70 Years Later. The Great Flood

70 Years Later

Can something positive come out of a catastrophe? This is the starting point for the exhibition “70 anni dopo. La Grande Alluvione” (70 Years Later. The Great Flood).

An exhibition which turns upside down our way of looking at this event, that changed the history of the Polesine area and its population.
In order to remember the great flood of 1951, trying to grasp what that tragedy generated in the physical, social and economic fabric of the modern-day Polesine area.

An investigation into what, beyond the memories, the pain and the personal and social tragedies, has come – 70 years later – from the tragic event which brought an entire area to its knees. But one which had the strength and pride to get back to its feet.

Human and environmental heritage which is lost elsewhere.

Opening times

The exhibition runs until January 30th, 2022.

Open every day:
Monday - Friday, 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.

The Great Flood

It was the 14th of November 1951 when the waters of the River Po broke their banks, overwhelming everything in their path: people, animals, buildings.

The Great Flood of the Polesine area was responsible for over 100 deaths, and forced 180,000 people to abandon their houses and their lives.

But when the entire region was at risk of giving in to despair, the people found a way to build back: it was slow and complicated, but stubborn and powerful.

Agriculture and Industry

Before the great flood, the Polesine was an underdeveloped area. Although agriculture was the main form of subsistence for seven out of ten people, the farming sector was structurally underdeveloped, while the industrial sector had never really seen any genuine development.

After the catastrophe, the rebuilding process aimed to incentivise family farming businesses and make resources available to build up an industrial presence in the Polesine area.

Thanks to these interventions, agriculture retained its place as the region's main economic driver, but now produces goods which are famous all over the country, awarded various PGI certifications. In terms of industry, the creation of the Distretto della Giostra industrial area – named after the tradition of merry-go-rounds in the villages of Bergantino, Melara, Calto, Castelnovo Bariano and Ceneselli –was of great importance.


The Parco del Delta del Po is a complex ecosystem, rich and varied, with rivers, lakes, dunes and woodland. It is an extraordinary environment which boasts an exceptional variety of fauna and flora and represents the perfect habitat for their proliferation; its unique nature has led to it being included in the network of “Biosphere Reserves” of Unesco’s Man and Biosphere Program.

When rebuilding from the flood, the choice was made to invest in protecting and managing this local resource. Sustainable, “slow” tourism thus became a strategic sector for exploiting what the Parco del Delta has to offer.

Culture and Education

The extensive network of museums, the perfectly renovated historical theatres and opera houses, the major exhibitions put on in Rovigo, the new university area: much of what the Polesine area has to offer at a cultural level is due to the post-flood drive and the extraordinary desire for redemption of a society which, until the early 50s, was almost exclusively agricultural.

Culture and education played a key role in this, becoming a genuine driver of social emancipation for the area’s communities.


The photographic section in this event reflects the dual outlook of the exhibition, which on the one hand looks to the past to remember and tell the tale of those dramatic hours and days, while on the other it looks to the present, and how the modern-day Polesine region has been shaped by the reconstruction.

From the surreal photos which recount those dreadful days with great communicative strength, to the contemporary images inviting us to take a look at the region and the man-made changes, which also celebrate the natural wonders of the Polesine area.


Long before social media, when even television played a minimal role in people's lives, the flood of 1951 marked an epochal change, becoming the first natural disaster to receive widespread media coverage in Italy.

Print was the main information medium. The national and local newspapers provided immediate, extensive and sympathetic coverage of the dramatic events, from the day of the catastrophe itself to the weeks which followed: the rescue and search operations, and the condition of the evacuees.

The enormous media exposure was able to mobilise immediate support from institutions and society at large, not only within Italy but also throughout Europe: from collections in cities to help from the rest of Europe, even down to the gesture of a private citizen who donated his coat because “there are people who are colder than I”, as the contemporary newsreel footage from Istituto Luce recounts.