Daily Life in a Sicilian Fishing Village

The fishermen in my village usually go out in these boats.

 

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Each village along the coastline has its own particular colour scheme. Our village uses orange, white and blue, but there are some fishermen who originally came from another village along the coast where they use green instead of blue.

 

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I always buy my fish from this man.

 

Fisherman Sicily - Sicilian Housewife

 

The boats are made of wood, and the fishermen either row them with wooden oars, or plonk outboard motors on the back, depending what fish they are trying to catch. They go out early in the morning, about 4a.m., so they don’t use their motors till they are away from the houses near the beach.

 

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To catch octopus, they go out as early as midnight and shine lights into the water. This makes the octopi come up to the surface to see what is going on, so they are easier to catch. The fishermen al have a collection of nets for different types of fish, which are different sizes and have different holes and types of thread.

 

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Some nets are extremely long, and they spread them along the entire promenade in front of the sea, to check them for holes and work along them, making repairs. Everyone in the village knows not to step on them, even though they are covering the whole pavement.

“Just doing a bit of embroidery” the fishermen usually say, as they wave at you with their curved bone needles.

 

fishermen Sicily - Sicilian Housewife

 

This is a larger boat with space to sleep. These are manned by three fishermen, who usually go further out to sea and stay out for three days. They catch more fish, freeze them on board and sell them to wholesalers.

 

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In our village, the fishermen work alone and sell their fish on the beach early in the morning.

Some other fish sellers join them, selling fish from the wholesale market that they have splashed with sea water and defrosted. People from outside the village think they are getting fresh fish, but we locals know who sells the real fresh stuff!

 

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Often, their fish, prawns or calamari are still alive and squirming. If they are not, you can see from the wet, shiny eyes that they have never been frozen.

 

Rocks, SIcily

 

The easiest way of all to identify who is selling fresh fish is the physique of the fishermen, though. Hauling up a soaking wet net, full of live fish trying to get away, takes immense strength.

The real fishermen are broad-shouldered burly giants. And they all wince when they bend over, because they have bad backs – every last one of them!

 

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The vast majority of the people in our tiny village depend on the sea and the fish for their livelihood. There are six fish-canning and bottling plants in the village, where the women work putting anchovies in jars of olive oil, preserving octopus and canning fresh tuna. The produce is exported all over the world, even as far away as Thailand.

 

Fisherman Sicily 2 - Sicilian Housewife

 

These are the real masters of the sea, though!

 

seagull Sicily

 

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32 thoughts on “Daily Life in a Sicilian Fishing Village

  1. Excellent writing . . .
    Now, since it looks like I will never make it to the island, you must be my eyes and ears. My dad always said that Sicilians (as opposed to the half-breed mainlanders) often have blue eyes. But as I got older I realized that my eyes are my mother’s, German.
    So what do you see when you look in the local guys’ eyes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that guy I buy fish from has blue eyes and I always tease him that he has about 90% Viking/Norman ancestry and should get himself a helmet with horns on!
      I also see a young lad around the village with phosphorescent blonde hair, blue eyes and he’s really tall with freckles, I thought he was a tourist till he started speaking Sicilian!
      There are some really dark people too of course. I have a friend who says everyone thinks she is an Arab, she travels a lot as she’s an opera singer and she said she once got accosted by a Muslim bloke telling her off for “looking slutty with make up on”. !!!!
      I’d say in an average school class of 25 kids, there will be 3 with blue eyes, 5 with green eyes and the rest brown. And about 15 will have dark brown hair (a few black) and the rest will have mid brown hair, and two or three with blazing ginger or blonde. By the time they’re adults most of the mid-brown hair has gone dark brown and most of the dark hair is so dark it looks black.
      So there you go, my analysis of the Sicilian demographic!
      The short answer is, yes, Sicilians are a highly varied bunch and you see loads more people with blue eyes than you do in mainland Italy, especially southern Italy where blue eyes are extremely rare.

      Like

  2. Hello,
    Feeling better?
    Thank you for this story, with the photos and the explanation on the differing color schemes. I had no idea that it was determined by logistics.
    In the modern day classic, “The Black Stallion” (1979) by Francis Ford Coppola, there’s a scene in the film, that I’ll not go into detail, spoiling the film if you’ve not seen it, where you can see a double green livery on, what I suspect is a sardine boat, light green on the inside up to the gunwales, and a bit darker green on the gunwales and equipment. Now, thanks to you; I’ll have to read the book to satiate my curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder if anyone has ever made a list of the colours used by each village? and how the tradition started?

      Thanks for asking about my health – currently, every time I have something checked we discover yet another problem!!! And need even more tests. But I am actually feeling a bnit better lately so I don’t think my demise is imminent! 🙂

      Like

  3. Oh- I love this post-Thank you! It reminds me of the village of Trapetto, where I stayed the first few days of my fist trip to Sicily last Fall.

    On the subject of blue eyes- My father’s parents, both from Mazara del Vallo, had blue eyes, as did my dad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think a lot of people don’t realise there are plenty of blue eyes and blonde hair in Sicily as well as some really dark people as well. And I’m sure a lot of people don’t know that many Sicilians are extremely tall!
      I sometimes get people pontificating in comments abotu what Sicilians look like, but you can’t generalise at all as they are so varied.

      Like

  4. Aspra! Last year I would get my espresso & pane & frutta in town before making my way back to our rental… I miss every corner of Sicily
    Next summer allow me to buy you a granita e cannolo at Bacio

    Liked by 1 person

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