New life for Trabocchi

Used for centuries for fishing, today these monuments to the maritime culture of Abruzzo have been rediscovered and transformed


In the novel “Triumph of Death”, Gabriele D’Annunzio called them “large fishing machines composed of barked trunks of axes and hawsers that gleamed singularly similar to the colossal skeleton of an antediluvian amphibian”.


I am less poetic, and the first time I saw them I thought of big and disturbing spiders resting on the waters of the Adriatic Sea. When they arrived in Vasto, they explained to me that those fragile wooden stilts that I had encountered on one of the most evocative stretches of the Abruzzo coast, connected to the mainland by a rickety walkway and almost miraculously supported by a web of cables and boards, were called trabocchi.


The origin of the trabocchi is uncertain and wrapped in different legends. Among the many that I have heard, I propose the one that seemed most credible to me and that tells of a group of carpenters and funai, probably Sephardic Jews driven out of Spain, who reached the coast of Abruzzo around the end of the seventeenth century where, not knowing how to go by sea, he invented these strange machines that allowed them to fish without having to use boats.

The trabocchi were used for centuries – mainly in the months of October, November and December, for the fishing of mullets, umbrellas and sea bass and in June for the sardines and the juveniles – until the early twentieth century, when in the stretch that goes from Vasto to Ortona there were still 50, used by over 100 families.



Today, after decades of neglect, the trabocchi have been rediscovered by the Slow Food conduct of Lanciano, which has promoted, together with the local authorities, the recovery aimed at their transformation into monuments to the Abruzzese marine culture and the transformation into rustic places where to taste the freshly picked fish from the large net (balance) which, supported by wooden arms (antennas), is lowered and hoisted with the help of a large winch fixed to the center of the palafitte.The wooden casottino, which originally served as a shelter for the fishermen, has been transformed into a tiny kitchen, while the few tables are set on the narrow outdoor platform.

A use not shared by all, and in particular by the Abruzzo sections of Italia Nostra, concerned about the safety of the ancient structures and their distortion. It is an ongoing debate, which will probably find the right mediations but which has not prevented me from going in search of the most suggestive and best restored overflows, which I discovered to be in that stretch of Abruzzo that today rightly takes the name of Costa dei Trabocchi.



To visit it I started from Ortona, a seafaring city that was unfortunately partially destroyed by the bombings of the Second World War.

Here I explored the pleasures of an excellent perfumed dry white wine, Pecorino, already known in the sixteenth century and rediscovered only recently, combining tasting with a visit of the Aragonese Castle, built in 1445 on the promontory overlooking the sea called La Pizzuta, and of the sixteenth-century Palazzo Farnese, today the headquarters of the Pinacoteca Cascella.

Nativo of Ortona, Michele Cascella (1892-1989) was a twilight painter and landscape artist; in the museum you can admire about fifty of his works, together with those of brothers Tommaso and Gioacchino, his nephew Pietro and his father Basilio […………] Continue reading Source Foto Nuova vita per i trabocchi – 1 di 15 – National Geographic


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