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The Scardovari mussel, black gold of the Delta

The bay, fishermen's pilings, and a well-loved shellfish to be savored slowly

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Where is


Via della Sacca, 11, 45018 Porto Tolle RO, Italia (0m s.l.m.)


The Sacca di Scardovari

The Sacca di Scardovari is a deep inlet between the mouths of two branches of the Delta, the Po delle Tolle and the Po di Gnocca. A stretch of water of three thousand hectares, drawn between rice paddies and the last marshy areas, where the comings and goings of tidal waters combined with nutrient-rich freshwater flows create a unique brackish environment, which in recent years has proved ideal for shellfish breeding. Mussels, first and foremost, which in recent decades have made the fortune of this strip of Polesine. "The black gold of the Delta," according to a very apt slogan. The "Cozza di Scardovari DOP," although, in accordance with the local dialect, it should be called ' peòcio, ' or at least 'mitilo,' as per its scientific name, Mytilus galloprovincialis, but in the end even in these parts we have resigned ourselves to calling it 'cozza,' as is done in Naples.

raccolta all'albaDawn at work

There are various mussel farming areas along the Italian coast, each with its own peculiarities. Scardovari mussels bring to support their uniqueness an environment far from sources of urban or industrial pollution and a constant water exchange due to both tide and river current. Prevailing in the Sacca di Scardovari are freshwaters, naturally rich in nutrients, and this causes the mollusks to develop optimally without the need for any artifice. It is enough for the farmers to graft the juveniles onto supports that are suspended in the water, then simply follow their development over the months. Not to mention that the local Fishermen's Consortium also processes other seafood: clam verace (Tapes semidecussatus) and Adriatic clam (Chamelea gallina); cannolicchio (Ensis directus); fasolaro (Callista chione); sea truffle (Venus verrucosa); and oyster (Crassostrea gigas).

On to the tasting!

The Sacca di Scardovari not only provides zero-kilometer raw material, but also presents a variety of places where you can immediately experience its quality. They range from the restaurant proper to the pile-dwelling that juts out from the embankment, having for a common denominator the whole local seafood review: from the simplest dish, mussels and clams alla marinara, as the traditional guazzetto of molluscs is called, to an imported specialty, spaghetti alle vongole, which by now has taken on dual citizenship, Neapolitan by origin, Polesine by adoption. Confirming this sort of Veneto-Campania twinning, there is also the so-called pizza della Sacca, obviously with mussels and clams. Memorable dishes include: mixed mussels au gratin, mussel risotto, clam pie, bigoli with clam ragout... Delicacies, which are revived on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, for the Feast of the Fisherman of Scardovari.

sagra del pescatoreThe highlight of the Sagra del Pescatore di Scardovari, which is held on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul

A history of water and ingenuity

"Polesine dei sospiri," as this extreme strip of the province of Rovigo was called, so often at the mercy of ruinous floods, the most recent in 1951 and 1966. Major hydraulic works have lifted the territory, which first found redemption in agriculture, with specific pride in rice production, and subsequent fortune in the farming of bivalve mollusks, mussels and clams in primis. It was in 1976 that the Consortium was created, bringing together all 14 fishermen's cooperatives in the area in a record-breaking entrepreneurial structure. The 1980s saw a market affirmation that after 30 years can be said to have culminated in 2013 with the EU recognition of the PDO, or Protected Designation of Origin for the "Scardovari Mussel, " flanking a true French celebrity, the "Moule de la Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel" AOP.

Today the production sector of the Sacca di Scardovari involves 1,500 fishermen, and what is rather surprising is that half of them are women. Which has an explanation in the more recent history of entrepreneurship in the Veneto. There were years, in fact, when Polesine represented a sort of new frontier of the textile industry benefiting mostly female labor. With that moment gone, it was instead shellfish farming that lifted the fortunes of the area, bringing it to unusual prosperity over the years.

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Francesco Soletti

Against the backdrop of the great Delta, zero-mile mussels, and what mussels...PDO!


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