The history of Comacchio is linked to the progress of the coastline due to the sandy and alluvial deposits of the Po River, which has profoundly influenced the area’s geography over the centuries.
The first settlements traced in the area of today’s Comacchio date back to the Bronze Age, but it is with the Etruscans and with the founding of the city of Spina, that the area assumed fundamental importance as port and emporium of the Etruscan domain on the Adriatic Sea.
After the decline of trades with ancient Greece, the end of the Etruscan domination over the Po Valley and the subsequent Roman domination, the city of Spina lost much of its commercial role, but remained an important naval junction due to the confluence of the Po River, which guaranteed the fluvial connections with the interior of the Po Valley, and the connection with the Fossa Augustea of Ravenna, the wide Roman channel that connected the Port of Classe to the southern branch of the Po River. During this period, the Comacchio area saw the proliferation of settlements that were mainly concentrated along the rivers and consisted of Roman villas, settlements for the production of bricks and salt, fish breeding and agriculture. From this point of view, it is significant to visit the ship from the Augustan period that kept on board all the cargo coming from Spain and Greece and now exhibited in the Ancient Delta Museum.
It was in the VI and VII century AD, under the Byzantine and Longobard dominion of Emilia Romagna, that the city of Comacchio as we know it today originated as a center headed by the Exarchate of Ravenna, but which at the same time maintained important commercial agreements with the interior Lombard of the Po Valley. The “Capitolare of Liutprando” dates back to this epoch, a commercial agreement which in VIII century attested the existence of a Comacchio’s community with sufficient autonomy to stipulate commercial agreements with the Lombard kingdom, for the passage along the Po of the own boats laden with salt and “garum” (fish sauce of ancient tradition much liked by the Roman populations), but also pepper and other goods from the Far East.
Starting from the ninth century the growing power of Venice Republic, started not to tolerate any longer the presence of rival cities so close. All this led to the progressive decline of Comacchio as a commercial emporium, with the consequent prohibition in Salt producing, one of the most important resources in ancient times.
After alternating events that saw Comacchio under the domination of the Este House, and that did not bring great developments to the area, in 1598 the area definitively passed under the dominion of the Papal State that redeveloped the city in the form that we can still admire today. The Pontifical government wanted to enhance the city with naval commercial functions that are reflected in the width of the road that leads to the port of Magnavacca and in the grandiose Trepponti, the ancient monumental entrance to the city. Almost all the stone bridges date back to this period and so other masonry buildings, including the lodge where the wheat was stored, the Capuchin Portico and the new Cathedral.
Finally, during the nineteenth century, the city was at the center of reclamation works that have profoundly changed its geography, moving it away from the sea, burying most of its territories and profoundly changing the economy of the area. Today the city of Comacchio is an important fishing center (especially of eels), a tourist destination appreciated both for its beaches and for its particular lagoon conformation and one of the access points to the Po Delta Park.