Ever since I first saw the trabocchi along the Abruzzo coast I wanted to get on one and have a good look around. These wooden platforms on stilts, with their complex array of ropes, nets and pulleys allow the fishermen to seek out fish without the need for a boat. I think Sammy Dunham of Life in Abruzzo got it right when she described them as a way of fishing for the seasick.
When the invitation came to go to lunch on a trabocco I was like an excited child. Not only would I get to look at one up close, I’d also get a chance to see one in action.
This was a special gathering of family and friends and numbers were limited to less than thirty. Thirty may seem like a large number but Italian families easily extend and I think the hardest task is actually to keep the numbers down. The fact that P and I received an invitation was both a surprise and an honour that had to be embraced.
We were told there was going to be plenty of opportunity for swimming before lunch so we should arrive early and work up an appetite. I’m not the best swimmer in the world but I was happy to get there in plenty of time to have a chance to look around and soak up the atmosphere.
The trabocco was in good shape and the owner and staff were busy preparing the food for our lunch when we got there. They don’t normally open for lunch, dinner is their main offering, but the owner and one of our party are good friends and a favour was done.
So here I was, relaxing on a trabocco on a beautiful August day, being cooled by sea breezes and eagerly awaiting lunch as my appetite grew and grew.
The inevitable happened. Lunch was delayed an hour as many of the party could not bring themselves leave the water. I can’t blame them. It was warm and looked absolutely beautiful as it glistened in the glorious sunlight.
When lunch finally arrived it started with plates of mussels and plenty of bread. For those that wanted more there was no problem as they were available in bucket loads! They were absolutely gorgeous so I went for seconds. Next was a plate of seafood pasta and once again there was more available for those that wanted it. Then we were served a selection of fried fish. I think there was seabass and large anchovies and a host of other fish I didn’t recognise. All of this with plenty of chilled white wine to help us wash it down.
The lunch lasted three hours at least. Desserts, coffee and digestives followed just in case any of us had any room left. I loved every minute of it and as I waddled off the trabocco I was thinking that I’ve just had a most wonderful experience.
Between the courses everybody was getting up, walking around and chatting. I think we were a bit of a novelty among the Abruzzese and so we had many opportunities for conversation. Although a few of our hosts could speak English (and speak it very well) they allowed us to speak in our faltering Italian and helped us if we made any really bad mistakes.
I admit I was very tired when I got back to base. The food, the wine and the sun, along with the concentration required to keep up a conversation in Italian, all combined to ensure I slept well that night.
There were many great aspects to the day. My desire to spend time on a trabocco was satisfied, the food was fantastic and the location was spectacular. But I think the real highlight was the welcoming generosity of the people we shared the afternoon with. We met new friends and enjoyed the company friends we already knew.
All this on the oddest shaped non-moving, fishing vessel I’ve ever seen.