One kilometre from the “sources” of river Marta (it originates from lake Bolsena, in the small town of Marta, some 20kms from Viterbo) and on the road leading to Tuscania, there is a medieval structure crossing the river. It is known as “la Cannara”, a sort of unique building, whose aim was the capture of fish (alive) moving from lake Bolsena to the Tyrrenian Sea, with special reference to the eels, highly appreciated by Pope Martino IV.
Today, their life cycle is well known and we are fully aware of their passage from sea to saltwater and it is not difficult to understand how this measure gave great results compared to the ancient fishing instruments (nets, for example) enabling fishermen to obtain the necessary quantity of fish satisfying the village’s needs.
In the ancient times, the grating was made of canes (“canna” in Italian), from which the name of “Cannara”.
Once captured, the fish were kept alive in tanks along the river bed and picked up without any difficulty whenever needed.
The constant flow of water brings a lot or nourishment and the eels can be kept alive also for a long time. In the past, they were taken to the markets of Viterbo, Orvieto, Perugia, Rome transported in wooden barrels filled with water. During the period of the Popes in Avignone, the eels from Lake Bolsena were always served on their table, as confirmed by official documents and all the French Popes had them sent in wooden barrels by sea up to the Rhone’s mouth and from here to Avignone.
Leone IV (847-855) confirms to Bishop Virobono from Tuscania the possession of several properties including river Marta with “mills, fisheries and ‘cannare’ “. In 1304 the Castellan of Marta mentions, in an inventory, a tower built at the beginning of the river to “protect the fisheries and the Cannara”.
In 1462, pope Pio II – having heard mention from the Cardinals of Spoleto and Teano – visited the tower and in his “Commentarii” described another tower built right above the small waterfall.
The Popes, given the high amount of incoming deriving from this building, carried out many maintenance and repair works, all duly included in the “Registri Camerari” (Official Registers).
Before the building of the diocese of Montefiascone, the Cannara was looked after – in the name of the Avignone Popes – by the Rector of the Heritage and later was passed to the Bishop of Montefiascone together with the governance of Marta.
During the Farneses period, this family got possession of the Cannara and gained a lot of richness from it. Later, it passed onto family Brenciaglia and others.
The current owners have restored the ancient building and built a wonderful garden perfectly tuned with water, earth, trees and flowers all chosen and distributed with delicacy and knowledge.
Text re-elaborated by Luca Viviani
Translation by Osvaldo Velo
We wish to the thanks the author for the permission to publish this article on StunningLand’s website.