The summer months see millions of tourists descending on Venice. The masses filing through its narrow streets can make the city’s splendor and magic rapidly dissipate. However, if you venture off the main island, in a short vaporetto ride you can escape the crowds as well as discover the many other cultural, historic and gastronomic highlights of the vast Venetian Lagoon. We explore some of best local secrets of the Lagoon through the helpful tips of René Deutsch, owner of the private island Isola S. Cristina by Charming Places.

The Venetian Lagoon occupies an area of 550 square kilometres (212 square miles) stretching from the River Sile in the north to the Brenta in the south. Its formation dates back six to seven thousand years, though the present geography of the lagoon was created by human intervention in the 15th and 16th centuries. Today it’s home to over 100 islands, around 30 of which are inhabited and most of the highlights are in the northern part of the lagoon. Here are René’s favorite getaway or secret islands.

San Francesco del DesertoBest Island for History Buffs

Most visitors who leave the main Venice island flock to either Murano for its glass or Burano for its embroidery, but there are also several beautiful lesser known islands, such as Isola San Francesco del Deserto. Located between Sant’Erasmo and Burano, it has housed a minorites convent since the 13th century. Its history dates back to 1220 when Saint Francis landed on the island on his return from the Holy Land during the Fifth Crusade. While on the island he founded a hermitage which was later expanded into the current convent. The complex is open to the public from Tuesday to Sundays 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 3:00pm to 5:00 pm with guided tours led by Franciscan monks on a donation basis.

Mazzorbo Venice Island

Best Island for Food Lovers

Connected to Burano by a bridge, the rural, non-touristy island of Mazzorbo is one of the top destinations for gastronomes: the Venissa Restaurant. Behind the walls of a 16th-century manor and surrounded by a vineyard and gardens is this lovely hotel and 1-Michelin starred restaurant. Its four chefs, who jointly received the prestigious Michelin star, follow a “zero kilometer” approach by using vegetables grown in their own garden and seafood caught in the lagoon right off the island. Their delicious menu could tantalize your palate with the likes of soft-shelled crabs with seasonal green asparagus accompanied by their delightful prosecco.

Lido Beach Venice Italy

Best Islands for Sun Seekers

According to René the best beaches and beach clubs can be found at Lido di Venezia or Cavallino. The Lido, an 11-kilometre (7-mile) long sandbar, is possibly one of the world’s most famous beaches. Along its sandy beach are several famous hotels like the elegant Excelsior and the Des Bains, which was the setting for Thomas Mann’s novel Death in Venice. Much of the beach is occupied by private beach clubs where you can rent the use of a lounge chair and umbrella for the day (or longer). Cavallino, situated to the north of Lido island, has an 11-kilometre (9-mile) long beach and is the second most popular seaside resort in Italy. It’s more laidback than the Lido, yet it has equally lovely white sands and many family attractions.

Isola Cristina Private Island

The perfect place to enjoy the secrets of the lagoon is on your own private island. Isola Santa Cristina by Charming Places is located a 30-minute boat ride away from Venice. The recently renovated large, historic Italian house is set within beautiful gardens and grounds which create a balance between nature and luxury.

The sophisticated villa is outfitted with luxury amenities and a stylish décor. You enter the villa through the spacious terrace with a cozy fireplace which leads you to a bright living room and an art-deco style library. There are two master bedrooms, five double bedrooms and 2 single bedrooms, each with an ensuite bathroom. The original Venetian kitchen is equipped with state of the art appliances and is just opposite to the grand dining hall fit to cater for 16 guests.

You’ll have exclusive access to the island’s gorgeous grounds where you can meander the apricot orchard and the vineyard or relax by the pool. You may not want to leave the island’s luxurious tranquility, but if you do want to explore Venice or any of the other islands mentioned above, there is a beautiful Venetian boat always at your disposal.

For more information on Isola Santa Cristina, visit the profile of Charming Places here. If you’re looking for other places to stay on Venice or elsewhere in Italy, our Italy experts have a wide range of fabulous luxury villas and apartments, more information here.