other hand the postcard view is guaranteed above the skyline of the city of Gonzaga.
Last but not least
The Mincio area still has an ace in the hole: there are still some places of interest that can’t be missed. Starting with the archaeological sites and their Celtic, Etruscan and Roman findings as well as the Neolithic settlements then there are the several castles and strongholds that are spotted in the park (a few names besides the ones that we have already mentioned? Cavriana, Pozzolengo and Valeggio sul Mincio); then there are the Habsburg fortresses, there are still 16 of them! – and the water mills too. Finally you can’t leave without tasting the typical delicacies from this area: the “tortelli di zucca” (pasta filled with the pumpkin), then capunsei, the fuiade with the venison sauce, the bigoi (a type of pasta) with sardine sauce but you can also eat in the restaurants along the river and taste their main courses like the pike with the sauce or the fried catfish and you can drink the Lambrusco from Mantua and taste the other red wines that are produced in this area namely the merlot and the cabernet and the white chardonnay and pinot hand in hand with the queen of sweets, the Sbrisolona cake.
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