Comacchio

The city of Comacchio Trepponti a world of emotion

Comacchio, a splendid city of art and the capital of the Po Delta, is located just 7 kilometres from the beach, and the fact that it is easily reached makes it a destination which is not to be missed. From the steps of the Trepponti bridge, which welcomes visitors, you find yourself in the centre, passing by the antique fish market and savouring the atmosphere of this place full of the scent of the sea, with its inhabitants still dedicated to the traditions fishing and salt production.

THE CITY OF COMACCHIO

Comacchio

Those who visit Comacchio for the first time believe, just for a moment, to be in the capital of the Veneto region. It is no coincidence that this city is know as the “little Venice”, due to the thousands of canals that divide it and the bridges that bring it together.
A seaside town near to the Lidi Ferrarese, Comacchio is also the ideal place for nature lovers, thanks to the nearby Comacchio valleys and the Po Delta. The town centre enchants tourists with a number of symbolic monuments including the Trepponti bridge complex.

The history of Comacchio

The origins of Comacchio date back approximately two thousand years. The Etruscans founded the city on thirteen small islands which still form the heart of the city. Over the centuries that followed, the city found itself first under the control of the Exarchate of Ravenna, and then of the Lombards. In Medieval times, Comacchio commanded such a high level of power that it challenged Venice for control of the Adriatic sea. With the arrival of the Este family, the city took rose to a new level of cultural activity. 1821 was an important year which marked the first time that Comacchio was connected to the mainland, thus losing its insullar nature.

What to see in Comacchio

We have already cited the Trepponti bridge complex, the symbol of the city and an emblem for the Comacchio inhabitants,  “suspended” over the waters of the canals, while at the same time deeply rooted in local history. In fact, the Trepponti bridge dates back to the 17th century and is an ideal departure point for interesting itineraries to discover the city,  either by foot or battana, traditional boats which navigate the canals of Comacchio.
Among the things to see in Comacchio, there is Palazzo Bellini, a 19th century construction which houses the Modern Art Gallery. Nearby lies the Cathedral, which was built in its original form in the 8th century.
The skyline of the centre is characterised by the Clock Tower, which marks the time for Comacchio and provides a memory of past times. But the long history of the city is also celebrated by the Museum of the Roman ship which was  discovered by chance in 1981.

From culture to nature

In Comacchio one quickly passes from historical sights to the nature of the Po Delta. Just a few kilometres away, art and history make way for the beauty of nature. In the Comacchio Valley, it is still possible to see the activity of the local fishing population, and discover the secrets of an activity which fortunately continues to thrive today.
The Comacchio hinterland is characterised by the Po Delta, which is the home or host to almost 400 species of aquatic birds. It is no coincidence that it has, for some years now, become a top destination for birdwatching!

The new Adriatic seaside location

Comacchio is credited with having cancelled the “monopoly” of the Adriatic Riviera on summer tourism, and with attracting thousands of visitors to the Lidi Ferrarese every year. The seven hamlets located along the coastline offer structures to entertain families and visitors of all ages. Every lido has its own personality, but they are all characterised by an extremely high level of hospitality. The tourist vocation of the people of Comacchio has been awarded many times by the Foundation for Environmental Education’s Blue Flag scheme for the quality of the sea.
Comacchio and eels: an indissoluble union
In everyone’s mind, Comacchio is associated with eels. They still today abound in the menus of local restaurants and are the focus of many fishermen and local breeders. The fish is celebrated every year by the Eel Festival. The typical dish is stewed eel, which is perfectly accompanied by other local delicacies and Bosco Eliceo wine.
 
Agenzia Venere suggests a visit to Comacchio all year round. We like to imagine this city in a precise moment of the day: at dusk, with the first lights from the houses reflected in the canals of the centre. A truly enchanting image!

THE ROMAN SHIP IN COMACCHIO

The relic was discovered by chance in the autumn of 1980 during dredging works in the main canal in Valle Ponti, a few hundred metres from Comacchio.
It was then subject to excavation works which were managed by the Superintendence for Archeological Heritage of the Emilia Romagna region, from 1981 to 1989, the year in which the ship was finally recovered and placed in a concrete basin created in the Museum of the Roman Ship, specially set up by the Comacchio City Council within the Palazzo Bellini complex.

