The Landscape of the Delta between the 19th and 20th Century

Between the 19th and 20th century, the human action in the Delta deeply shaped the environment.
It is in these centuries that, after Porto Viro Cut-Off, the territory underwent the most important changes. In 1827, Po di Maistra was partially closed. Between 1840 and 1872 the main branch of the Delta was Po delle Tolle, while afterwards it was replaced by Po della Pila. The new Sacca di Goro and Sacca di Scardovari began to take shape. Large wetlands were drained and the ancient dune systems were almost completely levelled: only a few dune areas survive today, among them Massenzatica Dunes, in the province of Ferrara, and some dunes between Rosolina and Volto, in the province of Rovigo.

 Dune Massenzatica
Massenzatica Dunes (Mesola - Ferrara), photo M. Bondesan

Dune spianate Rosolina
Levelled dunes in Rosolina (Rovigo), 1982, photo R. Peretto
 Pianta Salina di Comacchio
G. FARINELLI, Plan of Comacchio salt pan, 19th century, in C'era una volta, a Comacchio, la salina..., edited by G. Bini, L. Carli, M. Marcialis, B. Mari, V. Vallieri, Milan 1987 (the north on the right)

Salina Comacchio
Comacchio salt pan in C'era una volta, a Comacchio, la salina..., edited by G. Bini, L. Carli, M. Marcialis, B. Mari, V. Vallieri, Milan 1987

The Salt of the Delta

From the Roman period to the beginning of the 20th century, the coasts of the Upper Adriatic Sea were scattered with salt pans. The most efficient ones were without a doubt Cervia salt pans: already existing in ancient times, during the Middle Ages and in the following centuries, they were among the most important salt pans of the Adriatic Sea.
Within them, the medieval Cervia had risen, the ancient Ficocle. With the reorganization of the salt pans at the end of the 17th century, the town was rebuilt along the coast. The salt production in Comacchio found several obstacles. First Venice, which did not hesitate to destroy this town and its salt pans more than once over the centuries; later, the monopoly over the salt of Cervia. In 1810 the French built the modern establishment of Comacchio salt pans which survived until 1984.

Territorio Cervia
Territory of Cervia with the lagoons and salt pans in Cultura popolare nell'Emilia Romagna. Mestieri della terra e delle acque, Milan 1979 (the north on the right)

Operai al lavoro
Workers in the salt pan in C'era una volta, a Comacchio, la salina..., edited by G. Bini, L. Carli, M. Marcialis, B. Mari, V. Vallieri, Milan 1987

Pettine da riso
Rice comb, in F. GRISELLINI, Dizionario delle arti de' mestieri, Venice 1773. Rovigo, Accademia dei Concordi

Zuccherificio Codigoro
Sugar factory in Codigoro (Ferrara), early 20th century

Ancient and New Cultivations

The territory of the Delta has offered over the centuries various cultivation typologies: from harvesting cultivations to industrial cultivations.
In the lagoon areas, canes and herbs were collected.
The rice cultivation in Polesine and Ferrarese areas dates back to the end of the 15th century, but it is from mid-18th century that it becomes a dominating cultivation in the Delta area. It will further spread out in the 19th century, leading to deep changes in the landscape.
This cultivation declined in the 20th century, giving way to corn and sugar beet, but in the last decades it has been recording a revival.
The extensive beet cultivation gained ground in the Polesine and Ferrarese area towards the end of the 19th century with the first sugar factories, but since the 1970s it has been experiencing a crisis, and almost all the factories have been closed.

Lavorazione della canna
Cane processing, 40s-50s of the 20th century
TOMMASO BARBANTINI, Topography of the province of Ferrara, the plain of Bologna and part of the provinces of Romagna, Ferrarra 1836.
Rovigo, Accademia dei Concordi
Centri produzione commercio
Salt production and trading centers in the Adriatic area, from J. C. HOCQUET, Le sel et la fortune de Venise, Lille 1982
Risaie Delta
Rice fields in the Delta, drawing, 18th century. Ferrara, Biblioteca Comunale Ariostea (the north on the right)

Leader+ Community Initiative Measure 2.1 Action 2.1a) "Interterritorial Cooperation"
Project: "Historical-Cultural Heritage Enhancement and Tourist Promotion of the Po Delta Territory"
Action A: Po Delta "Heritage Promotion"