Venetian words of the day: ‘cocàli’ and ‘scoassa’

When one thinks of birds and Venice, the pigeons of the Piazza San Marco are probably the first to spring to mind. However, for Venetians, the birds that really affect daily life are the cocàli—aka seagulls.

Not surprisingly for a city placed right next to the sea, Venice has an awful lot of seagulls and when you live in Venice they affect many aspects of your day, but one more than others.

In Venice, the domestic refuse collection system works like this. Every morning, except Sundays, you need to put your rubbish (scoassa) in the street, outside your front door, between 08.00am and 08.30am. It will then be collected by the local authorities. There are different days for different recyclable materials, but general rubbish can be put out every day—except Sundays (see below). If you don’t close the your rubbish bags properly, you will find that they have been attacked by the cocàli and that the left-overs of last night’s dinner are all over the street, turning the calle into a massive scoassèra (rubbish dump).

This is so common that Carlo and Giorgio, a pair of popular Venetian comedians, even wrote a song (Scoasse) to warn residents of the dangers of not bagging your rubbish properly.

The refrain is: ‘A domenega mattina Signor Rossi, de Venessia, un sacheto in fondamenta buttò.'(On Sunday morning, Mr Rossi, from Venice, dumped a bag of rubbish on the quay.) The song goes on to tell how an old lady (una vecia) gets injured after a cat (gato), rat (pantegàna), and of course a cocàl attack the rubbish bag.

The cocàli can be enormous. I’ve often seen tourists, eating sandwiches in the street, get attacked by seagulls determined to have a share. Or maybe, since its illegal to eat street food in the precincts of the Piazza San Marco, they were employed by the local council to confiscate the sandwiches. Who knows?

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