Shellfish have been a food for humans since the Paleolithic, thanks also to the ease of capture. The oyster has been cited by the greatest poets and writers of antiquity, Homer, Virgil, Petronius, Martial, while vague information of Pliny the Elder remains of the mussel. The consumption of many species of molluscs is ancestral, as evidenced by the remains found in the deposits left in the caves by prehistoric man. The oldest traces in Sardinia would suggest a collection activity dating back to the fourth millennium BC C. demonstrating the use of molluscs as food from the Neolithic to the Age of Nuraghi. In our territory the most important trace of this activity took place in the Grotta della “Mandria” on the island of Tavolara, which closes the Gulf of Olbia to the east and it is an integral part of it.
In 1918 two entrepreneurs and brothers, the Godani of La Spezia, installed the first pole production plants in Olbia (then and up to 1939 Terranova Pausania). Some time before, an acquaintance of theirs, from La Spezia and also a mussel farmer, in arrival at Isola Bianca he noticed that the docks and the rocks were considerably covered with juveniles. He then realized that the habitat could be suitable for mussel farming.
Returning to La Spezia, he reported what he had observed to the two Godani brothers, already owners of a mussel farm. They carried out an inspection and immediately realized that an excellent production of mussels could be obtained in the Gulf of Olbia. In fact the habitat was absolutely virgin and the presence of plankton was surely far superior to that of La Spezia, also because, at the time, the Padrongianus river had no dam, deviation or dam, and therefore it unloaded all the rich water nourishment in the Gulf. Fresh water also eliminated all parasites (dog’s teeth, vescia, cow’s zizza, etc.), facilitating the growth of juveniles.
The Godani Brothers installed the first nurseries in the area between the island of Cavallo and the rocks of Mezzocammino, and in Punta Is Taulas (Su Arrasolu). The activity was carried out directly by them with the help of local laborers. The first production was sold mostly in the continent: the pergolas were loaded in bulk on the post office for Civitavecchia, and from there by train brought to La Spezia and immersed again in the sea. In Sardinia instead they began to make known the mussels, then unknown, in the markets of Cagliari and Sassari, by direct sending to consumption in jute sack, by rail. After about two years of activity, at the end of 1919, the Godani Brothers were forced to abandon their activity in Olbia as they suffered malaria, at the time a real scourge. The plants were therefore abandoned and fell into disrepair.
At the same time Raffaele Bigi, born in Olbia in 1899, left with the Sassari Brigade for the Great War in 1917, in 1918 having no job prospects in Sardinia, he stayed in Venezia Giulia finding work as an apprentice mussel farmer and hunter in Trieste, Muggia , where the installations were restored by a spice initiative. Here he remained for two years, until the end of 1920. Upon returning to Olbia he learned that the Godani Brothers had installed the first nurseries for mussel farming and had the idea of continuing this activity. Not having the financial means to buy the necessary equipment, he turned to Giuseppe Carlini, known Peppinu Cioàiu, a merchant of various items including nails, hence the nickname. Carlini asked and obtained the state concession of the area between the Isle of Manna and the Isle of Horse and I started the activity together with the young Raffaele Bigi. It was December 15, 1920. The chestnut poles were purchased in Sardinia (Tonara, Aritzo), the vegetable ropes in Campania to Frattamaggiore. The juveniles were abundantly harvested on the spot. The mussels produced were sold with great difficulty in Sardinia. It was then usual, but also necessary, to accompany the sale with the tasting of steamed mussels.
In 1922 some families of Tarantines arrived in Olbia: De Michele, Tancredi, Mignogna, Di Todaro, Calabrese. These already carried out the mussel farming activity in Taranto with great skill and learned casually about the qualities of the Gulf of Olbia. They proposed to Carlini and Bigi to undertake the joint activity. However, receiving a negative response, they asked the area between Cavallo Island and the Mezzocammino rocks for a concession. After some time, however, Carlini, while retaining the ownership of the concession for another 50 years, entered into partnership with the Tarantini in the “De Michele & C.” At that time, Raffaele Bigi was appointed trustee of the same, as already an expert merchant, dealing with the sale of the mussels produced.
Trade in Sardinia and Campania was also started by another great resource of the Gulf: the Mediterranean Arsella (clam). Until the 1930s, in fact, the harvest of arsella, well rooted in popular tradition since the 1800s, was aimed solely at self-consumption in poor recipes, such as for example the “rice with arsella”, the true cornerstone of our city’s food and wine . The other seafood produced in the Gulf was also added to the clams: oyster, truffle, murice (bite) and razor clam.
The “De Michele & C.” was formed by Domenico De Michele and Angelo Tancredi, son in law of the same, having married his daughter Maria. Angelo Tancredi became the prosecutor of the business for over 40 years, while the other two sons of De Michele, Peppino and Saverio, who graduated, undertook other activities. Calabrese and Di Todaro left Olbia at the end of the 1930s, moving to Cagliari as sellers of fish products.
