Azienda Valli Comunali di Comacchio carried out its functions in three essential fields: fish farming in the lagoons and fishing, surveillance against illegal fishing, administration and fish marketing.
Since 1933, the Azienda has also been managing a factory producing marinated eels, an activity that was previously carried out by a myriad private concerns.
The whole processing cycle of eels and Big-scale sand smelts used to take place in the factory premises: this activity has continued for over sixty years in Manifattura dei Marinati, including the so-called “Calata”, a landing place for boats delivering the fish, the Fire Room (“Sala dei Fuochi”) with its twelve fireplaces used to cook eels, the Vinegars’ Room (“Sala degli aceti”) with tuns and barrels, and the Frying Room (“friggitoria”) to cook Big-scale sand smelts.
The creation of the new Workshop of the “Traditional Marinated Eel from Valli di Comacchio” has given the opportunity to recover the most traditional activity of the Town whose symbol is Trepponti bridge.
The Fire Room is the “heart” of Manifattura dei Marinati. The building of the Fire Room dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The large pavilion is characterized by the presence of twelve big fireplaces situated on the eastern side of the Room, placed along a single row and divided into five couples, plus the first and the last: each couple is divided from the other by a niche.
On the roof of the Room, two big skylights guarantee the perfect airing of the place, thanks to the extraction of smoke and vapors produced during eel cooking.
The traditional process leading to the production of marinated eels consists of four main stages: cutting, spitting, cooking, and packing.
“Cutting” consists of beheading the eel, dividing it into pieces, and cutting it into in order to favor spinning. The second stage consists of piercing whole eels or the so-called “morelli” (segments) with a long iron spit. Cooking is the most important moment of the whole process: the art of controlling fire and spit influences the whole processing. Packing includes weighing and pickling the cooked eel with vinegar and salt. In this way, the eel maintains its organoleptic features unaltered for several months.
The “Calata” in Manifattura dei Marinati mainly consisted of a landing stage where the raw material was delivered in order to be processed. Here, the fish from Valli di Comacchio was unloaded to undergo the marination process.
The so-called “Calata” or “Fossa” was also the place used for the first stage of the eel processing, consisting of the selection of fish according to its size.
The so-called “maròta” or “marutìna” is a particular flatbottom boat used as live tank, whose upper part is entirely covered and whose bottom and sides are characterized by holes and fissures. The specific use of this kind of boats depended on their size: the big ones were used in the long-distance transport of fish, while the smaller “marottine” were used to cover short routes, for instance from the fishing stations to Manifattura dei Marinati.
These floating live tanks were built by “calafati”, expert craftsmen in building boats.
In the 19th century, the tan to preserve fish was prepared in a tun with a tap useful during the filling process. The mixture of vinegar, salt, and water was emulsified with a spatula and, when it was ready, was used to marinate Big-scale sand smelts and eels.
In the following century, the preparation of pickle was carried out in tuns and barrels of different shape and capacity, situated in the Vinegars’ Room.