Thursday, October 22, 2015

Italian Boats of the Adriatic Sea

The ‘Diomira’: one of the last brazzera vessels of Rovigno, 1944

The Brazzera

The brazzera (called bracera in Croatian) is a traditional Italian cargo sailing vessel which originated in Dalmatia, and was first mentioned in the 16th century. It derives from the Italian expression forza di braccia, meaning “power of hands” (which the Venetians called brazzi) because the vessel was moved by oars. These vessels were often designed with a lateen rig (also known as a Latin rig) – a triangular sail invented by the Romans. The brazzera was widely used all over the Italian coastal region of Dalmatia, as well as in Istria and the Gulf of Trieste by Italian sailors and fishermen. They were often used to transport wine, olive oil, salt, sand, wood and other supplies. In Istria the brazzera was especially utilized in the Italian cities of Rovigno, Pirano, and Capodistria. In Dalmatia they were widespread all over the entire coast, but most notably in Ragusa and the Venetian island of Brazza.

In the last few decades a conscious effort has been made by Croatian writers and organizations to misappropriate the brazzera and proclaim it a “Croatian” vessel and pretend that it belongs to “Croatian” culture and tradition, once again usurping the heritage of Istria and Dalmatia and forging a new Croatianized revision of history. Croatian nationalist editors have used Wikipedia to create articles depicting the brazzera as a “Croatian” vessel. In 2006 the Dolphin Dream Society, a Croatian environmentalist organization founded in 2001 in Zagreb, even launched a national campaign known as “The White Project” aimed at conserving traditional “Croatian” shipbuilding and “Croatian” maritime heritage. As part of this project, in 2011 the Dolphin Dream Society constructed a replica or imitation of a traditional 18th century brazzera with a Latin sail, which they named Gospa od mora (“Our Lady of the Sea”). Today the Dolphin Dream Society operates an education program designed to teach Croats how to continue “their” tradition of crafting brazzera vessels. The Dolphin Dream Society also operates an art program in collusion with the Croatian tourist industry, using stolen heritage, occupied land, and a falsified history to generate tourism and stimulate the Croatian economy.

The ‘Quattro fratelli’
(renamed ‘Bighellone’):
a trabaccolo built in
1925. Cesenatico, Italy.
The Trabaccolo

The trabaccolo is a Venetian sailing coaster, built of oak and larch, that dates back to the 15th century, and which became widespread all over the Adriatic. The name derives from the Italian word trabacca, meaning “tent” – a reference to the vessel's sails. The trabaccolo was used as a cargo vessel, and generally had a crew of about 10 to 20 sailors. In the 18th and 19th centuries many of these vessels carried cannons in order to defend themselves from Muslim and Slavic pirates, and from French and British privateers cruising around the coast of Italy, who frequently attacked and pillaged these ships. The Maritime Museum of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna, Italy has a newly-restored, original and fully functional trabaccolo.

The Pielego

The pielego was a smaller version of the trabaccolo and was commonly used in the middle and upper Adriatic. It became even more popular than the trabaccolo.

The Topo

The topo (meaning “mouse”), also known as a mototopo, is a traditional Venetian cargo boat. It is still commonly used today in the Venetian Lagoon. An Istrian version of the boat, known as the topo istriano, was very popular among fishermen in Istria. These boats were traditionally made in Venetian shipyards (called squeri or squeri veneziani) in the Istrian cities of Pirano and Isola d'Istria.

The Battana

The battana is a traditional wooden boat used in the regions of Veneto, Romagna and Istria. The battana originated among the ancient Italian navigators of the Po Valley and Venetian Lagoon. From here it spread to the areas surrounding the cities of Bellaria-Igea Marina, San Mauro Mare and Goro in Romagna, Fano and Senigallia in Marche, and Rovigno in Istria. The battana was very popular along the Adriatic coast because it was cheaper and easier to build.

A bragozzo in Venice, 19th century.
Taken by photographer Carlo Naya (1816-1882).
The Bragozzo

The bragozzo was a wooden sail boat that originated in Chiogge, Italy, and was commonly used by fishermen in Istria and the Quarnaro, typically made of oak and pine, and crewed by just 2 or 3 men.

The Caicio

The caicio is a small Venetian row boat, used for hunting and fishing, that holds between 4 to 5 people. Today it is used primarily in the Venetian Lagoon, but historically was also common in the Quarnaro Gulf.

The Gozzo

The gozzo is an Italian fishing boat found primarily in Liguria and Campania, but also in Sicily and the Tuscan coast. They were originally constructed entirely of wood, but now often are built using fiberglass. In the second half of the 19th century they were used along the eastern coast of Istria, particularly in the cities of Abbazia and Laurana.

The Gaeta

The Gaeta is a traditional fishing boat with a Latin rig that was once very common in the Adriatic Sea, especially in Dalmatia. The boat originated in the Gulf of Gaeta, centered around the Italian Maritime Republic of Gaeta, which is where the vessel gets its name, and which is where the vessel was first built and used during the Middle Ages. These same boats began to be constructed in Istria and Dalmatia in the 16th century. The Gaeta was built all along the Adriatic coast from Venice to Cattaro. Many cities had their own variations. The Gaeta and its local variants were built in the culturally and historically Italian areas of Istria, Dalmatia and the Quarnaro, such as in Capodistria, Pola, Rovigno, Portorose, Cherso, Lussino, Lesina, Lissa (Comisa), Pelagosa, Curzola, Mortero, Brazza, Bascavoda, Bossoglina, Dugopoglie, Macarsca, Zara, Spalato, Ragusa and Fiume.

The most famous variant was the Gaeta falcata, built in the city of Comisa, on the island of Lissa in Dalmatia. The Gaeta falcata was constructed with wood exclusively from the nearby Italian island of Sant'Andrea. These boats were accompanied by Venetian galleys to protect them from pirates. The population of Comisa used to hold an annual boat race known as a regata using these vessels. The first race took place in 1593, making it the oldest known regata in European history. The last race was held in 1936 when Comisa was still part of the Kingdom of Italy. None of the original Gaeta falcata vessels have survived because the population of Comisa practiced the ancient tradition of burning their old boats every December 6, on St. Nicholas' Day, the patron saint of Comisa

In the 20th century, following World War II and the annexation of Istria and Dalmatia to Communist Yugoslavia, the Italian name of the Gaeta was Croatized to gajeta and gajeta falkuša. As with the above-mentioned brazzera, Croatia has devoted much effort to rewriting history and claiming that the Gaeta is a “Croatian” vessel and part of “Croatian” sailing tradition. Croatian websites depict the Gaeta (especially the Gaeta falcata) as belonging to “Croatian” culture, calling it an “autochthonous Croatian boat” and boasting of Croatia having “the oldest known boat race in Europe”. The distorted historical revisionism does not end there. On August 17, 1995 a group of Croats reached the island of Sant'Andrea (near Comisa) to cut trees for the construction of a new replica of the Gaeta falcata. In 1997 the replica was completed, was named Komiza-Lisbon, and in 1998 was exhibited at the World's Fair in Lisbon, Portugal as a representation of “Croatian” maritime heritage. Croatian television later even broadcasted documentaries about the boat. In 1999 a reduced-scale replica of the Gaeta falcata was built, and in 2005 a full-scale replica was built. Due to Croatian lobbying, the Gaeta falcata was officially put on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998, thereby legitimizing this new, falsified and Croatized version of history, which is part of the larger and ongoing cultural genocide perpetrated by the Slavs against the indigenous Latins of Istria and Dalmatia by destroying, erasing and above all stealing the Italian heritage of those historic regions.