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Ancient tradition "Alici di Menaica"

Come gli antichi Greci - Wie die alten Griechen

In the Cilento village of Marina di Pisciotta, a small group of fishermen keeps alive the centuries old fishing tradition "alici di menaica".


Ancient tradition "Alici di Menaica"

Come gli antichi Greci - Wie die alten Griechen

In the Cilento village of Marina di Pisciotta, a small group of fishermen keeps alive the centuries old fishing tradition "alici di menaica".

Skill and old knowledge

On calm nights between April and July, the fishermen take their 8 m wooden boats (menaide) out to sea and cast their nets (menaica) which are 200 m long and knotted in a special way. Their knowledge concerning currents, winds, weather and stars helps them catch anchovies (alici) three to five miles off the coast. The nets are cast into the water up to a depth of 10 meters. The pescatori anticipate the movements of the anchovies and skilfully block their passage.

Following the moon and the stars

In order to know where and how deep the nets have to be cast into the water, it is essential to know about the currents, the winds and the weather. It is the sky which provides the crucial clues. Fishermen have always known that the alici surface and can then be easily caught when there are certain stars in the sky: Among the "good" stars, there are Pollara (Orion), Puddicinara (Pleiades) and Calabresella (a small star which appears to the southeast, right over Calabria). U Stellone (Venus) appears as the last star before the crack of dawn.

The moon and the stars indicate the direction taken by the fish. The alici move toward the sun when it rises and when it sets. In the same manner, they follow the moon. On moonless nights, the fishermen take along a "lampara" (gas lamp) on a small boat.

The nets are pulled back into the boat by hand and the anchovies are slowly taken out one by one – at the same time their heads and innards are discarded. They are stored for transport in wooden boxes – without ice or other cooling agents.

This centuries old fishing tradition – using special nets (menaica) knotted by the fishermen and with meshes which are adjusted to the growing size of the anchovies from April to July – was once prevalent throughout the Mediterranean area. Nowadays, it is kept alive only in Marina di Pisciotta.

The women's work

It is solely the women who are in charge of preparing the fish. At daybreak, they wait at the beach for the boats to return. Then they immediately wash the alici in pickle. In former times, terzarole were used, very spacious wooden barrels produced in Sessa Cilento until the 1960ies.

The alici are put into the containers, layer by layer. Arranging and salting them correctly is essential for good storage. For a 2 kg glass you need about 4 kg of fresh anchovies. The fish is stored for at least four months – in general, up to two years or more.

Alici – recipes

They say that there are as many different recipes for these alici as there are families in Pisciotta. Be it raw or cooked, fresh or salted, as salad, filled with goat's cheese, with pasta or as stew…

Alici di menaica differ from ordinary anchovies by their rose coloured flesh, their intensive and extraordinary taste and flavor.

Insalata di alici crude (salad with raw anchovies) is very simple: The fish are shortly dipped into lemon juice and refined with olive oil, garlic and parsley dressing. Of course, this goes with spaghetti, too – prepared with garlic, olive oil and peperoncino (hot peppers).

Pescheria & Laboratorio

The salted alici and other fish specialties can be bought at small local stores and laboratori.  

  • Pescheria „Ammiraglio“ by brothers Cammarano:

opening hours: 8-13 h and 17.30-22 h (closed when fishing was suspended); Via Del Porto, 1, Marina di Pisciotta; Tel. +39 0974 973118 and +39 347 8260211.

  •     Laboratorio Artigianale "Alici di menaica" by family Marino:

opening hours: 9.30-13 h and 16.30-19.30 h; Lungomare, 31, Marina di Pisciotta; Tel. Donatella Marino: +39 347 4439102.

  •     Laboratorio AURA by Luca Cella:

opening hours: 08-13 h and 16-18 h; SS562, km 0, close to Palinuro at intersection Marina di Camerota-Centola-Palinuro; Tel: +39 0974 273451 and +39 329 5966496; fish-and other Cilento-specialties.

Out to sea with the fishermen

In spring and early summer (April - July), if the sea is very calm, vacationers can accompany the fishermen on their nightly fishing tours starting at the harbour of Marina di Pisciotta or Marina di Camerota.

For more information please send us an e-mail: info@cilento-ferien.de.