Trabocchi: the tailspin of the giant spiders jetting on the sea

The giant spider - Trabocchi of Abruzzo

At the extreme point of the right-hand promontory, on a bank of rocks the Trabocco stretched, a strange fishing machine, constructed entirely of beams and planks, like a colossal spider-web. (Gabriele D’Annunzio, The Triumph of Death)

A trabocco is an old fishing machine, common along the Southeastern coast of Italy, namely in Abruzzo and Puglia .

A platform jutting out into the sea and anchored to the coastline by massive logs. From the platform hang out nets and all the structures needed to sustain them.

Trabocco Valle Grotte

The Italian writer Gabriele D’ Annunzio, who lived nearby, wrote some strong descriptions of trabocchi in his book The Triumph of Death.

To right and left, two large vertical masts were erected, fixed on the rock, fastened at their bases by stakes of all dimensions, that intercrossed and mingled, riveted to one another by enormous nails, bound by iron wire and cordage, strengthened in a thousand ways against the rage of the sea. Two other horizontal masts crossed the first two and stretched out  like bowsprits beyond the rocks, over the deep water teeming with fish. At the forked extremities of the four masts hung pulleys provided with cords corresponding to the corners of the square net. Other cords passed through other pulleys, at the end of smaller spars; as far as the most distant rocks, the stakes driven in sustained the reenforced cables; innumerable planks, nailed on the beams, strengthened the weakest points. The long and obstinate struggle against the fury and treacherousness of the waves was as if written on this enormous carcass by means of these knots, these nails, this machinery. The machine seemed to have a life of its own, to have the air and figure of an animated body. The wood, exposed for years to sun, rain, and tempest, showed all its fibres, exhibited all it rugosities and knottiness, revealed every part of its resistant structure, was denuded, was consumed, was white like a tibia or shining like silver or grayish like silex, acquired a special character and significance, an imprint just as distinct  as that of a person on whom old age and suffering have achieved their cruel work.

Old fishing machine - Trabocchi of Abruzzo

Once, until last century, the nets where plunged in the water to catch fish.

Those were the times when the seas were a source of life and richness for many.

But today those times are away.

Waiting for the moon - Trabocchi of Abruzzo

Overfishing has eroded the basis of marine life and the fishing industry has engulfed itself: today the harsh life of fishermen hardly provide sustainment, don’t even think of richness!

Trabocchi were a complex and fragile structure, they needed a lot of maintenance works, a lot of physical work and some money. When the daily catch wasn’t anymore enough to cover the total needed commitment they were eventually abandoned and left prone to the agents: wind, rain, waves.

The carelessness of humans makes maybe more damages than weather and about 20 years ago most part of the trabocchi along the coast of Abruzzo were at risk of collapsing. Some of them even collapsed, one of them being  the Trabocco del Turchino, that unfortunately was exactly the one described by D’ Annunzio.

Candie pointed out on the rocks the great fishing machine – that collection of trunks freed from their bark, planks and cables, whose strange whiteness resembles the colossal skeleton of some antediluvian amphibian.

Night rest - Trabocchi of Abruzzo

At that point somebody had a bright idea.

Now, think of a medium sized ship just about to sail. You sit on the main bridge for dinner, overlooking the purple and blue horizon and the dark sea below you.

Just don’t look back, and you won’t see the footbridge connecting the wooden structure to the mainland; this way your dream can remain intact for the whole evening!

A gentle breeze on your face, birds singing and waves murmuring: what a scenery!

And if in this paradisiac setting you are also able (as you are) to enjoy a  fine dinner, we’re very very close to perfection!

Like a ship sailing away - Trabocchi of Abruzzo - Restaurant

This was the great idea. Somebody started to use the otherwise useless trabocco he inherited from the father or grandfather as a scenic dining room to accommodate family and friends. It was a success, the voice of those panoramic dinners spread out and people started to ask to be invited.

The next step was almost spontaneous and regular restaurants were open, set in trabocchi.

Now, don’t even think that everything was easy: trabocchi are tiny structures compared to what is needed for a regular restaurant. There is small room for tables, small room for the kitchen, no running water, no electricity, no services. And the entire structure is made of wood, and over this wood you need to cook with several open flames.

Well, with more and more work the water pipes were prolonged to the trabocchi, and so were the electrical wires. And soon, I am sure, they will begin to install wind and marine farms to exploit what nature offers, not only from a gastronomic point of view.

Not services, for those you still need to walk back to the coast.

And since the tables are few, you’d better reserve well in advance, especially in summer.

Evening on the sea -Trabocchi of Abruzzo - Restaurant

But if you get the chance to have a seat at one of those almost-floating restaurants, be ready to savor a typical and tasty cuisine. The main ingredient is seafood, of course, but you’ll also enjoy pasta and different vegetables and legumes, typical products of the countryside around you.

And good wine of course!

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Trabocchi of Abruzzo - Sunset


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