In Emilia-Romagna, between the territories of Ravenna and Ferrara, the Comacchio Valleys represent a vast protected wetland area – the largest in Italy – which extends from the Po delta to the Romagna Riviera. The four valleys – Lido di Magnavacca, Fossa di Porto, Valle Campo and Fattibello – from Comacchio to the Reno river, and their formation dates back to the Middle Ages when, due to the lowering of the soil, these areas ended up becoming swampy, receiving more later also salty waters coming from the Adriatic Sea, and today they are constituted for three quarters of brackish water.
The panorama of the Valleys is characterized by the presence of the so-called “Casoni“, which were huts made of straw and reeds used as fishing posts but also for controlling the territory, by the remains of numerous activities related to the exploitation of the waters, such as the famous Vecchia Salina, and by the “workers”, systems of communicating basins used for fishing for eels.
The Po Delta Regional Park
The Comacchio Valleys and the Po Delta are part of an area under special protection as the Po Delta Regional Park, to which a considerable biological value is attributed and in which there are numerous rare species. The flora is characterized by oaks, elms, pine forests and marsh reeds, and the avifauna is particularly rich, with over 300 species present, including flamingos, gray herons, kingfishers, but also otters and otters.
It is possible to discover all the charm of the Valleys thanks to a special historical-naturalistic route by motorboat starting from Stazione Foce, crossing canals and wide-open bodies of water, and touching the Salina di Comacchio, where large colonies of aquatic birds take refuge, then the Red Tower, and other places of historical and cultural importance, but there are many places to go and discover.
Like the eighteenth-century Torre Palù, in Goro, built to regulate the flow of water and prevent the rise of high tide, or the Casa della Memoria in Marozzo, with the drainage plant for pumping and reclamation. Finally, a visit to the Bosco della Mesola Nature Reserve is a must, where you can observe the last specimens of Cervo delle dune, and follow the paths of the Museo del Bosco and Cervo della Mesola.
The lagoon village of Comacchio
Comacchio is a small and charming village of lagoon origin, so much so that it is called “the little Venice”, whose symbol is represented by the seventeenth-century Trepponti complex, consisting of five stairways converging on an elevated floor. The historic center deserves to be explored to discover the Ponte degli Sbirri, the Loggiato dei Cappuccini, the fourteenth-century Clock Tower, Palazzo Bellini, and the Loggia dei Mercanti, the 10th century Sanctuary of Santa Maria in Aula Regia.
From the Visitor Center of the Po Delta Park, excursions into the valleys start and, at the Manifattura dei Marinati, it is possible to discover the history of eel processing, the “queen” of the Comacchio Valleys and of the gastronomic tradition. The Delta Antico Museum, housed in the Ospedale degli Infermi, offers an interesting collection of archaeological finds, including those of the Etruscan city of Spina, and the cargo of the Fortuna Maris, a Roman ship recovered from the sea in 1981.
What to eat in the Comacchio Valleys
The gastronomic tradition of Comacchio is based on fish, which is fished both in the valleys and in the sea. The eel, on the other hand, is traditionally raised and sold fresh or salted, and the main dish is the marinated eel, which is prepared on the grill or with risotto, or enjoyed only with the marinade of vinegar and aromas.
The seafood risotto is prepared with mussels, clams and shrimps, the grill exploits the infinite variety of fish available, as well as the mixed fried fish accompanied by vegetables. At the end of the meal, try the typical Topini d’Ognissanti, biscuits prepared with the ingredients of the donuts and enriched with chocolate chips.
Activities to be carried out in the Comacchio Valleys
The territory of the Comacchio Valleys is also particularly suitable for cycle tourism, thanks to the presence of routes suitable for any type of user. They range from easier walks to paths suitable for families, from ring routes suitable for exploring the area to long tours suitable for more trained cyclists. The accommodation offered in Comacchio and delle Vali is wide and varied, and also allows you to stay overnight in the heart of the Po Delta, thanks to the presence of nature hotels.