All About Lucia ("Batèll"): The Meaning Behind the Symbol of Lake Como
You can spot them pretty much everywhere on the shores of Lake Como: we are talking about Lucia, or Batèll, the iconic rowboat of our lake.
The origin of this chestnut wood boat dates back to the XVIth century: they were mainly used to carry lake fishes (like shads, lavarelli, pesce persico etc.) to be sold on the lake shores in the markets or to local restaurants.
The name Lucia is a reference to the well-known female character of Alessandro Manzoni’s novel I Promessi Sposi, Lucia Mondella, the fiancé of Renzo Travaglino: during their escape from Lake Como, these characters used a Batèll.
Lucia feels sad while she leaves her native place, and the melancholy of her words in the monologue of the novel called “L’addio ai monti” (Goodbye to the mountains) in chapter VIII has become unforgettable for everyone who has read or study at school this masterpiece of Italian literature.
In the excerpt, the surface of the lake is describes as immobile, illuminated by the moonlight; only the faint sound of the surf on the banks and the water that breaks against the bridge's piers can be heard. The characters are silent. Lucia sees her home from afar and is seized by a great emotion, crying secretly: the young woman says goodbye to the mountains, whose appearance is as familiar as that of loved ones, to the streams, whose sound is familiar to her like the voice of the ones she loves, to the houses that whiten here and there on the slope. The one who voluntarily moves away from his native town, to make his fortune elsewhere, reluctantly leaves and would like to go back, to the idea of getting lost in the tumultuous and chaotic cities.
The size of a Batèll is quite small, generally being six meters per two. The boat was used by two fishers at a time, this way leaving more space for nets and fishes.
This ancient boat features characteristic circles on which tarpaulins were applied, with the dual function of repairing the crew from the rain and nets from the sun. The central beam sustaining the three circles and the curtain is called Mantaula.
Starting from the XIXth century, Lucia has been used also to carry people, and the woods employed for its construction have gradually moved to more precious ones, like mahogany and larch.
If you are passionate about the world of boats and you want to learn by rote all the names of the ancient and actual typologies of boats of our lake, make sure not to miss the Museo della Barca Lariana in Pianello del Lario: it’s kind of a candy land for all the supporters of the field, as what they’ll find is 200 rowboats and gondolas, more than 50 fishing and hunting boats, more than 100 speedboats, 80 sailboats, 3 ancient rowboats used for smuggling, the oldest steamboat of Lake Como, several military boats, different kinds of engines, thousands of objects related to the building of boats, hundreds of books, transparencies and magazines, and more than 3.000 photos. Definitely a huge heritage we are particularly proud of!