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Tasting Life as a Local in Gargano

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

young woman taking a selfie with an old fisherman on his trabucco in Gargano Italy

On the coast of Gargano, the “spur” of Italy’s boot, there’s a well-known restaurant built on a wooden pier jutting out into the sea. It’s actually an ancient fishing machine called a trabucco, and visitors flock there to sit at rustic wooden tables with a glass of prosecco in hand as the sun goes down. Naturally, I loved the idea of combining food, local tradition, and nature, so I had to check it out for myself.

It was…okay. The food was too fancy for its own good and the prices were ambitious. The place had been built up to accommodate more people and it just felt like too much buzz for such a humble place. Later, I asked a local for a great seafood restaurant that was perhaps outside the beaten path..or better yet, in the middle of nowhere.

She mentioned a place with sunset views, an ancient watch tower in the distance, and a nearby trabucco still in operation…all keywords that made my eyes big with excitement.

An authentic trabucco in Gargano, Italy. Ropes, wooden piles and planks, and a hut on stilts at the edge of the Adriatic Sea, used for fishing

Later the next evening, my travel partner, Agita, and I pulled up to the restaurant a few minutes early and, spotting the wooden piles and various nets of the trabucco, eased our way over to get as close as possible without stirring up a napping fisherman who might come after us.

Just as I was a step away from practically welcoming myself aboard, the owner of the trabucco stepped out of the little hut and caught me red handed with my camera raised. I waved and quickly backed away, aware that I was disturbing his personal haven.

To my surprise and utter pleasure, he smiled and opened his arms wide as a way to show his pride for his super cool trabucco– and it was, suuuuper cool!

old fisherman posing on his trabucco fishing machine in Gargano italy

He welcomed us onboard and explained how the trabucco works, with ropes and pulleys raising nets full of fish from the sea. The sun was setting and a golden glow highlighted every characteristic in the old man’s face. I could tell he hadn’t had a life of luxury but an even moreso rewarding one, full of hurdles and difficult times that had nurtured a deep gratitude for life’s simplicities and a great respect for nature.

A sense of humor too! He was a ham (or maybe they say a “prosciutto” instead?) and ate up all our paparazzi-attention we gave him between capturing video, instagram stories, photos, and selfies (god help us).

old fisherman and an asian visitor on his trabucco fishing machine in gargano italy
Inside a fisherman's hut with nets and fish tails hanging from the ceiling and the sea visible through the windows

Before I knew it, a sweet nonna had stepped out of the hut to see what all the fuss was about. It was his wife, a short woman wearing blue florals and glasses from the ‘50s. She was timid, and clearly accustomed to her husband getting most of the attention, so I made sure to direct some of my questions just to her. Inside the hut, different sea creatures, shells, and big fish tails had been used to decorate the walls.

They shared the synopsis of their life’s story as we were now late for our reservation next door, or I suppose “on time” for Italians. It was difficult to part from such a profound that I knew I’d hold onto for the rest of my life.