Fishing in Italy: Everything You Need to Know
Mar 12, 2021 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Italy – the land of the Romans, opera, fashion, and pizza. But don’t forget spaghetti alle vongole, shrimp risotto, and prime scampi (or gamberi, as it’s properly known). These delicious seafood dishes all hail from “the Boot,” so it’s no surprise that fishing in Italy offers great rewards.

A view of a bridge across the Tiber in Rome with the Vatican in the background
The Tiber River in Rome

From Lombardy’s lakes, through Venice’s canals, along the Po and Tiber into the Tyrrhenian, Ligurian, Ionian, and Adriatic Seas, there’s no shortage of angling opportunities here. We think fishing is the perfect way to get the most out of Bel Paese – “Beautiful Country,” as the Italians have so humbly named their home. 

This blog hopes to do the country justice by outlining some of the best places to wet your line, some of the most sought-after fish, and much more. Hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll be ready to greet your next fishing destination. So, “Andiamo!” Let’s get started! 

Where to Go Fishing in Italy

An infographic showing a map of Italy with Rome, Venice, the lakes, islands, Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian, and Ligurian Seas labeled

We’ve already briefly mentioned some of the prime fishing grounds that Italy has to offer, but that’s just the start of it. The country with the fifth-longest coastline in Europe has so much to offer that it’s difficult to know where to begin. We know that the Italians are a proud people, and regional rivalry runs deep. So as to avoid any claims of bias, we’re going to start from the north and work our way clockwise around the boot.

The Lakes

A view of Lake Como with a town in the foreground and the Alps behind
Lake Como

Europe’s answer to the Great Lakes, Italy’s northern bodies of water offer some of the best scenery on the old continent. Set against the backdrop of the Alps, you’ll have towering snowcapped mountains and luscious greenery beneath for most of the year. Contrast that against the crystal clear waters, and you’ve got the picture-perfect angling setting.

When it comes to fishing Italy’s lakes, there are plenty of options. They all hold the same prized fish, with Trout, Grayling, Zander, Pike, Perch, and Whitefish on offer. This star-studded line up will make even the most professional of anglers work hard for their catch, so settle in for a thrilling adventure. 

Fly fishing is the technique of choice here, and anglers from all over Europe flock to get a piece of the action. Cast from shore in one of the popular resort towns on Lakes Garda, Maggiore, or Como, or head into the wilderness and explore some of the more remote waters high up in the Alps. Speaking of the resort towns, you’ll also find plenty of guides and charters ready to take you to the heart of the lakes, helping you get your fish on!

Venice

A view of a canal stretching to a church in Venice, Italy

There was no way that we could write about fishing in Italy without mentioning “the Floating City.” Venice is a dream come true for all kinds of tourists, and angling adventurists are no exception. While you won’t see anyone casting a line from the old town’s bridges or on a gondola on the canals, you’re sure to see plenty of fresh fish on the menu and in the market. 

But where does it all come from? Mussels, Whitebait, Crabs, and Clams are the most popular catches in the lagoon – as we’re sure you’ll guess by what’s on offer in the restaurants. Octopus and Rockfish add to the long list of fish available if you explore the reefs, while an offshore excursion to the Adriatic can see you take on Seabream, Dentex, Pandora, and even Tuna when the season hits! 

Wherever you go, you’re sure to find something you like. St. Mark’s Square and the town’s numerous church towers offer an impressive setting to your adventure. 

The Adriatic Sea

A female angler holds a False Albacore caught fishing in Puglia
A False Albacore off the coast of Puglia

From Trieste to Lecce, Italy’s Adriatic coast spans almost 1,250 km (775 miles) and offers everything from quiet fishing villages to bustling resorts and working ports. Each destination has one thing in common, however – access to prime fishing grounds! Heck, there’s even a town named after a fish – Pescara (and the local soccer team’s jersey even contains a dolphin)!

Seabream, Seabass, Dentex, and Pandora are the most popular catches just a few miles out from shore, but you don’t have to go that much further to find something bigger. Mahi Mahi, Albacore, and Bluefin Tuna all call these waters home at certain points of the year, so you can experience big game action on an Italian deep sea fishing voyage.

