Welcome to the secret little spot of Comacchio in Italy. This inside guide will show you history, gorgeous buildings and something of a surprise.
Disclosure: if you book or buy through any of the links on this page, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I travelled to Comacchio as a guest of Emilia Romagna, however I always keep the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what’s the point?!
Why Visit Comacchio in Italy?
If we were to sit down together and dream about our travel plans for Italy, I doubt we’d start with thinking about eels.
Great architecture, perhaps. Stunning history. The buzz of a vespa and the starry night of a thick Italian night sky reflected on water, the taste of la dolce vita still whispering on the tongue. A sense, even, of glamour and adventure.
But not eels. Highly unlikely to be eels.
Yet Comacchio in Italy has all those things. Reflective canals surrounded by ochre rich architecture. A shipwreck that’s over two thousand years old. Romantic trattorias, cobbled walking routes and even salt marshes and flamingoes.
But she’s also big on eels, so let’s start there.
No, on second thoughts, let me get help you get your bearings first. The eels can come later.
See the highlights on this instagram video to Comacchio here.
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Where is Comacchio?
Comacchio is a picturesque town located in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. Nestled within the heart of the Po Delta, Comacchio is renowned for its enchanting waterways, charming canals, and historical significance. The town’s unique geography includes a network of bridges, small islands, and intricate canals that have earned it the nickname “Little Venice.”
The Best Things to do in Comacchio
Let’s run through the highlights of lovely little Comacchio.
Museo Delta Antico (Ancient Delta Museum)
Many small towns in Europe have small museums within grand buildings. Few have quite as much to discover as this one. The star of the show is the shipwreck, a fascinating window into the region’s seafaring history, providing a tangible connection to the bustling trade routes that once thrived along these shores. Oh, and did I mention it’s over two thousand years old?
Discovered in the nearby canals in 1981, this ancient vessel offers insight into the trade, navigation, and the pulse of life during a bygone era.
Shipwrecked 2000 years ago
The shipwreck’s cargo, an array of clay amphorae, earthenware containers, and ceramic vessels, paints a vivid picture of the commodities that traversed the seas. And helps to picture the real people who packed and carried them, trading wine, olive oil and grains across the Adriatic Sea.
Interactive displays not only showcase the artefacts but also illuminate the meticulous process of underwater excavation, conservation, and restoration that it took to rescue them.
The history of Comacchio is also one of changing fortune. Back then, this was a major port and a comfortably wealthy area. It then fell into disrepair and earned itself more of a rough and ready reputation. Now fortune has changed again. The canals have been cleaned, the rats have moved on and shimmering, cosy lights now glimmer at night.
Manifattura dei Marinati
The Manifattura dei Marinati, established in the 17th century, looks beautiful but comes with a surprise.
This historical site played a vital role in preserving fish, which contributed significantly to the local economy. It consists of various rooms that once facilitated fish marination and you can see tools, vessels, and other equipment integral to the process.
What’s more, you can watch a clip of Sofia Loren working with eels. Yes, quirkily, the movie “Boccaccio ’70” was filmed here, with our heroine working in the factory.
And what did it specialise in?
Eels hold a special place in the culinary tapestry of Comacchio, where they have long been cherished for their unique flavour and versatile culinary applications. That and the fact that the water is full of them.
The town celebrates the soft-finned fish through traditional dishes like the “anguilla marinata,” which translates to mean marinated eel.
Eel-based pasta dishes, such as “bigoli con l’anguilla” are also popular (and it’s a useful phrase to know if you want to avoid them.)
To see them alive and, er, kicking, wander past the fishmonger Pescheria Trepponti where you can see their malevolent eyes cursing you in advance. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it.
With approximately 3,000 tons of edible eels consumed annually in Italy, Comacchio’s cuisine is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Where to eat in Comacchio
We dined at Locanda del Delta, which served an eel specialty but plenty of alternatives as well. If you visit during the annual Comacchio Eel Festival, you may not find such variety…
Other recommendations: restaurants Osteria Nando and Trattoria Leonida.
Wander around the canals
Spanning over 25 kilometres in total length, these waterways connect the town’s historic centre to the surrounding areas and provide the perfect setting for photographers.
The canals themselves have earned Comacchio the nickname “Little Venice,” although you have to squint a little to truly believe in the comparison.
In short, they’re gorgeous to walk along and you can also take a guided boat tour as well.
Admire the bridges
Simply put, the bridges are some of the best things about Comacchio. Known as “ponti” in Italian, they make for a perfectly romantic, instagrammable stroll.
One of the most famous bridges is the Ponte dei Trepponti, which is composed of three elegant arches. Its standout structure has earned it the status of symbol of the city.
Another notable bridge is the Ponte degli Sbirri, or Bridge of the Police, which is adorned with statues of the city’s guards.
Visit Palazzo Bellini
Palazzo Bellini, situated in the heart of Comacchio, is an 18th century palace which now hosts exhibitions and events.
Visit the Po River Delta
Right by Comacchio, the Po Delta is an impressive wetland ecosystem moulded by the Po River, the longest river in Italy. Revered among birdwatchers, you can take boat tours or kayak across the marshy expanses and lagoons.
The delta is home to a variety of wildlife, including herons and flamingoes, and it supports longstanding fishing communities. With an area of over 140,000 acres, it stands as one of the largest wetlands in Europe and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to boot.
Don’t miss nearby Cervia
Just a little way along the Adriatic coastline, Cervia is another good place to visit to get off the beaten track in Italy and try something new.
The town’s historic core has that lovely Italian charm with its narrow streets, picturesque squares, and the iconic Piazza Garibaldi.
And there are a few more things to try, too.
