Martedi’ pesce..

May 6, 2014 / Art & Archaeology
Piombino, Tuscany

Once upon a time, all classic art and archaeological finds throughout Italy would pour into Rome. Whether because of wealthy Roman aristocrat buyers or foreign collectors or the Popes seeking to glorify the church or Rome, pieces were removed from context in which they were found and placed on exhibit in private or public collections in the Eternal City.

Fortunately this process has stopped for the most part, and new finds will more often than not stay in the areas where they’re found, ending up in the lesser known, smaller yet no less eye-opening and worthy provincial museums.

It might take a bit more effort to go see such pieces in “out of the way” places, but the reward of visiting an archaeological site one day, and then seeing the pieces that were found there in the town’s museum the next day is definitely worth it. Especially when the towns, the sites, the museums, the tickets, the walking trail systems, and holiday spots are fully integrated in a professional, yet easily usable and enjoyable way as they are in the Piombino and Populonia coastal area right in front of Elba. Bravi!

One such magnificent piece of art exhibited in the small yet extraordinary Archaeological Museum in Piombino that will take your breath away is this 2nd century B.C., 6′ x 4′ feet mosaic removed for safekeeping from a patrician villa in the Etruscan acropolis of Populonia.


It shows all the fish that fishermen pull up in their nets even today from the Tyrrhenian Sea. (It even depicts a dramatic scene of fishermen and their boat being struck by a large wave.) In order of appearance below, (I hope I identified them correctly), we have scorfano, triglia, granchio, mazzancolla, dentice, rombo, seppia, and spigola.. all the local fish are represented. This piece is fitting today, as Tuesday is fish day at the neighborhood markets throughout Italy.

Makes you wonder whether the Etruscans and Romans also had fixed days each week when the fishermen brought in and sold their catch.




by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

17 Responses to “Martedi’ pesce..”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks GB, for this great note. It’s good to hear of less-visited but obviously splendid heritage sites that are so well-presented and accessible. What a beautiful fishy mosaic!

  2. Rosanne Barrett

    Thanks for these great photos, GB. Another wonderful place to visit!

  3. Joanne De Cecchis

    Have a cousin whom we stayed with in Piombino and Rio Marina, Elba. 2 wonderful places off the” beaten path”.

  4. Great piece, especially the close-up photos of the fish and their names.

  5. David Bridges

    Great renderings of the frutta di mare which is also the name of a dish with all of the creatures fried up in a light batter. I am glad that the towns where these treasures are found are able to keep them in local museums. What a delight to see the mosaics!

  6. Nina Ruhland

    What a treat. Seen many mosaics, but never one with fishermen being capsized. It feels like an immediate link to lives in centuries past.

  7. Tony Cogan

    I have just arrived in Italy and will join this year’s Earthwatch dig at Populonia on 8th June. Your posting just adds to my sense of anticipation! Grazie!

  8. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    some of your tales are a bit ‘fishy’ and yet this one although ‘artsy’ is a true fish tale…thanks as always…

  9. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Full marks to our Editor! I have visited this mosaic sevetal times in Piombino, but never, never identified the fish! Could it be hopeless having grown up with Atkantic seaboard fish!

  10. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    To Tony Cogan, lovely for you to be able to join the Earth watch dig at Populonia in June! Such a special place and a great team.

  11. Anita Fiorini

    I enjoy your articles very much, The pictures are always different and beautiful.
    My parents are both from Calabria. It would be nice if you can show some
    pictures from that region. Thank you very much.

  12. Bob Paglee

    Great pix of a beautiful mosaic! But why does the squid appear to have sunglasses perched atop his forehead?

  13. Marianna Raccuglia

    Your photos are beautiful and the article is so interesting. Thank you


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