Besides the owners of the companies, local laborers were employed who were taught the basics of the work, including: Salvatore Degortes (Richeddu Civetta), Salvatore Farina (Ciccione), the Zuddas family (Cinesu), Giacomo Derosas (Jagu Pilosu). Until the 1940s the situation remained unchanged. In 1943 the installations were destroyed by bombing and abandoned until 1945. At the end of the war, in 1945, the mussel farming activity resumed profitably, together with the company “De Michele & C.” other new enterprises were born.
On the initiative of Raffaele Bigi, who deemed his work relationship with “De Michele & C.” concluded, a cooperative was formed, SACIM, which intended to exploit the new opportunities given to cooperation. They joined: Francesco (Ciccillo) Mignogna, Giovanni Giua, Giovanni Degortes (Chineddu), Salvatore Farina (Ciccione), Enrico Derosas (Richeddu Civetta), Michele Moro, and others, all former collaborators of “De Michele & C.” at the which they had learned the trade. The Sacim asked and obtained in concession the marine area between Punta Is Taulas (Su Arrasolu) and the rock of Cocciani (called Sos Culùmbas).
In 1947 Raffaele Bigi left the SACIM and set up on his own, forming the “Raffaele Bigi & Figli” with his four sons, Emilio, Elio, Armando and Salvatore. The area under concession was that to the west of the Isle of Manna and that between the same island and today’s Poltu Quadu, known as Sa Bulvarera. In 1948, in order to further develop the activity, Cala Saccaia was requested and obtained.
In 1949 another cooperative was established, the CIMO, formed by former employees of existing companies, namely: the three Zuddas brothers (Bustianu, Nanneddu, Egidio), Pietrino Ligas, Gavino Deiana (Cannacchina), Giuseppino Putzu, Paolo Eretta ( Traculeddu), Pasqualino Derosas (son of Giacomo Jagu Pilosu) and Michele, Mario and Andreino Moro. The area under concession was that south of Viale Isola Bianca, between the middle island and the pier.
In 1950 there were therefore four companies: “De Michele & C.”, “Coop. Sacim “,” R. Bigi & Figli “and” Coop. Cimo ”, which employed around 100 people, plus about 80 temporary workers called at critical moments, especially for loading and unloading operations.
In 1950 the production was around 16,000 q: most of it was sold in Sardinia, to a lesser extent it was sold in Campania, transported on deck by ships that served on that line (Onorato, Geppino, G.Verni di Monaco).
In the mid-1950s, they started out as single producers: Antonio Giua (in the area south of Viale Isola Bianca, between the middle island and the pier), Quirico Giua (Sud Isola Bianca and Sa Bulvarera), Ottavio Giua (west of the island of Cocciani) and the Spiga brothers (Scalo delle Draghe).
In the 1950s, production exceeded 20,000 q, with over 300 employees who were the largest economic resource in Olbia during the period.
At the beginning of the 1960s they started the activity: Giovanni Mariani, son-in-law of Enrico Derosas (Richeddu Civetta), former collaborator of SACIM and R. Bigi, with two concessions (Cocciani and Scalo delle Draghe); Franco and Vincenzo Mignogna, sons of Ciccillo, with a concession to Cocciani; the Spiga brothers in Cala saccaia (Scalo delle Draghe). In the 1960s, production reached around 30,000 q to reach the average of around 40,000 q per year in the late 1970s and up to the present day.
Over the years, and with the generational change, a series of changes have occurred. Today’s companies have all originated from descendants of the aforementioned producers. The historic “De Michele & C.” closed its business in the mid-1970s. “Raffele Bigi & Figli” was transformed into “Bigi Saemarmitili srl”, which in 1989 became “Bigi srl” and in 1999 “Bigi & Bigi srl “. From 2012 he continues his activity in the QUATTRO B. The Sacim continued its activity until 2002, composed by Massimo and Domenico Degortes (sons of Giovanni) and by Mario, Tonino, Salvatore and Natale Giua (sons of Giovanni).
Giua’s family continue since 2012 the activity in the SHARDANA MITILI and IL FARO cooperatives. Since 2012, the activity in DEGO MITILI has continued. La Cimo continued its activity until 2003, composed by Michele and Ernesto Moro (sons of Mario and Andreino ), and Carlo Derosas (grandson of Giacomo). From 2012 he continues the activity in the MOROMAR, MITILI OLBIA, MI.FA.MI, PMP cooperatives SEA, PIRAS MITILI, GOLFO DI OLBIA.I Mariani and Mignogna, with the associates Degortes and Giua, continue the activity in the NEW OLBIA MITILI. The Spiga’s continue in the CALA SACCAIA MITILI. At the cooperatives with historical roots they have been added for over a decade others: BIOTECMAR, AL.MAR, LA VENERE, PMR