Chances are that, if you have been browsing incentive travel destinations in Italy, the name of Comacchio did not make your shortlist. This little gem on the delta of the river Po, so far, has escaped the notice of all but the most discerning tourists, which has helped preserve its unique ecosystem and keep its natural beauty intact. Sometimes known as the little Venice, Comacchio is an unusual settlement, built on thirteen small islands emerging from the marshes that form around the river’s delta, and therefore crisscrossed by canals and bridges, much like its north-eastern namesake. If you want your incentive gift to feature unique activities such as boat-safaris and flamingo-watching, this is the destination for you.
Art, history and nature
Comacchio’s charm, as is the case for most Italian cities and regions, is a balanced mixture of breath-taking landscapes, cultural heritage and architectural beauty. The old city centre can only be reached by boat, since the canal structure is even more intricate and pervasive than the one in Venice. The local flatboats that provide this basic transportation service for free are called batane and they will be a more or less constant presence during your stay in Comacchio. Feel free to marvel at the beautiful San Cassiano Cathedral, dating back to the XVII Century, and the magnificent Palazzo Bellini, built in the early XIX Century, and at the fact that these imposing buildings were erected on marshland, before the industrial revolution, in a location that, to this day, can’t be reached without crossing water on a boat. These landmarks are monuments to human resilience and ingenuity, and they form a vital part of the local identity. Still devoted to the arts, Comacchio also boasts a contemporary art museum (the MARB), which holds a remarkable collection featuring artworks by Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, among others.
Bird-watching on the river
As an incentive destination, Comacchio presents unique opportunities for team building activities. The delta of the river Po is a UNESCO Heritage site, as well as a national park, and it presents a unique ecosystem based on the brackish water that is created when the fresh water of the river meets the salty water of the sea in which the river ends. This area is a special favourite of bird-watchers, because it preserves an incredibly rich and complex avian fauna, that thrives in its wet and warm climate. Navigating the delta on a batana, you will spot flamingos, pied avocets, the increasingly rare black-winged stilts, Eurasian spoonbills and many other species of birds that you are unlikely to see anywhere else in Italy. This area is also particularly suitable for photography enthusiasts. Among the team-building activities that you could book for your employees, consider photographic workshops, focusing on nature and landscape photography.
Visiting Comacchio is about experiencing new and unique aspects of Italian culture. Food, of course, plays an important role in the local identity and it is strictly connected with this area’s ecosystem. Eel features in several local recipes (marinated eel being the most popular) and it is even possible to take a tour of the local manufacturers, showing the preparation and preservation of this uncommon ingredient. While eel is not unique to Italian cuisine – most people have at least tasted it on sushi – it is relatively uncommon in most regions and its availability depends strictly on the presence of a thriving ecosystem that supports the eels living habitat.
Boat trips to Comacchio
If you are not looking for team-building activities, and would rather focus on a relaxing travel experience, you can forgo all the workshops and excursions and simply take a boat trip that will make you discover Comacchio from a different angle. Take a boat trip, departing from the delta and proceeding upstream, enjoying the subtle changes in the landscape, as the wilderness gives way to manicures stretches of countryside, and the evidence of human presence increases gradually, until you make your way along the canals to the heart of the city itself.