Islands, among the city treasures

There is a place in Venice or at least within its lagoon, where colours prevail over other particular aspects such as its architecture or monumentality.
The glimpse on our cover offers us an idea of it. Small, simple houses emerge, reflecting themselves, almost coyly, over the water of a canal. We can-not go wrong, we are on the island of Burano, “the other Venice”, immersed in the almost surreal peace of the lagoon.

Its bright colours, born to be descried from afar by its inhabitants returning from fishing, have been inspiring painters and artists since the early Twentieth century.
Today, such painting and that period are the protagonists of a fascinating exhibition titled “Painting light”, which the Venice City Museums Foundation wished to dedicate to Burano and its painters. An opportunity providing a hint for further insights on this island, and on the artifact which made it famous worldwide, lace. The exhibition is actually hosted inside the small but exquisite rooms of the museum, formerly the Palazzo del Podestà, dedicated to this art, the symbol of a bygone age.

Distinguished by a social fabric still full of the spontaneity often erased by extensive tourist footfall, Burano, like the other islands in the lagoon, is a pleasant and relaxing destination nowadays. Its throbbing heart is the Baldassare Galuppi Square (named after a well-known composer born on the is-land) where the church and characteristic leaning bell-tower may be found, and from where little crafts shops and enticing trattorias spread outwards. Once the visit is over, one may embark in the direction of another true gem of the lagoon, the island of Torcello, once the ancient capital of the lagoon. Here, one may admire the relics of what used to be a large town and of the last buildings that have withstood the brunt of history: the cathedral, the church of Santa Fosca, the mediaeval tower, the Devil’s bridge and finally, what legend has handed down to us as Attila’s throne. On Ferragosto day (15 August), the Assumption Fête, the most important event of the year, takes place in Torcello.

Also not far from Burano, and visible to the naked eye, is San Francesco del deserto, a truly peaceful haven surrounded by the greenery of cypress trees, maintained thanks to work by the handful of friars who live in the convent, and which legend reports as being built next to the hermitage of this Saint who arrived in the lagoon from the Holy Land.
Finally, returning to Burano, one may get over a suggestive bridge to Mazzorbo, an island with a discreet, solitary appeal, known for its crops and its ancient walled vineyard, recently tended anew over the past ten years, and once more a symbol of the productivity which once characterised these places.

These islands are flanked by others, each one characterised by its own worth. There is Murano, famed for its production of glass with its important mu-seum, also a home to exhibitions like the current one on Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala; Sant’Erasmo, ever considered the garden of Venice, with its Massimiliana Tower; San Servolo, once a convent, an asylum and latterly a European Training Centre, with its museum, unique worldwide, about Mad-ness; San Lazzaro, the headquarters of an Armenian congregation ever since the Eighteenth century. And even closer to town, San Giorgio, a couple of paces (or rather a couple of breast-strokes) from Saint Mark, the location of the extraordinary Giorgio Cini Foundation complex and its important exhi-bitions; the Giudecca, known for the Fête of the Redeemer and its eponymous church, teeming with history and art. Finally, we cannot fail to recall the Lido and Pellestrina, the two islands overlooking the sea, with their beaches and their own completely different characters, the only ones with an albeit minimal, road network, connected to the mainland and to each other by a ferry-boat service (during this period we may recall the popular Pellestrina fêtes of the Madonna della Marina and of Portosecco).
Regarding connections, all of these islands (apart from San Francesco del deserto) are regularly linked with public navigation services by the Actv and Alilaguna companies. The latter offers a dedicated service, the green line, specifically conceived for an itinerary covering most of the ones listed (please see timetable on page 93).
In consideration of this period, marked by big summer holidays, we have mentioned the islands, but the city itself is naturally the one offering major tourist attractions. Exhibitions obviously feature among them. The reigning queen at the moment is the International Art Exhibition by the Biennale, now reaching its 58th edition. It is flanked by all the other exhibitions promoted by the top institutions in town.