Does anyone know what these are?

Barb and I saw them on Giudecca, and we’d really like to know what they might be!


This will you give you an idea of their size

This will you give you an idea of their size

We wondered if they have anything to do with catching some type of sea critters.

And, thank you to Andrew for this photo, which he aptly titled “In the Spot Light”.



Filed under Venice

23 responses to “Does anyone know what these are?

  1. Bert rocks! That guy knows a lot of stuff!


  2. Uffa! (A good, all-purpose Italian expression.) I never did like oysters much …


  3. Caroline

    Ah, well, oysters – doesn’t affect me since I am now allergic to them anyway! I’d eaten them with no problems for years then was very ill after eating them at place X in Glasgow – which I just put down to the luck of the draw. A year later I again had them at place X and was the illest I’ve ever been – which I then put down to them getting their oysters from somewhere with a pollutant in the water to which I reacted badly. After that I had to wait 3 years before fancying oysters again, swallowed one at place Y (where I’d eaten them several times with no problems before this started) & was sick for 3 hours. So after that I gave up. I have since read that there is a reaction you can get to oysters particularly which means that once experienced, you are sensitised to it and can’t eat them again. So I’m not sure if this depuration would help with whatever that allergen is? Thankfully I’m still fine with any other seafood, even when eaten raw – otherwise I would consider my quality of life impaired!


  4. Bert

    The programme was about oysters and the fact that some people get ill after eating them. The chap who did the purification [depuration] explained that, as they are filter-feeders, they take in and absorb a lot of undesirable bugs, toxins, heavy metals etc. The reporter went out to sea with a boat to catch some. She picked one up and said there cannot be a fresher oyster than this. Would it be OK to eat it? The oyster fisher said he would not eat one himself straight out of the sea. They mentioned the norovirus, which has been found in 75% of oysters. Once caught, the oysters are taken to an industrial unit where they sit in plastic tanks with water circulating for 42 hours. They did not say if the water was tapwater or seawater. It appeared to me that the same water was circulated round and round, but at some stage, the water passes under a UV light which kills the norovirus (and others too, presumably). Under EC Regulations [EC 853/2004 (PDF, 154 KB)], the approval for shellfish purification plants to operate must be given by the local enforcement authority (LEA). I have not been able to find specific legislation that requires 42 hours depuration, but it seems to me that a plant will not get a licence unless the oysters are kept this way for 42 hours minimum. If you google oyster “42 hours” you can find out more. The same rules seem to apply to many other shellfish (mussels, cockles), but not to crabs.


  5. Caroline

    My first thought tied in with what Bert found – I wondered if they were for keeping moeche in. Do you remember when you saw them, Yvonne? Maybe it was before or after this year’s disappointingly sparse spring harvest (just a few in April).

    I have to admit that I always thought any necessary purifying of mussels was up to the purchaser. In Britain they always used to be gritty and needed at least a few hours purging; a few years ago they stopped being gritty or barnacle-covered which I put down to them all being rope-grown these days. I don’t think we’ve ever found them gritty in Venice so have never bothered purging.

    Not sure about the UV light, though – certainly here and in Scottish sea lochs you see mussels being grown out in the open, so I don’t know how the UV light thing would work. Is that supposed to be the law in Britain/England, Bert?

    As an aside, since Bert mentioned David Mach and in case anyone reading this can go, there’s a nice exhibition of his work on at Palazzo Flangini just until 20th June (an unofficial Biennale event so not in any listings). It’s a selection of the large-scale collages which formed part of his Edinburgh exhibition ‘Precious Light’, marking 400 years of the King James Bible – stunning works and very cleverly presented in the androne of the palace. And as a bonus, the gentleman who’s put it on offered also to show us the newly-restored piano nobile.


  6. Bert

    You were certainly off the beaten track, there on Sacca Fisola. There aren’t many guide books that describe it. The boxes were there when veniceconnected took their photos.


  7. Bert

    Shellfish are purified by having them in tanks through which ‘clean’ sea water is passed continually. The water is sterilised by passing it under UV light. This would be done under cover in some sort of industrial unit. Those wooden crates do not look ideal for such an operation – the wood would harbour all sorts of organisms. Coincidentally, there was a food programme on TV earlier this evening which included an item about the purification of oysters.


  8. Thanks for the information, Bert. We’ll just have to get to know someone on the Giudecca and find out the whole story. My original source of info re: mussels, came back to say that they’re probably used for purifying vongole (legally). I’m glad I saved these photos!


  9. Bert

    Your photos reminded me of David Mach’s “Out of Order” []
    But I think they are “vieri”
    This translated from’s Itinerario 2 Sacca Fisola / Zitelle (Giudecca):
    Among the moored boats, a fishing business with its “vieri”, the boxes that hold the crabs while they are shedding their old shells.
    I found the following information somewhere on the interweb ages ago, but I don’t remember where:
    [Vieri (Venetian – “vivai” in Italian) – crab farms. Kind of large baskets, shaped like a flattened sphere with a 40 cm. hole on top. There, crabs captured with various traps were accommodated till the time of the ecdysis (shedding of the old shell), when they become commercial as “spiantani” (parts of the animal can be easily taken off its shell, already detached from the soft skin: pieces of this crab’s meat are the best bait for fishes like basses and eels) or as “moeche” (the crab while out of his shell, before the building of the new one begins: these completely soft crabs are fried and most Venetians go mad for such food). Usually made of bulrushes or other flexible branches, these “vieri”, by the hundreds, were a characteristic view of Giudecca’s canals and lagoon. In the 1970s they were substituted with boxes made of small wooden boards, to nearly disappear after the 1990s along with the disappearance of fishing families from the island. Recently the “vieri” were prohibited by law because of pollution, but some still exist in secret.]
    If the last bit is true, you may have discovered an illegal crab farm!


  10. Oops! I see Joanne H. had the same idea. I didn’t read that until after I posted my comment.


  11. That sounds like a very sensible answer (about the shellfish). Otherwise I was going to say you could rent these out to tourist to put in the water and sit around the outside like on the edge of a boat and dangle your legs in the middle so you don’t get too hot.


  12. I think that sounds like an interesting idea, Joanne!


  13. And, this from JoanneH:

    Great photo of spot of light – I would love to have one of those wood deals to put in the canal and be able to hop in in a lounge chair on these 110 degree days


  14. I just had an answer from an Italian acquaintance : “Credo siano dei cassoni usati per depurare i peoci (cozze)”. Which means they might be used to purify mussels. Now, off to Google to see how that is done!


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