The Orbetello lagoon is a coastal lagoon in Tuscany, in the Grosseto Maremma. Its extension is about 27 km². The average depth is about one meter, the maximum does not exceed 2 m.
It is separated from the sea to the west and to the east by two strips of land about 6 km long (the sandy Tomboli of Giannella to NW and Feniglia to SE) and to the west by the promontory of the Argentario. A third, isthmic language of land extends into the center of the lagoon and on it rises the urban center of Orbetello. An artificial bridge (the Leopoldiana dam) connects Orbetello to Monte Argentario and divides the lagoon into two parts, the western lagoon and the lagoon of Levante.
It communicates with the sea by means of three artificial channels: the Fibbia (or Saline) canal near the mouth of the Albegna river and the Nassa canal (in Santa Liberata), both on the Tombolo di Giannella and the Ansedonia canal on the Feniglia tombolo. A fourth canal, the Pertuso canal, was planned and excavation works were started, but they were never completed.
Because of the scarce supply of water from the sea and the release of discharges rich in nitrates and potassium salts from agricultural crops (which have led to the proliferation of algae and the consequent impoverishment of oxygen), the Orbetello lagoon is a high-risk environment. To allow its protection a number of legal measures have been issued and the institute of the Commissioner of the Orbetello Lagoon was established. Today part of the western lagoon is protected in the WWF Oasis of the Orbetello di Ponente nature reserve and the Patanella wood. On the area there is also the Orbetello Lagoon Nature Reserve, managed by the Province of Grosseto and the special protection zone (SPA) “Laguna di Orbetello”.
The lagoon is a wetland of international importance according to the Ramsar Convention. Many species of birds nest or pass through it, among which we remember the Italian knight, the pink flamingo, the great white heron, the osprey, the spatula, the avocet, the cormorant and various species of ducks.
In the past, Orbetello’s economy was based on the exploitation of the Orbetello lagoon and on fishing. Currently this activity, which was once handed down from father to son in the families of fishermen, is managed by a limited company that employs just under one hundred employees. The waters of the lagoon are rich in precious fish such as sea bass, sea bream, mullet and eel. Once upon a time shrimp and molluscs were also caught. The fish is processed locally or sold in many markets in Italy and abroad. Precious is the production of mullet bottarga and the preparation of nuanced eels, smoked eels with the addition of spices and hot peppers, which are without a doubt the typical dish of local cuisine.