The ship, which sank towards the end of the 1st century BC, is particularly interesting for the technique of construction used, the instruments on board, the products transported, their containers, and the every-day objects which include a number of articles of clothing which shed light on life on board a Roman ship in the Augustus era. There were however no human remains found, either in the ship itself or in the surrounding area, suggesting that the crew had abandoned the ship, faced with the probability of an immanent storm; or that the vessel, docked in a port along the coast, had been dragged away by a freak tide in a moment in which there were no sailors on board, to then wash up on the beach.

Another interesting element is that the wealth of findings, both in quantity and quality, indicated that there had been no looting over time: it is therefore safe to assume that it was buried very quickly, a theory supported by aspects and studies of the geomorphology and sedimentology of the Padania coastline at the time.
 
Fortuna Maris offers a complete panorama of the environment where the ship ran aground, together with theories on the cause of its sinking and subsequent burial; it also provides an accurate description of the complex stages of excavation, the techniques used in the building of the hull, the ballast (gravel, stones, piles of boxwood); the tools discovered, including blocks, a  hand spoke to guide ropes, a taggle to unite two ropes, a peg, a bailer hewed from a single bock of wood, mallets, an axe and a plane; utensils from the galley, ceramics and various accessories.
The ship was carrying a large quantity of lead ingots,  identified with various different marks, including frequent examples of Marco Vipsanio Agrippa (who died in 12 BC), which it is imagined originated from Spain and was destined for commerce. But the predominant part of the shipments was made up of crockery: the find included numerous amphoras, cups, chalices, aryballoses and Unguentariums.
 
Lead objects of artistic value are rare, as it was a metal used mainly for soldering, pressing or practical uses; yet the Comacchio ship was carrying six shrines, created with soldering or pre-pressed lead sheets, with internal compartments housing images of divinities. They are clearly objects of popular worship, perhaps in this case also destined to be sold.
What is also interesting is the presence of a set of scales with two plates, probably used for the sale of the merchandise which confirms the commercial activity of the ship. it consists of a graded rod with three rings - from which the hooks and the plates are suspended, held by four chains - and an eyelet at the end, which was used to attach a spherical weight made of cast bronze filled with lead.

The ship even held clothing, sacks and leather footwear , which perfectly shows the everyday form of dress of the people on board, even more interesting as it differs from previous findings from military quarters.

The shoes identified are of five different types: the solea, a kind of simplified calceus (perhaps a pero), the soccus, and a double caliga-pero type of footwear.

The solea is a simple sandal, well documented in civil environments of the first century AD; it consists of a simple sole with a toe-thong, used initially by women and children, to then later be adopted by men, as demonstrated by the finding of large sizes from the second century onwards.

The  caliga is a low boot, formed of a series of straps which come together on the instep and are held together with a particular clasp. The military version is higher on the ankle.

The pero  is a shoe similar in form to the calceus. the double footwear consists of a caliga covering a soft pero, as though it were a sock. The soccus is a closed, soft shoe, like a slipper.

There were numerous metal objects for various uses; for the table, the toilette, the kitchen and the pharmacy, although their precise function or dating is not always clear. As seen from findings and written sources, a number seem to have been used for more than one purpose, and the resilience of metal furthermore ensures they last for a long time. Among the objects are three  inkwells, probably used for accounts on board; a kind of medical probe; and a collection of bronze fishing hooks of varying shapes and sizes kept in a wicker basket. The variations in type could be due to the fact that they were hand-made, or were used for different types of fishing. The absence of equipment for the fishing of eels, which have always been a fundamental food source in the area of the find, supports the theory that the ship was in transit.

Among the wooden objects,  a mortar, the only one found, although cited by several sources, made by hand from a carved-out piece of wood and then decorated with carvings around the rim; a number of pisside - cylindrical boxes worked on a lathe; small cases made with thin slats, made with the use of a plane; oil lamps from the galley area, destined for use on board rather than as merchandise, demonstrated by the signs of soot on the spout from the burning of the wick.