Wonder  }  Rivers and streams

Three men in a boat

Prologue: he who begins well, is already half done

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43010 Polesine Parmense PR, Italia (36m s.l.m.)


So here we are at the pivotal moment of our Po triptych: first the headwaters and Monviso, backpacking; then the descent of the river by boat; and finally the crossing of the seven branches of the Delta by bicycle and every other means. First engagement, a rereading of a classic of travel humor, Three Men in a Boat (not to mention the dog). We do not have the dog, but otherwise the spirit is meant to be that.

That does not detract from getting serious, starting with the online purchase of a vessel that is certainly bargain but also of unimpeachable river qualities: the choice falls on one of those indestructible aluminum fishing boats that go by the name Canadian, designed for the tumultuous rivers of North America. The person who sells it to us is a certain Manrico, Lombard ancestors judging by the name, and we unanimously decide that our new boat will be the Manrichetta.

prologo-01Arms and baggage are stowed, with the prescribed safety equipment, from life jackets to flares...

Another strategic decision: where to start the descent? By convention the Po is considered navigable from Pavia, and so it would be 400 kilometers. A bit too many to get our respective agendas in agreement, and so we scroll down the river map to a name, Polesine Parmense, that ignites the enthusiasm of the most sensitive to good food: "Here is the Cavallino Bianco!" the restaurant of the Spigaroli family, heir to an osteria frequented in the early twentieth century by those waiting for the ferry to the opposite bank. "This is the sanctum sanctorum of culatello!" and to all seems a very good reason, reasoning that we converge on this Po Valley location on the border between Parma and Piacenza. We still have 250 kilometers and five days of boating ahead of us.

prologo-02A majestic black Parma pig boar, father of the best culatelli, in its pen overlooking the Po River.

The prologue concludes at the table, in front of an exciting tagliere and a bottle of sparkling Malvasia, because in these parts with salumi we drink mostly white and then finish with a nocino. Before heading to the port we pay due homage to the tutelary deity of all that charcuterie: Maciste, the mighty black Parma boar who frolics like a sultan with his harem in the shade of a poplar grove.

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Francesco Soletti


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