Venice Tours > The Lagoon. Let’s jump on a water bus and take a trip to discover the famous venetian islands: Murano, Burano, and Torcello. But let’s not forget about the “smaller” less famous San Clemente, San Lazzaro, San Servolo Certosa, Sant’Erasmo and Pellestrina islands.
This excursion has a lot to offer both to those interested in the natural beauty of the landscape and to those who are interested in learning about the ethnographic and cultural aspects of Venetian history.
Also known as the island “of the flames”, because of the numerous furnaces that used to get transported here to limit the risks of fire in the city, Murano is like a small miniature Venice and is divided in two by a wide canal that crosses it.
Murano is the most famous of the Venetian Islands, and the most visited courtesy of the famous glass-works that produce the popular “Murano Glass”. The people of Venice have been making crystal and glass since the 10th Century, when the Venetian merchants brought back the secrets of production from the East.
During this itinerary we will have the opportunity to visit a traditional glassmaking factory, a furnace where you will be able to see artisans produce chandeliers, vases, statues and other objects in the traditional fashion.
The “gem” of this island is the antique Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato, a splendid example of Veneto-Byzantine art. Yet another “must see” item is the church of San Pietro Martire in which you will be able to admire two beautiful altar-pieces by Giovanni Bellini.
Burano is a miniature and “working class” version of Venice. It’s a lively fishermen island that still preserves its rhythms, its traditions and its colours unchanged. In fact, a true and real explosion of colours hits a visitor who has never been here.
The former “capital” of the north lagoon, today Torcello’s inhabitants can be counted today on fingers of one hand. The atmosphere is rustic and somewhat desolated. There are few isolated houses, fences and meadows grown wild – indications of ancient gardens – and a vegetable garden here or there, these seem to be a unique trace of a human presence to the eyes of those who, in engrossed and slothful silence of this semi-deserted place, try to imagine themselves in a hard-working and busy maritime harbour city, gleaming with churches and palaces, in the middle of what used to be in the past the heart of economic and social life of the Venetian civilisation.
The idea of finding yourselves in a ghost island will leave space for an impression to be in a surreal place when you arrive to a grassy churchyard surrounded by a heart of red bricks of the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, the most ancient one in the lagoon, side by side to its baptistery, the martyrium of Santa Fosca, the bell tower and the palaces of the Council and the Archive, today seats of Estuary Museum with its Archaeological and Medieval sections. In the middle of the square you’ll see an ancient marble seat, used by Courts to administrate justice, but which, according to legend, would have been Throne of Attila, who was the king of Huns. Contrast between refined brilliance of the Byzantine architecture and slow and constant advancing of nature highlight even more the sensation to have arrived to an island-museum, an icon and a keeper together with their own ancient splendour.
The small islands of the Venetian Lagoon
This itinerary will allow you to discover the smaller islands of the Venetian Lagoon, scattered jewels in a wide expanse of shallow water between the lagoon and the sea.
The Island of Sant’Erasmo
Saint Erasmo is in the northern part of the lagoon. Up until the end of the 1800s it was a real seaside residence in close proximity with the Adriatic Sea. Piers were then built that caused channels and the current deposited dune like accumulations of sand. This led to the creation of Punta Sabbioni – which is a sort of peninsular town now blocking access from the island to the sea. It was once known as Alba or Mercede and had fertile terrains perfect for growing vegetables and large pine trees. It is known as the vegetable garden of Venice.
The Island of Lazzaretto Nuovo
Lazzaretto Nuovo is centrally placed in the lagoon. It was strategic in that it was close to St Erasmo and at the time was at the mouth of lagoon port. Like the islands of Poveglia and S. Clemente, it was a stop off, even in Roman times for the Fossa Popilia, which linekd Chioggia to Altino. From 1468 the island took its name from the saint because it became a quarantine station for people suspected to be plague infected and therefore carrier
The Island of San Lazzaro of the Armeni
San Lazzaro of the Armeni is a little isalnd in the southern lagoon. It is the home of the Mekhitaristi Order and one of the first centres in the world of Armenian culture. Lord Byron studied the language on the island in 1816 taking advantage of its long history of hospitality. He records his love of the famous Vartanush, a jam made from rose petals that the monks produced from the rose gardens and still do to this day.
The Island of San Francesco of the Desert
San Francesco del Deserto is situated in from the Sant’Erasmo. It is an oasis of peace and mysticism. It is recognisable by its row of cypresses which can be seen as one approaches the island. Its spiritual origins coincide, according to legend, with the arrival of St Francis of Assisi in 1220. He stayed on the Island on his return from Egypt but many dispute the accuracy of the story. The word ‘desert’ in the name comes from the fact that a few centuries after the Franciscans established themselves on the island, the wasting away of the island itself made them desert it altogether. They then returned in 1453.
The Island of the Vignole
The Vignole, as it is known, is found in the cental part of the lagoon. It is a wedge shaped bit of sandy land between S. Erasmo and Lido. It was once called Biniola, or also “delle sette vigne” ‘of the seven vines’ and it was one of the elite holiday destinations for residents of Altino before those of Venice became popular.