We are incredibly lucky in getting the freshest of fish in Bascianella; we don’t need to trot down to a trabocchi, our fishmonger drives the short journey up from the coast each Friday religiously to give the small Gran Sasso mountain villages their Friday must have fish dish. Each week we are confronted with a choice in whether we select wriggling blue prawns for lunch or the host of other local fish & shellfish that is on offer; quite literally whose heads are bitten off in a performance of as how fresh they are – great for the local cats!
For those not quite so lucky as to have a man with a fish van bringing fresh fish to their door, but instead enjoying a summer vacation in Abruzzo and thinking about where to go to get some really sustainable caught fresh fish outside the run of the mill supermarkets, do try a Trabocco. Down along the Chieti coast, between Francavilla & Vasto is what is called ‘Costa dei Trabocchi’ and this 15 km piece of pebbled coastline beyond the fish makes a wonderful morning or evening long shadow walk.
Trabocchi resemble a man-made giant beached prawn sitting on the rocks with giant tendrils casting wide nets out into the deeper reaches of the sea. They are literally fishing machines for the seasick, for those that prefer rocks to waves. Fashioned from the salvaged acacia trees and whatever other pieces which the tide and storms wash in, no two stilted trabocchi ever look the same. Each aged piece of salvaged wood has its own internal clock by which needs as must repairs are carried out. Most are over 120 years old in origin although of course not each part on a trabocco will be that old.
For many families their trabocchi have almost become a pastime or hobby, a place to spend their time fishing for dinner but not their main business due to the overfishing out in deeper waters, but of course nobody will ever say no if you ask if they have any fish for sale so do try in your best Italian. This is sustainable fish as much as fishing goes in Italy, the catch is never large and economical, what isn’t needed is thrown back.
If you are based in a hotel in Abruzzo and have no-where to cook don’t worry, still visit; trabocchi are wonderful to watch, they are timeless and a place to reflect on how the Abruzzi that built them 200 years ago were simply trying to lessen a loss at sea which could bring about hunger to an entire generation. For those that like sketching or photography, their spiny skeletons are great subject matters and many a hotel will arrange a visit on their nearest and dearest owned trabocco.
Do try the local fish, avoid the tourist fried & battered and instead try the particularly good local Fish Soup/Stew – Brodetto di Pesce all Vastese – it’s a mixture of assorted fishes, tomatoes, garlic olive oil and touch of peperoncino – delicious!
Official Website of Cala Lenta, the local Trabocchi festival sponsored by the Slow Food Movement- 1st Weekend of July, during this you can eat on the Trabocchi too and that tradition almost carries right through to mid-August.