rediscover Venice and its lagoon

A slightly milky atmosphere. A great silence. Small islands, each with a particular history: San Servolo once housed a psychiatric hospital; San Clemente has long been a stopover for pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land; Sacca Sessola, bought by a multinational, recently saw its abandoned hospital transformed into a hotel complex; Poveglia is now abandoned and so on…

Here and there, restingas emerge and serve as a refuge for migratory birds. The boats circulate within the navigation channel delimited by the “briccol”, these wooden posts that, connected by three, emerge from the water at regular intervals. Further on, on the right, there are many fishermen’s huts on stilts.

If, on the horizon, the bell tower of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice watches as usual, no “giant of the sea” disturbs the tranquility of the lagoon south of Venice: under pressure from Unesco, the Italian government ended up banning the largest ships from cruise to get closer to the heart of Venice. Since the summer of 2021, they have to park far away, in the industrial port of Marghera.

While admitting the need to protect this shallow pond, traders seem disappointed with the decision. This makes them less customers while remaining, moreover, deprived of the juicy clientele of Chinese and Russian tourists in particular.

the fight is over

Free from the excessive flow of tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Venice is once again pleasant to visit. At the beginning of spring, in the tourist “trail” that follows the carnival organized in February and precedes the beginning of the summer season in May, it is possible to stroll without being run over also in Piazza San Marco (and fortunately) almost deserted by pigeons.

Tourism: rediscovering Venice and its lagoon

Likewise, sitting on the terrace of Florian, a famous café once frequented by distinguished writers, no longer needs queues. And, after reaching (by elevator) to the top of the Saint Marc bell tower rebuilt in 1912, taking all your time to enjoy the splendid 360-degree view of the city is no longer an unreachable dream.

Finally, those who pamper themselves with a gondola ride through the canals are not bothered, as before, by river traffic jams. However, the Grand Canal remains the main street of this lakeside city and the setting for its most beautiful palaces, built, like that of the Doges, in brick and white Istrian stone…

Tourism: rediscovering Venice and its lagoon

In this context, there is little more than a small cruise ship like the M/S Michelangelo which, thanks to its shallow draft (1.3 meters), is still allowed to moor at the pier near the Arsenal, just 7 bridges from the square and the Basilica of San Marco.

Difficult walkers will likely find the distance still significant, as the next day will find the walk through less frequented areas to the Rialto Bridge a bit demanding. However, they benefit from a privilege as valuable as the long boat trip south of Venice on the lagoon. This is an opportunity to better understand why this region has always been the scene of an incessant struggle between the sea, rivers and land. Why, too, its conservation is a growing concern.

Indeed, it silts, Venice sinks and during the acquire alt, salt water is increasingly corroding ground floors. Fortunately, in 2020, the submerged dike system called Mose ended up showing its effectiveness in preventing high tides from submerging the city of the Doges. Is Venice saved? It would be presumptuous to say so.

Continuation to Padua

More classic is, on the other hand, sailing on the lagoon north of Venice. Those who board the M/S Michelangelo first discover Burano, the island of fishermen and lacemakers with colorful houses. In his church of Saint-Martin there is a “Crucifixion” painted by Le Tintoret, as beautiful as it is unknown.

The next step is Murano, the island of glass artisans. Those who have already visited will be offered a ticket vaporetto (7.5€) to return directly to the center of Venice, unless you prefer to escape, always vaporettoto Torcello: the basilica and its Veneto-Byzantine mosaics testify to the illustrious past of this now sparsely inhabited island.

Tourism: rediscovering Venice and its lagoon

The next day, the boat docks in Chioggia, a coastal city to go by bus to Padua, which was once part of Venice’s conquests on dry land. The relics of Saint Anthony are displayed under the Byzantine domes of the beautiful basilica dedicated to the Holy.

A student city since a university was created there in 1222, this city is not lacking in charm with its canals, its streets lined with arcades, its elegant cafes and of course its monuments, starting with the Scrovegni chapel decorated with frescoes. by Giotto or the extraordinary Prato della Valle: this elliptical square is surrounded by a circular canal flanked by statues. There is that of Galileo, a scientist who also found himself in Venice: it was on top of the bell tower of San Marco that he presented his astronomical telescope to the senate and doge of the lakeside city. This earned him the appointment of professor at the University of Padua.

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► In practice

The company Croisieurope is relaunching its cruises to Venice on board its M/S Michelangelo. Navigation times do not exceed a few hours, but this modest-sized boat (154 passengers) makes it easy to discover the treasures of this mythical city, while covering, in small touches, Italian cuisine.

5 days including 4 nights on board. From €595 (delivery in Venice not included). Tel: 0 826 101 234. Website: croisieurope.com

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