Enclosed among the Po River, the Reno River and the Adriatic Sea, Comacchio Valleys are important wetlands from the ecological point of view, but also a unique example of integration between the natural environment and human activity. From ancient times there is fishing and extensive farming of many valuable fish species: eels, seabasses and valley shrimps.
When the eels feel the instinct to migrate to the sea to breed, they are captured with the “Lavorireri” weirs: sort of barriers located near the openings to the sea and in the internal channels, designed to capture adult fish at the time of their migration, while allowing at the same time the entry into the valley of new specimens.
Eels come alive on the market and can be eaten fresh, following the countless traditional recipes, but, as the fishing season is concentrated in a very limited time, they are traditionally marinated in vinegar in order to preserve them.
Spit-cooked eels are placed in wooden containers, called “Zangolini”, together with brine.
The presence of factories in the Delta for marinating the eels is secular. The most important centre of this work was in Comacchio, at the Manifattura dei Marinati (The Pickling Factory).
Adult alive eel arrived at the processing place stored in "Marotte", closed boats characterized by crevices that facilitated the replacement of the water and, therefore, the survival of the fish. In the plant eels were selected, cut, skewered in iron "Schiodoni" (sort of spit) and cooked in front of the fire that comes from twelve fireplaces.
In Emilia-Romagna region the Park of the Po Delta, in collaboration with the City of Comacchio, has completed the recovery of the ancient Sala dei Fuochi (Fire Room) of the Manifattura dei Marinati (The Pickling Factory), and now eels are worked according to the most authentic traditional technique.
The Delta has strong flavours which come from the intense, millennial coexistence between land and water, between the dry and the wet, between the people and the sea.
In Comacchio Valleys eel finds its natural habitat that allows it to live and breed.
There are forty-eight different eel dishes, ranging from the delicate risotto to grilled eel, where it releases its entire intense aroma that makes it a gastronomic ritual to which it is impossible to resist.