Grado: a day in a casone on the Vips’ island

If you are on holiday in Grado and opt for an outing in the lagoon, make sure they tell you about the VIPs’ Island and the casone of Witige Gaddi.

A small island without electricity, without radio or TV and yet much sought after by celebrities. This is where the Casone Bevilacqua stands, the only casone (in fact there are three on the island, a main one where one can cook, eat and sleep, one used as a lavatory and another little one) among the few still present in the lagoon to preserve the typical structure of a thatched roof in marsh reed. Many famous people have landed here, including Bo Derek, Sarah Ferguson, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Laura Pausini, Vittorio Sgarbi, Bruno Vespa, Roberto Baggio, Richard Gere, Roman Polanski and Vasco Rossi. The most recent, just over a month ago, was Sergio Marchionne. But there is more. The place has been used to film scenes in movies and provide services for various Italian and foreign broadcasters. It is located in the western part of the lagoon and you can recognise it from afar because the flag of the Austro-Hungarian empire flies over the island. Witige, the owner, is very proud of this, because, as he says, the people of Grado have always felt themselves to be Austrian citizens and not Italian, and this can also be felt inside the casone, where an image of Franz Josef hangs.

Inside the casone, objects and equipment hung here and there recall the hard life of those who used to live and work in the lagoon (such as the punt-gun and the old fishing boots that used to be given to the best fisherman while the others had to walk barefoot in the icy waters of the lagoon in winter).

I was lucky enough to take a private boat trip to this island. I saw this little corner of paradise, enjoyed the atmosphere of life in the the casone and met Mr. Witige, now in his eighties, in person. He was the personal portraitist of Biagio Marin, travelled the world aboard boats as engineer, and was and still is a fisherman and hunter. A man of the world, who has had the likes of Ermanno Olmi, as his friend, and a person with a special but appealing character with his stories and anecdotes.

We ate and drank at the Casone di Viti, in company, amid laughter and readings of books describing him and his past, and which still move him.

Impossible to discover how the VIPs get in touch with him, and as for my question: “Why do all these famous people come right here to you?”, Mr. Viti answers me in the local dialect of Grado, smiling “Perché no i paga e i magna gratis” (Because they don’t pay and eat free”.

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