At the foot of the hills, the Mincio River, freed from modern embankments, regains its most natural and distinctive features.
This is the environment that Virgil described, where the river flows placidly, tracing wide meanders on a plain where fields and meadows alternate. Here, beyond the riversides shadowed by trees and shrubs, the Mincio splits into several branches, forming vegetation-covered islets.
This is where the river was intersected by the Via Postumia, the main Roman road running through Cisalpine Gaul, serving as military communication line and vehicle of Romanization.
Although pacific, the progressive Romanization of Virgilian lands was not devoid of hard consequences for local populations, whose properties were confiscated and distributed to the veterans after the Battle of Philippi. The poet's small farm, located “where the hills begin to rise, then sink their ridge in a gentle slope, down to the water and the old beeches”, probably escaped expropriation at first, thanks to the intervention of influential friends of his such as Asinius Pollio and Cornelius Gallus.
After some centuries of relative peace, the Via Postumia played again a key role in the events that characterized the period between the Late Roman Age and the Early Middle Ages. The flows of people walking the Via Postumia left fundamental information on the presence of Germanic settlements, probably inhabited by Visigoths who arrived in Italy following Alaric, in the territory around present-day Sacca di Goito, which ancient documents indeed call Gotus (Goth).
Two centuries later, those same territories were inhabited and trodden by Langobards trying to take Mantua, which king Agilulf conquered only in 602-603.
Itinerary: from Pozzolo to Rivalta sul Mincio
The itinerary in the upper plain coincides with the first section of the Ciclabile Destra Mincio (bike trail), which starts from the bridge in Pozzolo.
After crossing the villages of Ferri and Falzoni, near Torre, the itinerary includes a straight stretch of the Via Postumia, one of the few segments where it is possible to appreciate, even today, the original features of the road and of the landscape it crosses. After Torre, the trail runs again along the river and reaches Goito, where it crosses the SS (State Route) 236 at "Ponte della Gloria": on 8 April 1848, this bridge was the theatre of a famous battle between General Alessandro Lamarmora's Bersaglieri and the Austrian troops.
The bike trail continues among cultivated fields towards Sacca. Shortly before entering the village, on the right in the belt running parallel to the Castellucchio-Goito Provincial Route, the Strada Mussolina archaeological site includes a Goth and Langobard Necropolis as well as an Early Medieval religious building; a little further, near Corte Bassa, a short deviation is certainly worth, to admire one of the oldest trees in the territory of Mantua: a 30-metre high oak, listed among Italy's monumental trees.
The itinerary finally leads from Sacca to Rivalta, where the Mincio Valleys Nature Reserve can be visited: a labyrinth of reed groves, canals and floating meadows, where many and diverse animal species live. The Park Centre of Loghino Ariello overlooks a river meander, and also includes a youth hostel.