Read our pocket guide to Venetian Lagoon
Venetian Lagoon: A pocket guide
Much has been written about visiting Venice, which still attracts millions of tourists each year, but the wider surroundings of Venice, the lagoon itself, is still something for the connoisseurs. This may not be fully true for destinations like Lido di Venezia or the Island of Murano, which are also overrun by tourists in the peak season, however, if you travel a bit further out to the lagoon by boat you find laid back, authentic locations all year round.
The Venetian Lagoon occupies an area of approximately 550 square kilometers (212 square miles) extending from the River Sile in the north to the Brenta in the south. Its formation dates back at least six to seven thousand years, that said, its present geography was created by human intervention in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Today it’s home to over hundred islands, around thirty of which are inhabited.
The first step off the beaten track is the Island of Burano, with its enigmatic colorful houses and boats. One can find great restaurants at Burano, like the chic Riva Rosa, the traditional seafood restaurant Gato Nero. There is also the Michelin Star awarded Venissa Resort, a hotel-difuso with rooms spread around Burano in fully restored houses. The restaurant’s menu follows a “zero kilometer” approach by using vegetables grown in their own garden and seafood caught in the lagoon right off the island. The famous designer Philip Stark owns several houses in Burano, where he frequently holidays with family and friends.
The neighboring island of Torcello has roots traveling back to Roman times, making it much older then Venice and the other islands. The impressive Basilica of Santa Maria Assunto, which dates back to the seventh century, shows layer over layer of architectural styles. The other attraction in Torcello is one of the most famous restaurants in the Lagoon: Locanda Cipriani. It is there where the origin of the famous Cipriani dishes, like Bellini and Carpaccio, can be found and there is hardly another restaurant in the lagoon that has hosted more royalty, artists and stars then it.
Another, much less known island is San Francesco del Deserto. Located between Sant’Erasmo and Burano, a monastery was founded here by Francesco di Assisi on his return from the Holy Land during the Fifth Crusade. It was there where he lay down the foundations for his religious order. Today, this island is still a monastery, but the monks happily welcome visitors and share their beautiful island and its history. It is a very spiritual place and the monks also invite guest to stay for retreats lasting several days.
If one is craving the area’s famous beaches, Cavallino is a save bet. As opposed to Jesolo and Lido di Venezia, Cavallino still has a very laid back feeling. The 15-kilometer stretch of white powdery sand and bordered by sand dunes and pine forests is appropriate for families and couples.
In the midst of all these diverse and history laden islands one can find Isola Santa Cristina. Its history dates back to the seventh century B.C. when a monastery was established on the island to house the relics of Saint Cristina. Since this gorgeous island features a unique micro-climate, it was converted into a garden island where wonderful fruit and vegetables were grown, wine was produce and off of which fish were caught to feed the then ever growing population of Venice.
In the 1980s, the island was bought by the Austrian Swarovski Family and turned into a luxurious private holiday island. Since 2015, it can be rented for yoga retreats, private vacations, weddings or corporate events and is the perfect base to explore this fascinating and magical destination.