Livenza’s River Eel

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Livenza eel

Product name, including synonyms and dialect terms

Anguilla del Livenza, Bisàt del Livenza.

Territory interested in production

Overall, the Livenza eel is fished in 17 municipalities, 3 in the province of VENICE (Caorle, S. Stino di Livenza, Torre di Mosto), 7 in the province of TREVISO (Cessalto, Motta di Livenza, Gorgo al Monticano, Meduna di Livenza, Mansuè, Portobuffolè, Gaiarine), 7 in that of Pordenone (Pasiano di Pordenone, Prata di Pordenone, Brugnera, Sacile, Caneva, Fontanafredda, Polcenigo).


The eel is a very special fish, both for its elongated and serpentine shape, and above all for its particular life cycle. In fact, it grows in fresh or brackish waters, where it remains until it reaches sexual maturity (from 9 to 12 years), to then go back to the sea and make a long journey towards the breeding areas, located in the Sargasso Sea, in the ‘Atlantic Ocean. After hatching, the larvae are carried by the currents to the coasts of Europe, where they arrive after a journey of about three years.
Between December and May the young eels, the so-called “ceche”, penetrate the rivers where they remain until sexual maturity. The Livenza is one of the most important rivers of the Veneto-Friuli plain; it is almost completely navigable and has banks covered with abundant vegetation and clear and cold waters fed by springs. The seabed is free of gravel and very clean, making it an ideal habitat for the eel which here takes on unique characteristics, similar only to those that live in the Sile.

Product description

The Livenza eel has a small head, light and thin skin, the right amount of fat that makes it a superb product. The temperate resurgence waters allow a slow growth of the eel which allows it to give its meat an unmistakable flavor. According to the period, the fishing methods and the size, 2 types of Livenza eel are described: Type “fiumano” or “fraima” is fished at the end of summer and in autumn, when the ripe eels come down the river to head towards the sea. They can weigh from a few ounces to over a kilo and are characterized by thick, fair and oily skin to face the depths of the sea. “Marine” or “spring” type is sedentary, fished in spring and early summer, of increasing size from sea to upstream, but still smaller than the “fiumano” type eel.

Production process

The eel lives and grows freely in the water of the Livenza, without aquaculture interventions. It feeds on invertebrates, crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians, fish and animal carrion. Human intervention is limited to fishing which usually takes place with “bertovelli”, which are small sack-shaped nets. After capture, the fish are kept and marketed alive.

Anguilla del Livenza, a dish to taste

So far their life. As for the characteristics related to their flesh as well as their physical appearance (in particular the shades of color) they depend on the quality of the water in which they live and on the food they find.

The eels of the Livenza, precisely due to the characteristics of this resurgence river, 115 km long and with an enormous flow of water, the highest in Italy in relation to its length, are different from their sisters of the other Venetian rivers, except for those living in the Sile, to which they are very similar.

The Livenza River, in fact, has clear waters and very cold currents; the seabed is only clean, it has no gravel and having a very large basin it is always very rich in running water. This, therefore, is an ideal river for eels which, especially in the stretch between Motta and Santo Stino di Livenza, are considered gastronomically exquisite. In fact, they have very firm white meats, with very little fat and a fragrant flavor. The Livenza eel has a small head, light and thin skin and the right amount of fat that makes it a superb product.
The tradition of the local populations prefers to cook them “stewed with unripe amoli (wild plums)”. After having carefully cleaned them, cut into 5 cm drums and floured, they are browned in a lightly fried oil and garlic, with a pinch of chopped parsley, two bay leaves, a pinch of tomato paste, a few lemon slices. and a handful of unripe amolos. Sprinkled with white wine, they are then seasoned with salt and pepper and put in the oven to complete cooking.

They should be served with the inevitable steaming white polenta and slightly tannic red wine. This is one of the historical dishes, still very present in the Livenza riparian areas.

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