Sunday at Mincio Regional Park
Sunday at Parco del Mincio
The splendid Parco del Mincio is a nature park that covers a surface area of about 16000 hectares. It includes 13 municipalities and hosts 229 species of birds and the flora is just as varied. This very large area offers endless trip opportunities: from the cycle tours along the cycle lanes connecting Mantua to Peschiera, to the river cruises, and the guided visits through the Park's nature reserves. It also the ideal place where you can spend an entire day surrounded by nature and discover the ancient flavours of local tradition.
Our day begins at the Centro Parco Bertone (Strada Bertone Colarina, Goito; admittance fee is 2 euros for adults, free for children and adults over 65 years). This is a romantic garden-park open on holidays and weekends from April to early November. Characterised by three 19th century buildings and the presence of exotic trees, some of which are very ancient, it also hosts a White Stork Re-Introduction Centre where you can admire these amazing animals up close. In the month of April, the centre holds days dedicated to the release of some white storks into the wild, allowing you to experience a unique and unforgettable moment.
At a 20 minutes drive from Parco Bertone you will reach Grazie, one of the most charming millenary villages in Italy and included in the list of the EDEN Project of tourist destinations of excellence. Here, you can stop along the river for a picnic or have a quick lunch in one of the local trattoria restaurants and taste the delicious specialities like the pumpkin-filled tortelli or the pot roast donkey. For a traditional meal, we also recommend "La Locanda delle Grazie" (Piazzale Santuario, 2, 46010, tel. 0376 348038).
In the early afternoon we move to the small marina situated at the foot of the Santuario delle Grazie (that you can visit on your return trip). Numerous shipping companies organise relaxing river cruises, in the middle of reeds, water lilies and rare species of birds from the Nature Reserve of the Mincio Valleys. One of these shipping companies is the Consortium "I Barcaioli del Mincio" (available for booking at tel. 0376 349292, trips cost around 10 euro per person).
On your way back, you can finally visit the Santuario delle Grazie, a shrine in the Gothic-Lombard style containing over fifty statues in wood, papier-mâché and wax. In July and August you can also visit the public park of Belfiore, at only 6 km (4 miles) away, where you can assist to the fascinating blossoming of the lotus flower, a species introduced in the early nineteen hundreds and today an integral part of the landscape.
Now you can drive to Mantua for a stop on the right side of Lake di Mezzo and Lake Superiore, where you will find the Parco della Scienza: this is a science park with a series of interactive installations, completely free to the public that allows people to become familiar with scientific notions like motion, force, energy and visual perception.
Strolling the streets of the historical centre, you can easily reach the wine bar Le Pupitre 18 (via dell'Accademia 18, Mantua) for one of the typical aperitif dinners with a selection to satisfy all kinds of tastes. Worth mentioning is the "Gianca Spritz", a wine-based cocktail with an unusual blue colour, or the KK, a cocktail drink invented by the owner himself, but don't ask him the ingredients, he will never share his secret recipe.
Our day trip in the Mincio Park will end at Piazza delle Erbe for a dinner at Trattoria Cento Rampini (piazza delle Erbe 11, tel. 0376 366349) to taste the famous risotto alla mantovana or the delicious filled home-made pasta.