The bragozzo was used for coastal fishing and was generally rowed by a crew of three men. In the area around Chioggia it was the most common boat type, between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, it replaced another widely used boat, the tartana, which came from Chioggia, too. The advent of motor boats, though, determined a fast decline in popularity for bragozzi which, by the end of the Second World War, had practically passed into oblivion.
The advent of the bragozzo in the 19th century meant that people had more chances to own a large fishing boat, and this favoured those who fished in the high Adriatic Sea.
The bragozzo was built in squeri by using sesti – fixed moulds which were necessary to build the corbe, i.e. the bulkhead, the boat’s transverse walls. By the end of the 19th century, it was 12 meters and a half long, 3.15 meters wide and 1.05 meters tall, it had a central hatch on the bow and one astern, as well as a door on the bow. Its helm was almost 4 meters long.
Sails: the bragozzo’s trademark
Sails have always been the symbol, the most peculiar and striking feature of bragozzi, which could be recognized from far away, according to the sails’ colour and painted figures. The bragozzo’s hull, though, was adorned with various decorations, too.
The bow was painted with oil winged figures playing trumpets, called ànzoli (“angels”), or holy subjects, together with pesséte, on the sides, which were calle bòli if outlined or framed. The purpose of these paintings was, of course, getting the protection of a Saint or of Holy Mary. Other common paintings were a white dove carrying an olive branch, sun disks and small eyes (the last ones clearly had an exorcising function).
Fishermen often added a personal touch to their boats, by drawing simple geometric shapes on the boat’s sides and bulwarks, or by putting coats of arms or flags on the bow, revealing the place they came from.
Venice by sea aboard a bragozzo
We’ve chosen to ferry small groups of six people that will try Geografismi’s maritime route on board a bragozzo. Going aboard this traditional Venetian boat and letting its captain, Cristina dalla Toffola, ferry you, will be a unique chance to see Venice from a special point of view and to touch with your own hands the history and tradition of this means of transport with a really rich history.