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  • Writer's pictureStefania Gioia

Legends and Fishermen of the Lagoon

According to historical sources, houses in Burano are variously colored because fishermen, in ancient times, needed to be able to find the route to their own homes, despite fog and bad weather. On the other side, some locals report that, at the end of their workdays, they used to get so drunk that it would have been impossible for them to recognize their way home without the help of vivaciously painted walls...

Whatever might be the truth, Burano, as the many, scarcely populated islands of the Northern and Southern Venetian lagoon, is always been “jurisdiction” of the seamen who, in 1896, founded the Cooperativa San Marco, probably the most ancient fishermen cooperative in Italy.

For someone who never visited these islands, it may be interesting to plunge into this mysterious side-world, where history mixes with legends and fresh seafood becomes part of the most delicious regional recipes.

We had the pleasure to meet some of the cooperative members and ask about the fishing season, usually going from March to November. Damiano, who always lived in Burano, has been fisherman for dozens of years and also practices Venetian voga rowing. He usually dives for novellame, young species such as bream, sea bass, mullet and eel which are drawn to the lagoon valleys and afterwards captured with special dragnets to be finally sold to the local markets.

As far as Domenico, his family has been engaged in fishing activities since Serenissima age and he is a so-called molecante, whose finickin job is to select gransi boni from gransi matti: in English words, he separates the good crabs, which already lost the carapace and are ready to be eaten, from the others, that will be let free till ready to be captured again.

Passed down through generations, these charming, traditional jobs might not be enough for the islands community, therefore some of the fishermen, during the spare time, arrange tourism fishing boats and invite curious explorers to visit this mysterious area made of water and sand and populated by an incredible diversity of birds. Not far from Burano, even a colony of flamingos has chosen the lagoon to spend the winter: a real delight for birdwatchers!

In the same area, right behind Torcello, there’s a sandbank called Monte dell’Oro (Golden Mountain), where legend wants Attila’s treasure to be buried: according to the story, a Huns’ flock chasing Altino’s inhabitants had literally sunk into the muddy soil, along with its carts containing spoils of war (and apparently including Attila’s arch)!

According to many fishermen, who often spend nights out in the dark, inscrutable lagoon, the treasure is still guarded by the Huns’ spirits, and whoever tried to find it ended up dying violently…

If you’d like to listen viva voce to these magical legends, Have a Glass in Venice, through the lagoon fishermen, will introduce you to this mysterious land, where reality and dream mix up in a memorable landscape.

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