In a land stubbornly reclaimed from the sea throughout the centuries a small treasure of the lagoon helped a disadvantaged community build a better future.
The mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis) of Scardovari shallows is apreciated for its sweet, unique taste / due to the mix of freshwater and seawater of its habitat. It’s the first D.O.P. (Designation of protected origin) certified seafood of Italy. It's grown exclusively In the Po river delta, in a small inner sea known as Scardovari shallows.
This region, also known as Polesine, has always been a wetland regularly flooded by the sea. In the XIX and XX centuries, water pumping plants like the one of Ca' Vendramin reclaimed it from the sea, greatly improving the living condition of the local population, tormented by malaria.
People of Scardovari used to be poor fishermen living in shacks made of canes, contending their strip of sand to the sea day by day. After the reclamation they were able to found a hamlet bearing their name /" those who fish scardove", a local species of fish / on the shore of a little inner sea.
In the ‘40s, the underground extraction of metane gas caused the sinking of a portion of the village. However a new source of hope was lying under the surface of the shallows. Locals found out that the lagoon, with a constant depth of 1.5 meters and a steady temperature throughout the year, was a perfect environment for seafood farming. In the early 60's a family-scale industry was born.
Nowadays a few hundreds pile-dwelling huts, bases of operations of as many mussel farms, lace the inlet of the shallows. The farmers gather around a handful of cooperatives, united in a consortium, which buy the product at 0.9 € per kilo /compared to an average of 0.35 € per kilo of standard Italian mussels / and sell it to major supermarket chains in Italy and abroad.
According to scientific analysis the mussels of Scardovari shallows are very low in chemical residues so they need just one day of washing instead of the usual 7/14 days. The farming process is still the traditional one, wooden structures planted in the sea bottom with twists of mussels hanging from them, an it is totally sustainable for the environment of the National Park of the Po river delta. Moreover, since the blossoming of mussel farms new species of birds have been spotted, and even several specimen of careta careta turtle.