Exploring the Salt Storehouses, a testament to Cervia’s centuries-old salt industry, offers insights into the town’s economic heritage and customs.
The salt pans themselves, part of the Natural Park of the Po Delta, provide a serene backdrop for leisurely walks or birdwatching, especially during the migratory season.
Cervia’s pristine beaches are perfect for basking in the sun, indulging in water sports, or simply enjoying the gentle lull of the waves.
You can either hire a sun lounger amid the rows of cornflower blue parasols in Cervia itself or travel a little further out to Cala Zingaro where you’ll find more a hipster vibe.
Milano Marittima, on the other hand, has a well heeled vibe and is known as Milan by the Sea. Stop for an aperitivo at the historic Hotel Mare e Pineta and take in the sculpture garden to see what we mean.
Also, look out for TAO (Turtles of the Adriatic Organization.) When we visited, they were guarding an endangered turtle on the but they also run educational boat trips as well.
Other top attractions include the Butterfly House and the ancient Tower of San Michele, with its panoramic views.
Where to eat: Circolo dei Pescatori, a former fishermen’s canteen Le officine del sale, a bright and airy place.
Find more about Cervia on this mini video on instagram here.
More Things to Do Near Comacchio
You don’t have to travel far away from Comacchio to discover plenty of other interesting things to do:
- Ferrara: Visit the nearby city of Ferrara to marvel at its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture, including the imposing Castello Estense.
- Ravenna: Explore Ravenna’s UNESCO-listed Byzantine mosaics, including those in the Basilica di San Vitale and Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
- Adriatic Beaches: Enjoy the sandy shores of the Adriatic coast, with nearby resorts like Lido degli Estensi and Porto Garibaldi. Not to mention Rimini.
- Motor Valley: Embark on a pilgrimage for car enthusiasts by visiting the Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani museums in the Motor Valley region.
- Culinary Adventures: Delight in Emilia-Romagna’s renowned cuisine by tasting traditional dishes like tortellini, piadina, and regional wines.
- Visit the Contemporary Art Museum at Lido di Spina.
Practical Details for Visiting Comacchio, Italy
Where to stay in Comacchio
We stayed in Ravenna and visited Comacchio as a day trip.
However, I’ve heard these properties recommended as a good place to stay:
- Hotel Logonovo: Situated along the scenic canals, Hotel Logonovo provides a delightful blend of modern comfort and traditional charm. Its waterfront location allows guests to enjoy picturesque views right from their rooms. The hotel also offers guided boat tours, giving visitors a chance to explore Comacchio’s waterways in another way.
- Residence degli Estensi: This family-friendly residence offers spacious and well-equipped apartments, making it an ideal choice for those seeking a more independent stay. With a central location, Residence degli Estensi allows guests to easily explore the town’s historic sites and local markets. Additionally, the residence has a serene garden where guests can unwind after a day of exploration.
- Locanda La Comacina: For travellers seeking a touch of luxury, try Locanda La Comacina. Located in the heart of Comacchio’s historic centre, it offers beautifully decorated rooms, and a gourmet restaurant.
- Holiday Village Florenz is a beachside campsite with many different facilities and an open and airy beachside restaurant.
How to get to Comacchio
Comacchio may be relatively off the beaten path in Italy but she’s still reasonably easy to reach.
From London or the US:
- Flights: Travelers can take a direct flight from London to Bologna Airport or Venice Marco Polo Airport. From the US, flights to these airports often require a layover in major European cities like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, or Paris. Once at Bologna or Venice, you can head to Comacchio by train or car.
- Train: The most convenient way to travel from Venice to Comacchio is by taking a train. There are direct trains available from Venice Santa Lucia station to Ferrara, and from Ferrara, Comacchio can be reached by local train or bus.
- Car: Travelers can rent a car in Venice and drive to Comacchio. The journey takes around 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and route.
- Bus/Car: Buses operate between Ravenna and Comacchio, providing a straightforward option for transportation. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive to Comacchio, which takes about 40 minutes.
- Train: Bologna is well-connected to Comacchio by train. Travelers can take a train from Bologna Centrale station to Ferrara, and then switch to a local train or bus to reach Comacchio.
- Car: Driving from Bologna to Comacchio is also feasible and takes approximately 1.5 hours.
How long do you need to visit Comacchio?
For a comprehensive visit that allows you to explore every inch of the waterways, a stay of 2 to 3 days is recommended. This timeframe allows you to leisurely explore the canals, visit key attractions like the Trepponti Bridge and the Manifattura dei Marinati museum, savour the local cuisine, and perhaps even take a boat tour and hike or bike through the nearby Po Delta.
That said, you can also visit the shipwreck museum and walk around the town and main bridges in less than two hours if time is tight.
Other Top Experiences in Emilia Romagna
Emilia-Romagna may not be as famous as Tuscany but once you start drilling down, you’ll discover plenty of household names. Here are some great reasons to visit Emilia-Romagna.
- Food: Indulge in the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, traditional balsamic vinegar, and fresh pasta dishes like tortellini and tagliatelle.
- Cars: Immerse yourself in the Motor Valley with visits to iconic car museums like Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Maserati.
- Cities: Explore historic cities like Bologna with its medieval towers and stunning architecture, and Ravenna, known for its exquisite Byzantine mosaics.
- Adriatic Coast: Relax on the beautiful beaches of Rimini, a popular resort town with a gorgeous Old Town
- Art and Culture: Discover the artistic heritage of Emilia-Romagna through museums, galleries, and cultural festivals that celebrate music, film, and literature. Check out the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Ravenna Mosaics, for example.
- Outdoor Escapes: Head to the scenic Apennine Mountains for hiking, skiing, and exploring charming villages or hike and boat along the salt marshes of the Po Delta.
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