Oltrepo Mantovano

Po river dictionary

towpaths   pathways alongside the shores that were used to tow boats against the current.

“I shall never forget the picture of those two men walking up and down the bank with a tow-line, looking for their boat. One sees a good many funny incidents up the river in connection with towing.” Jerome K. Jerome, Tre uomini in barca (per non parlar del cane)

levees   embankments that contain levels of a watercourse. The levees differ according to their assigned position and function in relation to the water levels: medium, high and highest levels.

main levee   the one furthest from the river bed and the tallest, ensuring containment in the event of highest water levels: it in insubmergible and encloses the territory of the holm.

A t’sè drit c’mè l’ársan ad Po! (You’re straight as the banks of the Po!)

hygrophilous woods   plants that grow in areas with abundant water, where you can sometimes see stagnation, the landscape is dominated by white willows, white poplars, black alders and elm, as well as a number of shrubs which primarily consists of black elderberry, guelder rose and alder buckthorn. The herbaceous layer is mainly composed of lesser celandine, often alongside other foreign and invasive species. There are also a great number of climbing species, such as hops, vines and marrows.

lowland forest   the growth along the river banks is known as ripariale, from the Latin ripa, which means shore or bank and is typified by hygrophilic plants. These areas play an important role in the local ecology, environmental management and civil engineering, because of their importance in terms of soil conservation, their biodiversity and their influence upon aquatic ecosystems.

wet woods   plain area that today it survives in limited areas, having escaped logging and agricultural changes carried out between the 11th and 20th centuries.

drain hole   a generally circular stretch of water, small in size but several metres deep, it is formed by the whirling motion of the water when the levee fails and the whirling motion of the leaving water that it generates. It is characterised by still waters, rich in plant and animal life.

dormitory   a place where herons sleep together during the autumn and winter season.

heronry   a place where certain species of heron (fam. Ardeidi) nest collectively. Several species of herons prefer to build their nests very close together, even on the same tree or just a few metres from the neighbouring nest. You often find the heronry inside a limited space that is difficult to access, generally consisting of a wet forest with marshland, shrubbery or cane.

flood bed   flat space between the river banks and the main levees. It is sometimes so large that the river can no longer be seen from the top of the main levee. In fact, you often need to travel a number of kilometres to reach its shores.

lànca a bràss   “Secondary branch of the canal. A stretch of water, generally half-moon in shape, with very little current, which forms a branch after the levels of the Po have been high, withdrawing after having submerged the sands and creating a meandering, weak secondary current, along the river port itself. If the oxbow was fed by a sub channel through the summer, the water will be clear and deep green, often around three to four metres deep. From the shore, we saw the bubbles rise from the bottom: one dive and off to get a drink!” Sandro Tedeschi, A Luzzara. Dizionario di Po e di robinie

pan handle   a stretch of levee built around a drain hole that took the shape of, aptly, a pan handle.

marshland (valle)   a wide area of impermeable or insufficiently drained soil, in which rainwater or water courses feed a catchment area, which is usually shallow and often features particular flora known as helophytes.

moderate flow   the spring surge, mainly due to melting snow which rises and decrease slowly.

river port   shore of the river, this is where vessels that transported goods along the river were once moored. Sailing along the river was the quickest and cheapest way of transportation at a time when roads were scarce and unpaved. The famous Po Windmills were nearby, still active in the early decades of the 1900s.

“ ... Scacerni had long since made the necessary investigations along the river banks to select the river port, the place where he concentrated on building a mill.” Riccardo Bacchelli, Il mulino del Po

When the river bank corresponds to the slope of the embankment, and there is no river port, the bank itself will be in direct contact with the water.

sabbione   a sandy river bar, an expanse of sand.

Oltrepo Mantovano