A visit to the Abbazia di Pomposa might amaze the tourist not expecting to see great art and architecture out in the Emilia Romagna countryside. Even more amazing might be the food that is available on the site. One might, finally, get "amazed out" by the wine whose grapes are grown in the sandy soils of the Po Delta, "Sandy Vines" the old codgers call them. Ask your friends to recall the last time they sipped a Bosco Eliceo. Never? Tell them it goes well with eel.
The abbey, it should be noted, is an ex-abbey. There are no longer monks pleading for silence from chattering tourists. Flooding of the Po and the resulting Malarial outbreaks drove them out long ago. If you go in the off season you might have the place mostly to yourself.
In any case, if you happen to be driving around near the town of Codigoro in the province of Ferarra in the Emilia Romagna, you'll start to see signs to the Abbazia di Pomposa. Follow them, especially if it's lunch time. You will be rewarded by being immersed in a tranquil parkland with enticingly handsome Romanesque buildings all around.
The church here was founded in the 6th century. There was a Benedictine abbey on the site from 874, reaching its peak around the year 1000. Its amazing bell tower is like a lighthouse; you can see it well before you even approach the abbey grounds. It was also a lighthouse of culture along the ancient pilgrimage route called the Via Romea, it had one of the most extensive monastic libraries of the times.
The free-standing bell towner was begun in 1063 and took several decades to complete. It stands a whopping 48 meters tall, and is one of the finest surviving bell towers from the Romanesque period.
The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is impressively frescoed inside, and the floors are of mosaic inlaid stone.
Use the controls on the left to zoom out to see the surrounding countryside. The town of Codigoro is directly west of the Abbey.
An interesting 20 minute drive takes you to the town of Comacchio, where you can take an interesting wetland tour that teaches you about the eel trade in the Po delta territory. A little over an hour on the train or by car from Comacchio takes you to the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna. It takes just over an hour to get from Ravenna to Ferarra.