The Rich Fishing History of Abruzzo’s Trabocchi

Image by Lorenabacchilega of Creative Commons

Trabocchi are “fishing machines” dating back to the 18th century.

At least that’s the earliest documentation attesting to their existence. Some sources claim these fascinating structures as being first put in use by the Phoenicians. Trabocchi (read more on Wikipedia) are all along the coast of Abruzzo. During my recent train ride up Italy’s eastern coast on Trenitalia’s Frecciabianca (The White Arrow) from Pescara to Bologna, I saw several trabocchi. My dear friend Novelia from Sulmona has been urging me to experience one of these historical structures firsthand. So, I’ve added it to my bucket list and hopefully, I will experience one within the next year.

An old, black and white film added to my resolve to visit one of the trabocchi.

It was when I viewed the following film on YouTube that I said, “No ands, ifs or buts…I’m doing this!” This means I will be doing an in-depth story on trabocchi in the not-so-distant future. So, consider this post a “tease” of things to come. I’m still a bit overwhelmed with the stories I’m already working on from this last trip to Sulmona, Abruzzo (a visit to Pietrantonj, the region’s oldest winery, and an in-the-kitchen morning making handmade pasta with Novelia) so I’ve opted, this week, to keep my post brief and share this musical trabocchi video. If you’re like me you’ll find yourself singing along. I’ve always had an appreciation for cultures and activities that are characterized by people singing while they work. This is a prime example.

A brief translation of the video’s description:

Sequences: fishermen raising nets on palafitte (an ancient dwelling built on piles over water) using a winch; fish being collected with a silk: fisherman working and singing; fishermen repairing nets.

By |2019-01-19T07:23:12+01:00June 21st, 2018|Abruzzo, Italian Culture|16 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Krista Repko June 24, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed,
    I love your blog!!! My mom and I are friends of Novelia! We were in abruzzo in April. We visited all over Italy including sulmona and stayed in Novelia air b n b. It was an amazing trip! I would love to come back to Italy again!

    • Jed June 26, 2018 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      Ciao Krista, Thank you! I’m happy to know that you’ve also been blessed to be friends of Novelia. She is a gem. Like you, every time I go to Abruzzo, I leave resolving to come back for more! Jed

  2. Kevin June 22, 2018 at 9:28 pm - Reply


    As always, so very informative. I remember seeing images of these structures and simply thinking of them as “over the water fishing huts” or “over the water restaurants”! LOL I had no clue, before now, that they were so historic and filled with so much tradition. Btw…. I can easily imagine a modern re-creation of that video… with you in the starring role! Better get your singing voice ready! 🙂

    • Jed June 26, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Kevin, I got a good chuckle out of your comment––the part about recreating the video with me singing. I think I’ll have to spare my followers the pain of listening to me sing, even though my baritone voice wouldn’t be so bad with a bit of training! Who knows? Stranger things have happened!

  3. Nancy June 22, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

    We are going with Susan and Gary week after next to try a trabocchi. Very excited. Do you know a good one?

    • Jed June 22, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

      Ciao Nancy, I’m going to reach out to my friend Novelia who surely will have a suggestion or two!

  4. Eloise June 22, 2018 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Thanks for an informative and visual blog!!

    • Jed June 22, 2018 at 12:52 pm - Reply

      Prego! I’m glad you like!

  5. elizabeth wholey June 21, 2018 at 10:43 pm - Reply

    Wonderful video, looking forward to your research and to find out how they’re fishing now.

    • Jed June 22, 2018 at 12:53 pm - Reply

      Stay tuned, my friend. I have a feeling I’m in for a big education!

  6. Novelia June 21, 2018 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Ciao, my friend. Thank you so much for this article and the beautiful video, I loved the song tryed to sing myself. As you wrote, the Adriatic coast is full of TRABOCCHI, they are part of the WORLD HERITAGE. This proves that Abruzzo is not only mountains or hill tops, but offers a lot to the visitors that come to our region, and you know it and have fallen in love yourself with the HEART of Italy. You have become the Ambassador of Abruzzo I coundn’t be happier. Until the next article. A big embrace from your family in Sulmona. Novelia

    • Jed June 22, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Grazie, Novelia, for being such a passionate resource for all things pertaining to Abruzzo. If you have any suggestions for a good trabocco to visit, I’m sure my readers would love your advice! Bacioni!, Jed

  7. joe June 21, 2018 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Love the B&W video Jed. Good luck with your project, share your images!

    • Jed June 22, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Can’t wait to do a photo essay as part of my education!

  8. Marilyn A June 21, 2018 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Nice article! I have seen the trabochi and it is on my bucket list to eat dinner on one. I’m looking forward to your article on Novelia and the Pietroantonj winery which I have also visited. My Italian roots are northern, but I feel more at home in Sulmona!

    • Jed June 22, 2018 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad to know that you’ve met Novelia and have been to Pietrantonj, so you can attest, firsthand, to their being such worthy experiences!

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