The knowledge of a place passes also through the discovery of its culture, of its traditions. The building of wooden boats, in particular of the boats well-known all over the world with the name of gozzo sorrentino, is one of the most ancient habits of Sorrento handicraft.
Sorrento has a shipyard and nautical tradition going back to the 10th century. The construction of gozzos in the ancient shipyard of Marina Grande of Sorrento goes back, according to historical sources, to the 17th century. The name of Aprea mare shipyards, the well-known gozzo Aprea, a sailing or cabin boat, wooden or fibreglass, is one of the most important names in the outline of nautical handicraft. The skilled carpenters keep, still today, the tradition of Sorrento gozzo flourishing, built according to ancient craftsmanlike techniques. The name gozzo derives from the swollen and round shape of the master section of the ships. According to the collective imaginary, the creation of Sorrento gozzo derives from the readjustment of an abandoned Saracen boat.
Sorrento gozzo has a gestation of almost fifty years before being built. The kinds of wood chosen for its construction, elm, oak and cluster pine, come from trees with a large trunk and a life which is not lower than fifty years. Wooden boats, which are aesthetically very beautiful, today reproposed also in fibreglass, whose building is entrusted to rules and dictates handed down orally from generation to generation. Boats measured in Neapolitan spans (a span is 26,4 centimetres) and made by the skilled hands of Sorrento artisans who do not need a prescribed plan, but shapings and profiles.
This small rowing boat with lateen sail, with pointed stern and stem, is typical of all countries on the Mediterranean Sea and it is destined to fishing. A typology of work-boat endowed with a grace which has made it famous all over the world. Linked to religious tradition, the gozzo normally has at the bow a crucifix and an image of the saint it has the name of. Sorrento gozzos are dedicated to the Patron of the town, Sant’Antonino, protector of sailors and farmers. The structure of Sorrento gozzo remained almost unchanged until the 20’s of the twentieth century when the earliest engines were assembled. The engine propulsion marks the good luck of the gozzo as a yachting boat chosen by sea lovers.
Two are the gozzos typical of Sorrento Coast, present still today in the waters of the Gulf of Naples, the varchetta and the gozzo a menaide, characterized by a hull with pointed stem and stern. The two typologies of boats differ from one another for their length, their function and aesthetical conformation. The gozzo a menaide, 27, 30 and 32 spans long, usually used for the fishing of anchovies, sardines and so on, takes its name just from a kind of nets used for fishing.
The “varchetta”, nearly 14 spans long and wider than the gozzo a menaide, was used to fish octopus, squids and cuttlefish along the cliffs.
Cultural heritage of a place which from the sea has taken resources and richness, Sorrento gozzo is now an iconographic feature of Sorrento, an enchanting and magnetic attraction of the Gulf of Naples.