An alternative journey to the islands of the Northern Lagoon to discover the history and traditions of Venice through recreational fishing and agricultural activities
Burano, Mazzorbo, Torcello, Sant’Erasmo: the islands of the Northern Lagoon are like a treasure chest of secrets and hidden beautiful things that can be discovered in every period of the year thanks to the fishermen of Burano, who propose recreational fishing activities; to the Consorzio Venezia Nativa that offers holiday activities; to the Tenuta Venissa in Mazzorbo and the Sant’Erasmo farms that bring fresh vegetables into Venice every day.
The over 550 km of the Venice Lagoon are scattered with islands, canals, breathtaking views and secrets embedded in sandbanks and marshes. Getting on board of a boat thanks to recreational fishing is a way to discover and get amazed by the vastness and the beauty of the lagoon territory.
Among the secrets to be unveiled there are those jealously guarded by the fishermen of the San Marco Cooperative, which is the oldest one in Italy. Founded in Burano in 1896, the cooperative deals with the fishing of clams, moeche, and new fish that is sold in the northern Adriatic and on the Tronchetto fish-market in Venice.
The water of the lagoon reflects the warm sunbeams while you can smell the ‘freschin’ odour ( ‘freschin’ means fish smell in the local dialect) that comes from inside the Cooperative: caught and selected according to traditional methods, clams and fish are cleaned, weighed and packed before reaching the market.
The fishermen here are the guardians of the Venetian traditions handed down from father to son, each one of them has its own specialization and knows the tricks of the trade: the ‘Molecanti‘, for instance, have an infallible method to select the bad from the good crabs, these are the crabs that lose the carapace during their moult and they then become the typical lagoon dish called ‘moeche’ that you can taste in the local restaurants.
So you might see on a boat two fishermen devoted to the selection of the freshly caught crabs with the help of wooden baskets called ‘vieri‘, while in the background the depth of the lagoon stands out, and you can get a glimpse of Mazzorbo and, further away, of Torcello.
Near Torcello, between sandbanks and marshes, there are some ditches where the running water necessary for the conservation of new fish, sea bream, sea bass and mullet is channelled; the fish is then sold in the valleys surrounding the Northern Lagoon. With special nets, someone is trying to catch a mullet, but if it is not his lucky morning he may only get away with an empty pan.
For those who would like to find out more the project, ‘Torcello’s Habitat ‘ by the Cultural Association Flamingo Art Media, tells the daily life, peace, Venetian traditions and the protagonists of this centenarian island.
Surrounded by a mild lagoon breeze, we can discover the ancient knowledge of the ‘buranelli’ fishermen, who have lately been offering (upon reservation) recreational fishing; an alternative tourist proposal that the Cooperative San Marco carries out in collaboration with the Veneto Region to valorise and promote the Venetian territory and to maintain the traditions of the islands of the Northern Lagoon.
It is a boat trip during which we have the chance to become fishermen for one day and to actively discover the geographic, historical and social realities of the millennial islands of the Lagoon, also thanks to the valorisation of the landscape, the marine resources, the projects and the structures for the development of the territory.
These include the Venezia Nativa Consortium, created to promote the economic, tourist and social development of the Northern Lagoon Islands and to promote a greater quality of life for the local inhabitants. The Consortium, which brings together fishermen, artists, lace, glass and mask artisans, compass manufactures, merchants, hospitality and food and wine activities, offers visitors the opportunity to witness to the testing of the typical products of the area and to have excellent gastronomic experiences in the local restaurants.
The Tenuta Venissa is also part of the Consortium: a former manor estate and one of the oldest vineyards in Venice it now includes a hostel, an inn and a restaurant, where you can enjoy a glass of Venissa, a white wine vinified as a red, made from the vines of the estate itself; in the distance you can see the coloured houses of Burano; these, according to a popular legend, have been painted with bright colours by the fishermen so that they could always find their home easily when coming back from work.
Sant’Erasmo is also part of the Northern Lagoon: long and with a luxuriant nature, the island looks like an idyllic country village that lies between vines and cultivated fields; here the presence of small canals and the shape of the passing boats remind us that we are actually in a lagoon environment.
Near one of the canals that cross the island rises ‘I Sapori di Sant’Erasmo‘, a family-run farm founded in 1996 by Carlo Finotello. The company produces vegetables on twelve hectares of land that, according to the seasons, are cultivated with tomatoes, beans, endive, escarole, cabbage; all home produced without the use of any chemicals.
Under a bright sun Sant’Erasmo gives you the opportunity to go for a bike ride, stopping from time to time to take photographs from peculiar angles, reaching the location of ‘I Sapori di Sant’Erasmo’: it is in fact possible to request a guided tour of the company and to buy their products on site, discovering one of the most prosperous agricultural realities of the lagoon, but also the traditions and customs of the place.
For the digital explorers there is also the possibility to order vegetables online through the website or the specific app, by selecting the desired vegetables or by choosing one of two types of bags of mixed products.
The delivery of vegetables becomes a special Venetian event, where families, professionals and students meet: it takes place in Venice, directly from the boats in Fondamenta Nuove, San Giobbe, San Trovaso, Sant’Elena, Lido and Giudecca.
So, with the daily commitment of the farmers of Sant’Erasmo and the constant word of mouth of satisfied customers, fresh and tasty vegetables began to reappear in the homes of the Venetians and, recently, on the tables of the off-campus students, more and more attentive to the quality of food and always better integrated into Venetian life and traditions.
Article by Marcella Sartore. The photos are by Dave Krugman, @ dave.krugman, Inna Shnayder, @ inna.shnayder, Andrea Antoni, @stailuan, Lorenzo Cinotti, @celestalis, and Francesca Occhi, @francesca_occhi, for Venezia da Vivere.