The weather on the Adriatic Sea on the eastern coast of Italy can get very rough--at times too rough for fishermen to voyage out to sea to fill their nets. About 2000 years ago, the Phoenicians invented a sort of land-based fishing machine that could catch fish even in rough seas. Although many believe this is the reason for their invention, some claim that farmers invented the structures to supplement their food supply during times of poor harvests. Whoever invented it, the trabucco (not to be confused with the same Italian word for a trebuchet, a military weapon) has become a proud part of the maritime history of Italy...
A trabucco (also, trabocco or travocc) looks like the upper parts of a sailing ship built on the craggy edge of a small prominence jutting out into the sea. To the a fan of Steinbeck stories, they might appear to have jumped right off the page from one of his stories about the fishing villages on the northern California Coast.
Essentially, a trabucco is a fishing shack with attached decks built on stilts. Nets are rigged onto long pine poles called antennae jutting out over the water and then dropped into the paths of passing schools of fish. Since schools of fish often navigate closely past such points of land, the trabucco became a very efficient method of fishing. In the early part of the 20th century, a successful trabucco could catch enough fish for up to 10 families.
Trabucci are found along the coasts of Abruzzi (especially along the Costa dei Trabocchi, a coastal area named for them) and the rocky Gargano peninsula in Puglia where they are protected as National Monuments. Although some are still used today for fishing, they have become treasured monuments to the history of fishing in southern Italy, many being restored into seaside restaurants and bars. They can also be found along the coastlines of the southern Adriatic, especially in the provinces of Chieti, Campobasso, and Foggia and also in some parts of the coast of southern Tyrrhenian Sea on the west side of the Boot.
If you are ever in Abruzzo or in Puglia on the Gargano peninsula (a fantastic beach destination), plan on having lunch or a romantic dinner at one of these trabucci turned into eateries. It will be a high-point of your voyage and one of the most unique dining experiences of your entire life...
Here is a tripadvisor listing of trabucci restaurants. Enjoy!