When for the first time, in a travel magazine, I saw a picture of the Casoni of Caorle I thought of an exotic place and very far from us. I had no idea that these huts covered in reed with the semicircular apse facing the wind were built on Italian soil. So when I found out they were in Veneto, I promised myself to go and admire them and discover them on the spot.
The lagoon that bewitched Hemingway
The occasion arrived on our last tour in and around Venice, thanks to the kind availability of a friend until then virtual, Luca Perissinotto, born in Caorle. Luca came to pick us up from the Venice airport and accompanied us on a visit to his birthplaces, making us discover not only the Casoni area but also the unexpectedly colorful town, which in many foreshortenings reminds us of the island of Burano.
Our walk started from the center of Caorle, which on one side overlooks the Rio Interno or the Peschereccio harbor, which welcomes those who, like us, arrive from the hinterland, and on the other is dominated by the high and massive Campanile, considered the symbol of small town.
Our attention was immediately captured by a strange boat, the caorlina grande da parata, called Città di Caorle. Luca tells us that it is the reproduction of the typical boats of Caorle, with a flat bottom and the same bow and stern raised, but with 24 rowers, used for representation purposes and water parades. Almost continuously since 1996, the Caorlina grande Città di Caorle is part of the procession of the Historical Regatta of Venice. And it is also used to transport the Madonna of the Angel during the solemn celebrations that are held every five years in September in Caorle and of which Luca speaks to us during the visit to the Sanctuary on the sea.
But first we cross the country walking along the main Rio Terà, as the name implies a former canal now underground, on which overlook shops and local of all kinds. First Caorle was a small Venice with streets, small squares, “rii” and canals that ran through it. Today only the Rio Interno remains, but the bright colors of the fishermen’s houses that bring the mind back to Burano resist.
After stopping at the Cathedral of Santo Stefano, erected in 1038 and considered a unique construction in the world, the result of architectural contamination between the Ravenna and Byzantine currents, we headed towards the very busy beach in high season. Our destination is the Sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Angelo which can be reached with the promenade that connects the two Levante and Ponente beaches, golden sandy beaches with gently sloping seabeds, awarded with prestigious awards such as the Blue Flag and the Green Flag.
This church to which the inhabitants of Caorle are very close is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel and was born together with the legend that Luca tells us and tells of a wooden statue depicting the Madonna floating in the waves, hovering above a large block of marble. The efforts of the fishermen to bring it to the ground were in vain and only the touch of a group of children managed to move the statue. For this reason the small building on the sea is also dedicated to the Madonna and in her honor every solemn procession takes place every five years aboard the grande caorlina da parada.
The cliffs that line the promenade were transformed from 1992 onwards into real works of art. The idea was created by the sculptor Sergio Longo and subsequently the International Prize “Scogliera Viva” was established, with the participation of internationally renowned artists every two years.
At this point a Spritz is a must in the company of Luca, who immediately accompanies us to fulfill our desire to see up close the famous Casoni that enchanted even the American writer Ernest Hemingway. Arriving here in the winter of 1948 hosted by Baron Raimondo Nanuk Franchetti, to whom he was bound by a passion for hunting and a deep friendship, the writer dedicated some of his most beautiful pages of the book “Across the River and Into the Trees”, published in 1950, which tells of the love of the protagonist for the noble twenty-year-old Venetian Renata and of the poetry and quiet of this environment suspended between earth and sky.
So we take the car back to the heart of the lagoon that borders Caorle, situated between the mouths of the Lemene and Livenza rivers and the Adriatic Sea, to reach the Fishermen’s Island and the typical Casoni.
The Lagoon of Caorle is a protected naturalistic area, where a particular flora, migratory birds and a great variety of fish live together. An uncontaminated oasis, where time that flows slowly and quietly reflects what for centuries has been the main activity practiced by the inhabitants of these areas: fishing.
In fact the Casoni were the houses of the fishermen and their families and still today they represent ecological homes built with zero km materials: marsh reeds, carefully assembled and left to dry, wooden poles and clay. The original buildings have no windows or chimneys, as the smoke from the large brick hearth comes out naturally from the cracks between the pipes that create the roof.
Over the centuries, unfortunately, many have often been destroyed due to fires, but fortunately it is still possible to admire some along the canals. It is not always easy to visit them inside, but we were lucky because we intercepted an owner who willingly let us in his: a wish made 100 per 100!
The next step, in the summer, will be to explore the lagoon of Caorle on board a boat by venturing between canals and emerged lands.