The strange structures off Italy’s Adriatic coast

While in China writing and photographing an article for an upcoming issue of Le Monde d’Hermès I saw that the latest issue is out, with my article about the trabocchi of Abruzzo, Italy — the article can be read here or you can pick up a copy (it is published in a dozen languages) at any Hermès store.

The trabocchi are strange and beautiful wooden structures of mythical origin — some say they were started by the Phoenicians, others by Sephardic Jews migrating from France — that serve as fishing platforms, with giant webbed arms cantilevered over the sea that can be lowered through a primitive but ingenious collection of ropes wrapped around a log.  These structures are not quite part of the land nor entirely at sea but, instead, occupy something like a compromise between the two elements.  They are approached by a walkway and built on stilts that follow the rocks in the coastal shoals like stepping stones, so the form of a trabocco is dictated entirely by the particular contours of its environment.  Though they serve a practical need, when seen from a distance, silhouetted against the sun, the trabocchi become something abstract and delicate, inspiring the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio (who was from that region of Italy) to liken them to spiders on the sea.  Whatever their origins, it is intriguing that the only similar structure I’ve ever seen is in Cochin, in the Indian state of Kerala, where the massive pulley-operated fishing nets are called “Chinese” though no one there knows where they are really from either.

Click images below or on the following links to see more of Sean’s photographs of Italy and India.


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