The bride of the sea

Annalisa Marchionna

2015 - Ongoing


- "The Bride of the Sea" is a part of long-term work about the last “brides of the water”, women who have decided to dedicate their lives to this natural element, the water. The project is still ongoing.

The Bride of the Sea

«I keep the fire low when I cook; I can have a look at the see from the balcony in the meantime». Anna Maria Verzino’s love for the sea is all in these few words. She was five when her father Donato, a lifelong fisherman from Casalbordino Lido, the small village in Abruzzo where Anna Maria was born 81 years ago (she will be 82 years old in January 2018), took her out to the open sea the first time.

Her love for the sea and for the time spent fishing has not limits.

She has fought to be a fisherwoman since she was a child; against her mother in the beginning, who wanted her to be a tailor, and then against the Italian law, that only gave her the license when she was 30.

Even nowadays Anna Maria, accompanied by Bruno, her brother, and Gloria, the boat, keeps ploughing the waves night after night.

Anna Maria has no doubts. «I wouldn’t change anything in my life; if I could go back, I’d do everything again exactly the same way» she says. The sea is life to her and her biggest fear is to wake up one morning and to realize that her health won’t allow her to go out on her boat anymore. «This is my sea, my life; I love him as if he were a person. Out there I am at peace as I’ve never been on land». Maybe it’s because of the strength of this love that everybody knows her as the Sea’s Bride.

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  • Anna Maria’s life dances to the rhythm of the sea and of her fishing activities. She only has few pastimes; one of them is the afternoon coffee with her friends. At the coffee-bar she always chooses a seat from where she can look at the see. Her eyes are dreamy; she looks at him as if he were her lover, enraptured.

  • A view on the Adriatic Sea from the beach of Casalbordino Lido, the small village where Anna Maria was born and raised. When she was a young girl, there was quite a number of anglers and their families living there but the village emptied over the years and only a handful of people are left now. The big boats for the clam fishing have moved to bigger harbors too.

  • Anna Maria on her boat, Gloria, cleaning the nets with a wooden hammer that she rhythmically hits on a board to crush the shells trapped in the mashes.

  • Anna Maria, assisted by her brother Bruno, heads to the open sea, ready for fishing. She has a hard life; in summer she will go out to sea twice a day, in the afternoon to cast the nets and at night to get them back. Some mornings she will go out on the boat with Bruno right after 4am and will not return home before 11am.

  • Anna Maria returns after a night of fishing. She has thousands of anecdotes to tell about the Adriatic Sea. She still reminds very well how hard it was, when she was a young girl, to go get the nets back alone on her rowboat. Or when her mother insisted that she becomes a tailor. Thanks to her father Donato, though, she finally could be the only thing she really wanted, a fisherwoman.

  • It is almost dawning and the air is cool. Anna Maria fixes a rope and moves nimbly like a young girl, even if she will turn 82 in January 2018.

  • A sea star trapped in Anna Maria’s net. People like to stop and chat with the old woman while she takes care of the nets on the beach; if she finds shells or sea stars, she will set them aside and give them to the first kid who goes to see her boat.

  • The sun is not yet risen but Anna Maria is already at work on her boat Gloria. It’s a hard life; in summer she will go out to open sea twice a day, in the afternoon to cast the nets and at night to get them back.

  • It's 4am. Anna Maria prepares the boat to get out to sea. She was about 30 when the Italian government approved a law that would allow women to do jobs that were only reserved for men until then. Anna Maria could finally get a regular fishing license. It was the Captain of the Port Authority in Ortona who signed her license, and while doing so, he sarcastically suggested she stay at home and knits socks like the rest of the women did. Unmoved, Anna Maria replied “I knit socks when I am not at sea.”

  • Anna Maria is clearly driven by passion; she does not fish out of need. Fishing has become poorer and poorer over the years and the catch often does not even pay the fuel back; due to pollution and marine warming, the Adriatic Sea is increasingly less rich in fish.

  • Morning after morning a small group of people gathers on the beach and waits for Anna Maria to buy the catch of the night. Many people just come for a chat, or to have a look at it.

  • Coffee-break in the afternoon. This is a rite Anna Maria cannot give up. It is a good time for memories: “During the celebrations for the patron saint, the Madonna of the Miracles, busloads of pilgrims would arrive at the seaside. Most of them would enter the water without even taking off their thick woolen clothes. They did not realize that the water gets deeper, they were so amazed and had never seen the sea before. My dad and me, we would bring those who asked out to sea on our boat for a few Lira. It was a day of great feast…” Anna Maria remembers with a smile.

  • June 2016, sacred feast of the Madonna of the Miracles, in the Basilica that goes under the same name near Casalbordino. Anna Maria kisses the Madonna of the Miracles, to whom the entire local population is very devoted.

  • Anna Maria loves Elena and Davide, her great-grandchildren, unconditionally. Like most children, they often have quarrels. Nonetheless, when the angler is with them, the harshness and the strength that are so often necessary when she is out at sea, leave space to an immense sweetness.

  • Anna Maria in front of the Sanctuary of the Miracles, near Casalbordino, after the procession and the mass are over. Now all the people who had come to the Madonna of the Miracles are gone and the square, still dressed up for the celebrations, is empty. Anna Maria attends this religious event every year, she never missed one

  • Anna Maria in the courtyard of her place, repairing her nets. This work is done mainly in winter, when one does not go out to sea, but lately, as hungry dolphins tear her nets to steal the fish, she has to mend them in summer as well. The Adriatic Sea is increasingly less rich in fish, due pollution and marine warming.

  • Anna Maria pulls her boat ashore with the agility of a young girl. Gloria, the family boat, changed of body but never changed her name. Donato’s first boat bore the same name. Anna Maria was very close to her father, who taught her the art if fishing.

  • When Anna Maria works on her boat, she often shows a particular affection for her, she seems to hug her, caress her.

  • Anna Maria’s longing for life has no parallels. Even by bad weather, when she cannot go out with her boat, she will take a stroll on the beach at dawn. She needs to walk along him, to see him when the sun rises.

  • The Virgin of the Sea. Pilgrims used to come here in the past for the feast of the Virgin of Miracles. They were simple folk who had never seen the sea. Anna Maria and her father brought them out to see on their boat for 5 Lira. Now, Anna Maria and her brother Bruno take care of the aedicula.