Gozzo, the Italian Riviera fishing boat
Liguria has many sides and facets, but if you stroll along its coast, you’ll always find the Italian Riviera fishing boat, the Ligurian gozzo.
The gozzi are those small, colorful boats that crowd Ligurian piers (even in winter) since the 17th century when piracy was finally defeated, and coastal fishing became feasible again.
Although traditionally made out of wood, fiberglass models are starting to spread nowadays, as they are lighter, cheaper, and easier to maintain. Shipyards that build them are found throughout the region, and they are well worth a visit, and if it wasn’t for the hefty price, leaving without having purchased one would be a real shame!
The local Italian Riviera fishing boat
Up to this day, the gozzi are hand-built, based on experience and knowledge of the seas they will sail into. It is an art that is passed down from generation to generation. In Levanto, the most famous is the Schiaffino shipyard, where gozzi has been built for decades, and because of that, it has very long waiting lists!
If the Ligurian marinas and shores are dotted with these boats during the summer, it’s not unusual to find them parked in the streets of our seaside villages during wintertime, with fierce local cats sleeping on them, as in Vernazza.
Originally it was a rowing boat, but today they’re only used for fishing or mooring in areas where motor ignition is forbidden.
The engine can be outboard – like one of the speedboats, but much smaller – or inboard, and it is the latter to produce that typical muttering sound like a dull song that somehow reflects our mood. The engine is inserted in a special compartment at the boat’s center to prevent this from being attached and is connected to the stern propeller linked to the characteristic bar rudders in wood.
My favorite Italian Riviera fishing boat is the one with the Latin sail, like mine ;) Mount a single central tree to which the Latin sail is lifted by an antenna. Very often, you also get a bunch for the spinnaker.
Any variation you choose, spending a few hours on the sea with the gozzo is a slow slim pleasure, with an average speed of 5/6 knots.
Check these options for a panoramic private cruise between Levanto and the Cinque Terre.
Once thrown the anchor into the selected cove, you keep getting nice details from this boat: constant swing and slow slippage conciliate meditation and, more often, an afternoon nap.
This is my holiday vision of the gozzo, but I’ve to admit it’s not a purist one. As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this type of boat was born for coastal fishing, practiced at the time – with burns, canes, hooligans, or deadlines – or with nets. Ligurian tourism has been developing a lot lately, and therefore such experience is also made possible to curious people who want to deepen their knowledge of fishing.
Meantime, I keep picking the afternoon nap on board option ;)