If you love bird watching then head to the Po Delta Park on the Emilia Romagna Riviera where the pastime is really taking off

Just a few kilometres from Ravenna, one of the most renowned cities of art in Italy, is a little-known nature area that the Ramsar Convention (an intergovernmental convention on wetlands) has declared to be ‘of international importance for aquatic birds.’ Here among flooded forests, historic pine woods and coastal dunes, it’s possible to observe and photograph hundreds of different species of birds, both domestic and migratory. A veritable twitchers’ paradise!

Fascinating Flora and Fauna

The canals and salt water pools forming the marshes of Comacchio in the heart of the Po Delta Park make it one of the most complex and well-developed wetland environments not just in Italy but the whole of Europe.
Building in the area is strictly limited to those structures concerned solely with fishing, an activity that has always gone on in the marshes. The ancient eel-catching techniques still fascinate. The eel catchers use the so-called lavorieri system, where reeds, canes and nets – and nowadays steel and concrete – are placed at the mouth of the canals linking the marshes to the open sea and catch the eels (and other fish such as mullet, bass, plaice and sole), when they migrate to reproduce in the winter.
Comacchio - Po Delta ParkThe flora of the area is rich and diverse. The strings of dunes, strips of earth and small undulations between the marshes and the sea are covered with Glasswort, Limonio and numerous other types of indigenous vegetation, including many different species of orchid.
Wildlife of the four-legged variety is also found in abundance, including hedgehogs, weasels, beech-martens, badgers, foxes and deer.

A Treat for Birdwatchers

The Po Delta is ideally placed as a stop-over point on the migratory route of many different species of birds as they fly across Italy from Northern Europe to winter in Africa or the southern Mediterranean. The enormous reed beds of the Valle Mandriole and the flooded woods of Punta Alberete are full of birds who nest, over-winter, or just pass through.

Bird-watching enthusiasts will want to know just what species can be found in the Po Delta Park and so here is a short list: the Gorino Marshes host tufted ducks and purple herons. The rare oystercatcher and little tern nest on the Scanno di Goro, while the Bertuzzi Marshes are sheltered areas for the rare Mediterranean gull and the little egret. The Comacchio Marshes are the winter home of many of the Anatidae and Rallidae family and a nesting place for rare birds like the shell duck, black-winged stilt, slender-billed gull, Mediterranean gull, sandwich tern, gull-billed tern and lesser crested tern.

Comacchio - Po Delta Park

The salt basins of Comacchio and Cervia are important for the quantity and variety of birds from the Caradriidae and Anatidae family, including the sandpiper. In Pialassa della Baiona and Ortazza, the black-winged stilt and the Kentish plover nest in abundance.
A particularly important feature from a naturalist’s point of view is the presence of garzaie – heron nesting colonies, which have been in the delta for a number of years. The most famous and well-studied garzaie are found in Valle Campotto, Punte Alberete, Valle Bertuzzi, Valle Mandriole, and the former sugar refinery of Codigoro, where there are bitterns, little bitterns, squacco herons, night herons, little egrets, and grey herons.

As if that wasn’t enough, the large cane-brakes of the delta area are an ideal habitat for many small birds like kingfishers, Cetti’s warblers, sedge warblers, reed warblers, great reed warblers, bearded tits and reed buntings.

Comacchio - Po Delta Park

Ideal Holiday Location

The Po Delta really is a place where you have the best of both worlds – enjoying art, culture, mosaics or indeed, nature, for part of the day and sunbathing or swimming for the rest. As well as being near Venice, Ferrara, San Marino and Bologna, which are all located in the Emilian hinterland, you are also just a few kilometres from the splendid Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, eight of whose monuments have been classified as world heritage sites by Unesco. Peaceful seaside town like Casalborsetti and Marina Romea, both immersed in verdant pine-woods, are great places to base your trip and have large well-equipped beaches which are seldom crowded.

The fresh air will give you the perfect excuse to try the famed cuisine of the Emilia Romagna region: homemade pasta, piadina (a type of thin crispy bread), cured meats, fish from the Adriatic and traditional desserts.
Enough, I’m sure you’ll agree, to have ornithologists grabbing passports and bino-culars and flocking to this undiscovered piece of paradise.

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