We’ve already mentioned Venice, but Rimini and Pescara are also good starting points for exploring the northern Adriatic. Meanwhile, anywhere south of Pescara to Gargano National Park is the best for the central portion of the sea. However, the best action in the south takes place in Puglia. All the cities and small towns in between offer up plenty of charters to take you out. 

River Fishing in Italy

We’re not even halfway around the country, but it’s time to head inland. Over 1,000 rivers zig-zag their way like laces across the boot, so it’s difficult to do river fishing in Italy justice. From mountain streams to brackish mouths, there’s plenty to discover. Here’s our brief overview of the best rivers by region.

Northern Italy

The Sarca River in northern Italy flowing against the backdrop of a mountain with flowers foreground
The Sarca River

While Italy’s largest river, the Po, is inaccessible further south, the Po basin in the north of the country is a hotspot for anglers. Chub Carp and Wels Catfish coming in at almost 70 kilograms (150 pounds) are not uncommon. And it’s not just the fish that will blow you away. The monstrous Alps looking down on you will leave you lost for words. 

The Ticino and the nearby Sarca that flows into Lake Garda also offer up great fishing against impressive backdrops. If you’re looking for Trout, then the north eastern river of Adige takes some beating. It winds from Switzerland through charming Verona, to the Adriatic, and the Brenta, running parallel to it, is almost as good! All of these hunting grounds played a part in hosting the 2018 World Fly Fishing Championships, so you know you’re in for a treat!

Come from spring through fall, and you’ll find plenty of Trout and Grayling biting, while Carp and Catfish are here year-round! Wherever you go, whenever you come – you can expect some serious action. 

Central Italy

An Trout is held in the shallow waters in a central Italian river
A Trout caught in the Scoltenna before being released

There’s no doubt that central Italy is the place to come for freshwater fishing. The rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany are separated from one another (and from neighboring regions) by a series of productive waterways, while the Tiber runs south to Rome and the sea here, too. In fact, the capital is as good as anywhere to cast a line, with the Tiber offering more than just a convenient spot to take in the city’s ancient ruins. 

Pike, Perch, and Asp are welcome additions to the fishing scene here, giving you more fish to target when casting your line. A fly rod is the choice of weapon for most anglers, and there’s no shortage of prime spots to go.

Head to the Lima River in Tuscany, and explore the nearby historical towns of Pisa and Lucca in between bites. The border with Emilia-Romagna is marked by the Scoltenna, which offers some of the biggest Trout around. Meanwhile, further inland, the Tiber and Nero Rivers are full of fish waiting to take your bait. Beware, though, some spots are for catch-and-release fishing only, but that’s just why the fishing is so hot!

Southern Italy

A view of the Volturno River flowing through a valley in Italy
The Volturno River

Due to the warm climate, a lot of southern Italy’s waterways are dry for the best part of the year, so freshwater fishing is not as popular as in the north. However, some of the same stellar fish can be found if you know where to look. 

Conservation efforts are underway to revive the fisheries of the south, with lakes being developed in certain areas, offering Trout, Mullet, Eel, and Pike fishing. The Volturno River north of Naples is a fly fishing hotspot, with the Sele just south of Salerno offering up some solid action too. Down in Calabria, most angling attention turns to the sea, which is where we’ll head next!

The Ionian Sea and Sicily

An aerial view of a Roman amphitheater in Taormina, Sicily, with Mount Etna in the background
Taormina, Sicily

Wherever you are near the foot of Italy, the water is calling. Whether you need to dive in and cool off from the heat or you’re looking to catch some dinner, it’s the place to be. The waters get really deep really fast, promising some big game prizes just a short trip from shore. 

Swordfish and Bluefin Tuna steal the show, but Mahi Mahi, Albacore, and Mackerel provide a more-than-worthy supporting cast. Don’t forget about nearshore fishing, though. Bottom fishing just a few miles out could yield Seabass, Seabream, Dentex, Grouper, and more. It’s no wonder that fishing here is a way of life!

