Venice and its islands are a treasure trove of romance and art, architecture and natural beauty

Monday, 14 March 2022 08:00

What better destination for a holiday combining romance and art than Venice? It is the city par excellence chosen by lovers who, transported by gondola, let themselves be lulled by the movement of the waters along the Grand Canal, passing under the arches of the Bridge of Sighs or the Rialto Bridge.

Veneto Lagoon

Venice is a great art city

Venice, however, is first and foremost an art city. Great art that has been handed down to the present day and tells of the splendours accumulated over the years by the ancient Venetian Republic. Oriental Greek-Byzantine influences blend with the typical Venetian styles, creating a unique artistic miscellany. Some of the city’s most important monuments such as those in St Mark's Square - St Mark's Basilica, the Bell Tower and the Doge's Palace - are examples of this comingling. Art enthusiasts can also admire the masterpieces by Tintoretto in the Scuola di San Rocco, or investigate the modern and contemporary works in the many art galleries or exhibited during the Biennale.

Venice is a city to explore on foot

To enjoy Venice to the fullest, you have to experience it on foot, losing yourself in its maze of streets and bridges and exploring every corner. And the city will reveal its hidden treasures from little craft shops to small restaurants where you can feast on local specialities.  

The Lido di Venezia and Pellestrina islands

The islands of Lido di Venezia and Pellestrina are the watershed between the Adriatic Sea and the lagoon, with the open sea on one side, the lagoon on the other and Venice in the background. To explore this side of Venice why not take a bicycle trip starting from the south, with a stop to visit the historic centre of Chioggia with its original herringbone shape?

Venezia Dolomiti ph. NicoloMianaphoto credits: Nicolò Miana

Pellestrina has 16th and 17th-century houses

When you get to the island of Pellestrina by boat, get off near the Ca' Roman Nature Reserve and head north to see the built-up area of Pellestrina with its 16th and 17th century houses. Then cycle on to the villages of San Pietro in Volta and Portosecco, where the ladies still do intricate lacework.

There is a Jewish cemetery on  Lido di Venezia 

On the Lido di Venezia, get off the ferry near the Alberoni Oasis and pedal along the lagoon as far as the historic centre of Malamocco, where the calli and campielli (little streets and small squares) create a typically Venetian atmosphere. Moving towards the sea it is possible to pedal along the track on the Murazzi stone defense as far as the International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art building, the monumental Jewish Cemetery and the Church of San Nicolò.


Burano is the lagoon’s most colourful island

Burano is a picturesque island in the northern Venetian lagoon and its main features are its colourful houses, fishing traditions, the ancient art of lacemaking and its steeply leaning bell tower. The heart of the island is Piazza Baldassare Galuppi with the Church of San Martino - the only church on the island - which has a splendid Crucifixion, an early painting by Gian Baettista Tiepolo.

Old ladies still make lace by hand

Strolling through the little island’s calli and campielli it is still possible to come across old ladies who demonstrate their mastery in lace-making, using a bobbin which is known as a tombolo. A valuable collection of this ancient art is on display at the Museo del Merletto lace museum.

venice San Giorgio Island

San Giorgio Maggiore is opposite St. Mark’s Square

Just four hundred metres separate St Mark's Square from this other gem of the lagoon: San Giorgio Maggiore. The first building you will see when you arrive on this little island is the imposing church of the same name, designed in 1565 by the architect Andrea Palladio. The island’s history is a very old and troubled one, going from the Benedictine monks to the Napoleonic domination to Austrian rule. What was once a monastery here, then became a prison, a weapons depot, a factory and a military district.

The Giorgio Cini Foundation has restored many buildings

Today on the island you can admire the imposing basilica with priceless works of art including the last works by Tintoretto. The old Benedictine buildings are managed by the Giorgio Cini Foundation, which has restored and upgraded them, and today they host cultural events and conferences. They also have libraries and a photo library which can be visited on a guided tour organised by the Foundation. For unbeatable views of Venice and its lagoon you must climb up the bell tower, and don’t forget to visit the Borges Labyrinth, a large garden where over 3,250 boxwood plants spell out the name of the Argentine poet. Seen from above it looks like an open book.

Murano, the home of glass

Murano is much more than an island, as it is actually an agglomeration of small interconnecting islands and a magical world that tells a very long story of artistic glassmaking. This industry, which has flourished here since the Middle Ages, gave Murano such prestige that it was able to enjoy a certain independence from the other Venetian islands. In fact, with the edict promulgated by Doge Tiepolo in 1291, Murano was declared an industrial area and soon became the world capital of glass production. The secrets of the craft, traditionally handed down from father to son and jealously guarded by the most important families, were protected by harsh penalties. To admire the masterpieces of this art, make sure to visit the Glass Museum, in Palazzo Giustinian. 

The Basilica of Santi Maria e Donato has a Byzantine floor

But Murano is also architecture. Among the most important monuments is the Basilica of Santi Maria e Donato, probably founded in the 7th century. The apse is splendid, with a mock portico of niches and twin columns. Inside you can admire an extraordinary and very colourful Byzantine floor and, adorning the choir, a wall mosaic with gold-leaf glass tesserae dating back to the 12th century. Another religious building worth visiting is the Church of San Pietro Martire, founded in 1348 by the Dominican fathers, inside which you can admire works by Giovanni Bellini, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Giuseppe Porta, known as Salviati.

For more information: 

Regione Veneto

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