On Italy’s Abruzzo coast, you can dine out on the open sea

trabocco
The trabocco dinner might just be one of Italy’s best kept secrets. That’s because you can only experience it while hovering over the waves of the Adriatic, out past the rocky shoreline in Abruzzo, the country’s least explored region.
 
Luckily, I was able to visit the area recently and discovered that near the scenic town of San Vito Chietino (30 minutes from Pescara, 2.5 hours from Rome), is the Costa dei Trabbochi, named after trabocchi, delicate wooden fishing contraptions that sit high up on slender stilts over the water. 
 
Developed by farmers who had no fishing skills, the fishing method is very straightforward: someone standing atop the platform spies a school of fish swimming toward the trabocco, the signal is given to start dropping the large human-powered net mechanism. Think of a donkey working an old flour mill, but replace the donkey with a man (see photos below). With 3 or 4 drops of the net, this fishing method could yield 100 kg of fish for the day.

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At Trabocco Punta Tufano, which I visited and is shown in the photos, visitors walk down the narrow wobbly wooden bridge (which used to only consist of a thick rope) that stretches out from the rocky shore to the small wood plank platform. On this platform, a crew of two women prepares the catch of the day into dishes like octopus salad or fish stew, which are of course served with a white wine produced by the family.
 
Eating in a trabocco is like sitting inside the flour mill or the greenhouse–you sit where the fish for your dinner is caught, you are dining at the very source of your food. There really aren’t many restaurants where you can experience this feeling and immediate connection to your food. 
trabocco sunset
Just a handful of the original trabocchi remain, and even fewer are set up as restaurants. Although 300 of these contraptions existed originally, now only 28 family-owned trabocchi remain standing today in Abruzzo, 16 of which double as restaurants. All of this basically means that NOW is the time to visit these trabocchi restaurants, while they’re still standing. More of them will soon be abandoned or washed away to sea. Already, the trabocchi have to be entirely rebuilt every year due the lashings of waves and wind. 
 
For the wine lovers
If you plan to road trip around Abruzzo to experience the food and wine, here’s another tip for you: the local wine council in Abruzzo has just launched a fantastic new website, Percorsi, which provides detailed maps and itineraries of attractions, dining options, etc for tourists enroute to tastings at any of the 200 wine cellars in the area that stretch from the Trabocchi Coast inland to Aquila. The website is in English and Italian and also gives specifics about offerings at each wine cellar. 
coast trabocchi

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