All along the coast, you’ll find experienced fishing guides ready to take you out to test your skills. The south-western tip is your best bet from the mainland, with Reggio Calabria a popular fishing hub. However, there are plenty of smaller towns on the coast, such as Soverato, that will also cater to your needs. 

Sicily, meanwhile, is a whole other story. All around the island, you’ll find boats geared up for fishing. Combine your trip with shopping in Taormina, hiking up Etna, exploring the Graeco-Roman remains of Syracusa or Scirocco, or getting a feel for real Italy in Palermo or Catania. The same fish as off the south coast are biting, coming even closer to shore! Basically, whatever you want, Sicily has it in abundance.

The Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas – and Sardinia!

An angler holds a large Dentex caught off the coast of Sardinia
A Dentex caught in Sardinia

Italy’s west coast has access to not one, but two seas. The Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas are characterized by deep waters and rocky bottoms, that make for great hunting grounds. From Genoa to Livorno, to Rome, Naples, all the way down to the toe – there’s a fishing trip for you. Spaghetti alle vongole originates from the area around Naples, while the Ligurians (near the border with France) also lay claim to their own version! 

But it’s not all shellfish here. Bluefin Tuna, although smaller than in the Adriatic, are a favorite, with Swordfish, Spearfish, Mahi Mahi, and Barracuda all common catches in the deep. A little closer to shore, Seabass, Dentex, Groupers, Seabream, and Hake are available.

The stunning towns of Cinque Terre are a popular starting point for tourists in Liguria, while Ostia is your best bet out of Rome. Head further south and the Amalfi Coast is also well-geared to tourists’ needs. 

If you’re on Sardinia, then fishing is a must. Bluefish and Barracuda are biting year-round, while Seabass and Seabream are on offer in the first half of the year. Wherever you are, there’s sure to be a boat ready to take you fishing.

In fact, in the bigger port towns of Cagliari and Olbia, you’ll get to head out on a commercial fishing boat. Read all about it and find out why Cagliari made our list of top fishing destinations in Europe for 2020. Don’t forget to try the island’s pasta specialty, Fregula, with a spot of seafood while here!

Need to Know

Signage signalling the sale of bait, tackle, and fishing licenses.

So we’ve given you the lowdown on where to go and what to catch. Now it’s time to get ready for your trip to Italy. 

The weather in the south is great year-round, while fishing conditions are fantastic whenever you want to go. To make the most of the north, it goes without saying that you don’t want to be fishing the Alps in the depths of winter! Come in summer, when the weather is warm and the fishing is hot. Meanwhile, the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, and Ligurian Seas offer a mixed bag in spring and summer, with big game fishing at its peak at the end of summer.

You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve got the right documentation before casting your line. The good news is that saltwater fishing can be done absolutely free, without the need for a license. Rules for freshwater fishing are a little more complicated, as they vary from region to region. However, one thing’s for sure: you’ll need a license. 

Foreigners require a Type D fishing license, while recreational resident anglers can apply for a Type B. Here comes the tricky bit, however: you’ll need an Italian Tax ID number in order to apply for a license. You’ll need to allow plenty of time to get it sorted, so it can be a pain. Read about how to get one here. However, to avoid the hassle of multiple applications, you can always head out with a guide who’ll sort out all the paperwork for you. 

Bel Paese: More than Just a Nickname

A town overlooking the Amalfi Coast, Italy, with mountains in the background
The Amalfi Coast

World-famous cuisine, some of the best-preserved archeological remains on the planet, beautiful nature, and incredible fishing – we think Italy ticks all the boxes for a perfect angling getaway. 

Wherever you are in this beautiful country, a prime fishing destination isn’t far away. Push your strength to the limit against a monster fish offshore or land something delicious nearshore for dinner. Don’t forget about testing your fly skills in freshwater, too.

And, at the end of the day, you can kick back with a glass of Chianti and delicious seafood (or sausage, cheese, and much more), looking out onto some incredible scenery… Italy really has it all!

Have you ever been fishing in Italy? How was it? If you think we’ve missed anything off the list, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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