From Greater Flamingos To An Italian Comacchio Picnic

jean at agrituismo forzello, po river delta, italy

Bob and I spent the morning strolling the fields and pastures of our hosts at Agriturismo Forzello before setting off on our search for the colony of Greater Flamingos.  There were a couple of potential locations within Parco Veneto del Delta del Po National Park.

greater flamingos, Parco Veneto del Delta del Po National Park, italy

Having seen a few Greater Flamingos at a distance two evenings earlier, we were desperate to gain better views of these most beautiful birds.

a sign for regione emilia-romagna, italy

Driving south within the Emilia-Romagna Region, we were headed to Valli di Comacchio, a series of contiguous brackish lagoons or fish basins just north of Ravenna.

a sign for stazione bellocchio, Parco Veneto del Delta del Po National Park, italy

With our GPS unit and a map in hand as well, we drove right to one recommended location, Stazione Bellocchio and found it locked up tight.

a sign for cycling, sant'alberto, italy

Not to be deterred, Bob and I continued to the community of Sant’Alberto on the southern side of one lagoon.  A small local park was the perfect place to leave our car in order that we might walk to the nearby Reno River.

ferry, reno river, sant'alberto, italy

A simple car ferry stood waiting to transfer cyclists, pedestrians and cars across the river to a one-lane road that skirts the lagoons.

ferry on reno river, sant'alberto, italy

The Reno River is the tenth longest river in Italy of those that flow directly into the Adriatic Sea.  It used to be a tributary of the Po before it was diverted to prevent massive flooding.

ferry landing, reno river, sant'alberto, italy

One euro later, and Bob and I were on the far shore.  We hiked westward a few hundred feet until we were in sight of the flamingo colony.

greater flamingo colony, valli di comacchio, italy

The Flamingos were still too far away to suit us, and a dense thicket of bushes, blackberry vines and phragmites separated us from the shore of the lagoon.

bob in the bulrushes, valli di comacchio, italy

Bob proceeded to try to work his way through the dense tangle.

valli di comacchio, italy

I walked a little further along the trail and found a clear section where only dense phragmites stood in our way.  I hailed Bob who ascended the steep embankment slightly the worse for wear.

bob in the bulrushes, valli di comacchio, italy

It was still necessary to maul our way through a vast stand of phragmites which was not to our advantage when trying to approach birds.  The brittle stalks were snapping and cracking as we tramped down some small vestige of a trail.

bob in the bulrushes, valli di comacchio, italy

It was a little scary in there.  Bob was ahead of me, and if I didn’t keep up, within seconds, the rushes closed back in making it impossible to see which way he had gone.

bob, valli di comacchio, italy

Once close to the lagoon, we found the shoreline to be a dense form of slippery clay that was like quicksand at the water’s edge.

clay baked into hexagonal shapes, valli di comacchio, italy

Where the sun could reach the viscous clay, it was dried and cracked into spongy hexagonal shapes.

greater flamingos, valli di comacchio, italy

Bob and I got pretty close to the flamingos and thankfully they hadn’t been spooked by all the noise we had made.

greater flamingos, valli di comacchio, italy

Greater Flamingos are the largest of any species of flamingo, and it just so happens that one of the two largest breeding colonies on mainland Italy is at Valli di Comacchio.

greater flamingos, valli di comacchio, italy

Although we visited in September, outside of breeding season, it was still possible to see many Greater Flamingos because a good number of them reside year round.

little egret and pied avocet, valli di comacchio, italy

The salt basins of Comacchio are recognized as a Site of Community Importance.  The marshes are the winter home for a wide variety of bird species.  Seen here is a Little Egret and a Pied Avocet.

jean at valli di comacchio, sant'alberto, italy

Valli di Comacchio is part of the valley landscape of the Po River Delta, and it is only 2.5 kilometres from the Adriatic Sea at its closest point.  At one time, the lagoons were filled with fresh water, but since the 16th century, it has gradually been replaced with sea water.

pied avocets, valli di comacchio, sant'alberto, italy

All around us there was bird activity.  One only had to look to the sky to see flocks of Pied Avocets moving about.

cyclists, reno river, sant'alberto, italy

As we made our way back to the ferry landing, a large group of cyclists came into view.  This area is designated “Percorso ciclonaturalistico”, an area ideally suited to cycling.  There are over 122 cycling routes of varying levels of difficulty and length.

reno river, sant'alberto, italy

We were getting famished, so it was time to return to our car and go in search of something to eat.

ferry, reno river, sant'alberto, italy

Across the way, the small ferry was already loading a car and a handful of passengers so we had a short wait.

ferry landing, reno river, sant'alberto, italy

The park near the ferry landing was inviting with ample shade, and at that point, we had no idea what lurked on the other side of the trees.

farmer's market, sant'alberto, italy

Scattered across the green lawn was an arrangement of tables and chairs, and a small farmer’s market, shaded by a cheerful yellow tent, was set up to cater to picnickers.

farmer's market, sant'alberto, italy

Featuring local preserves, wine and a whole host of other goodies, the provisions made it possible for us to participate in a traditional “scampagnata”, a picnic in the country.

a scampagnata or country picnic, sant'alberto, italy

Bob and I staked a claim on one of the tables so artfully dressed for the occasion with a chartreuse paper runner and matching napkins while a potted plant completed the setting.  The table setting included a laurel wreath encircling a brown paper bag.  Nestled inside were some olive-sized fruits called jujubes while another bag held a small basket of bread.

a farmer's market, sant'alberto, italy

From one of the three ladies manning the tent, we purchased a rustic wooden box lined with fringed brown paper.  It held a delectable assortment of homemade savoury treats.

a scampagnata or country picnic, sant'alberto, italy

A variety of flatbreads, slices of homemade sausage, bread with feta and arugula, homemade multigrain biscuits topped with feta and homemade preserves, a gorgeous cheese with homemade preserved sugar cane, fig preserves with fresh and creamy homemade cottage cheese and a plum rounded out the simple fare.

a scampagnata or country picnic, sant'alberto, italy

I was curious about the “jujubes” so using the internet to translate, a young woman said that  the small oval fruits are called “giuggiole”.  Roughly translated to English, Ziziphus jujuba, commonly called jujube, means red date or Indian date.  It is a species of Ziziphus in the Buckthorn family, used primarily as a shade tree.

jean at a scampagnata or country picnic, sant'alberto, italy

As Bob and I sat in the torrid sunshine savouring our delicacies, we couldn’t think of a more apt way to spend the lunch hour.

bob at a a scampagnata or country picnic, sant'alberto, italy

The ladies kept bringing additional treats to our table and seemed to take pleasure in the novelty of our enthusiasm.

jean at a a scampagnata or country picnic, sant'alberto, italy

Before we departed, the ladies offered us the little potted pepper plant and herb, but we declined since we would not be able to bring them home to Canada.  It was a most marvelous morning.


Venice Wowed Us at First Sight

The Enchanted Landscape of the Po River Delta

Exploring The Colosseum And Its Underground In Rome

A Fabulous Farmhouse Stay in the Po River Delta, Italy

Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean

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