Linda De Angelis
Venice Lagoon: An Enchanting Treasure Trove to be Discovered - Part 2
Truman Capote once said, “Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” Venice is an enchanting, beautiful & intriguing treasure. It’s a romantic & historic city - lavish in art, history & iconic sightseeing.
Each time I visit, I still marvel at the spectacular Grand Canal & the bridges that connect the buildings, piazzas & stunning St Mark's Square with the giant Basilica & its bell tower. The city centre has an enchanting labyrinth of cobblestone streets & canals. No matter how many times I visit, whether I have a map or not, I still get lost. It’s like being in a magical maze! The historical centre of Venice is the jewel in the crown of this region & the encompassing islands are like beguiling gems encrusted around the crown.
Unsplashed image by Dana Andreea Gheorghe
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of cruising the Venetian waterways with Le Boat, Europe’s favourite houseboat company! We started our boat journey from Casale, a small town full of charm & history at the top of the Sile River. This is where we picked up our self-drive boat which became our marine home for our aquatic adventure. We were met by the friendly & super knowledgeable staff at the boat base. Our boat was docked at the small marina spick & span ready for us to pick up. Once we were given our orientation of the Veneto waterways & boat briefing it was time to get on with our aquatic adventure, starting down the picturesque river.
The Sile River is the longest river in Europe orienting from a natural spring. These backwaters are delightful. It’s positively storybook quaint seeing pretty gardens by the river, ducks, swans, other aquatic birds, dragon flies & butterflies frolicking in the shimmering water. We loved the aspect of the self-drive boat that we could go at our own pace down the peaceful river meandering our way to the enchanting Venice Lagoon.
We found this self-drive cruiser is a delightful way to enjoy the charming waterways of Veneto & is a perfect way to discover the treasured gems of Venice & her surrounding waterways. It’s easy to see why Venice’s Historical Centre is treasured by people the world over, however the hidden gems are also the most serendipitous delights to discover. There are vibrant historic islands, sleepy islets, artisan communities & traditional fishing-villages. There are 122 islands & 157 canals! In this blog I’m going to share with you five of my favourite islands to discover including the spectacular jewel of the region the historical centre of Venice.
Image by © Linda De Angelis | photo taken near the Le Boat base at Casale on the Sile River
Unsplashed image by AussieActive
My top Five Gems of Venice
Venice’s Historical Centre - The Jewel of the Crown.
As we arrived at Venice Lagoon, we noticed there were many more boats on the water, making the pace somewhat more exhilarating. We saw every sort of watercraft from gondola, leisure cruisers, vaporetti (Venetian ferries), zippy little speed boats & even large ocean cruisers. Upon entering the Venice lagoon, much like markers on the road, these indicate the water path to follow, we noticed groups of large wooden poles lodged in the seabed called Briccola or Dolphins, used to indicate the water path to follow.
We were happily cruising our boat on the Venice Lagoon when appeared before our eyes the magnificent vista of the iconic Doge’s Palace, San Marcos Square & Basilica, it was one of the most surreal & awe-inspiring experiences of my life.
San Marco’s Square is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a gorgeous backdrop to the Venice Carnival Festival that happens every year before Lent. The Venice Carnival began when the Venetian Republic was won in 1162. As a mark of solidarity & triumph the townspeople gathered & danced in the San Marco Square, the tradition continued. It was around the 13th Century masks began to be worn, originally to conceal the wearers’ identity & social status, you can read more about this in my blog Part 1 “Venice Lagoon; An Enchanted Treasure to be discovered”
Today San Marco’s Square is the most glamorous place to have a morning coffee or afternoon Aperitivo, there are rows of cafes lining the square with their bright starched white tablecloths, colourful flower boxes, sparkling silver & glassware. With the vista of the ancient, opulent & iconic buildings, this is the perfect way to experience “La Dolce Vita”.
Venice has a rich culture of delicious cuisine to discover, everywhere there was an abundant choice of rustic trattorias, Seafood restaurants & fine dining. We noticed fish is still an important part of Venetian cuisine, particularly famous for the beautiful seafood risottos. A favourite place for dining was the famous “Trattoria all Madonna” a traditional “osteria” established in 1954 serving traditional dishes of authentic Venetian food with the utmost style & quality. The closeness of the fish & produce markets makes it that the freshest of produce is always used.
Now of course as you know where there’s fish there’ll for sure be cats around, I love the way the cats slink around the canals & cafes of Venice, they almost look like moving art!
We also found many museums & opulent palaces of Venice: including the Doge's Palace, the Ca' D'Oro & the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (the former home of Peggy Guggenheim).
Burano & Murano Islands - Twin Gems
Unsplashed image by canmandawe
Near the historical city centre, there are some fascinating islands to visit. These two islands traditionally had the houses brightly coloured. In antiquity, as the story goes, the fishermen would not be able to locate their houses when returning from sea because the fog was so thick, so they began painting their houses bright differing colours so they could tell their homes apart in the dark fog. Burano & Murano Islands are like two siblings, similar however each has a different personality. These two islands captured my imagination with thousands of two-story houses painted in bright, contrasting colours, Burano with the muted colour palette & Murano with the bolder colour palette.
Unsplashed image by Annie Spratt
Burano is one of the perennial favourite places for people to visit. Its where skilful artisans make beautiful delicate lace, we loved shopping for traditional lace at the La Perla shop. In the evening, after all day tripper tourists left, we enjoyed a leisurely aperitif in one of the bars along Corso Baldassarre Galuppi. We found it so easy to moore the boat directly on Burano Island for a small fee, we could access the island on foot via the bridges & internal canals.
In the morning we enjoyed going on early morning walks along the riverbanks & exploring the patchwork laneways created by the charming colourful houses. Then it was easy to follow the delicious smells of the Italian pastries & traditional Venetian biscuits to the famous Pasticceria Carmelina Palmisano, it was such a treat to have with our first coffee of the day!
Unsplashed image by Robert Anderson
Murano is home of the masters of glassmakers. The furnace & the artisans skill transform lumps of molten glass & colour into magnificent blown creations. Each piece has its own unique character, it’s almost like the glass blower’s breathe life into each creation with a kaleidoscope of gem like colour. There’s something for everyone, everything from the elegant to the quirky. It’s delightful to be able to take your own unique souvenir from this magical glass island!
It was beautiful to see the glass Cathedral of Santa Chiara of Marano, the atmosphere of lights was mesmerising. I loved that the cafes by the canal had vases of glass flowers on the tables, a typically Venetian attention to detail.
Torcello – An Unspoiled Treasure
Unsplashed image by Marialura Gionfriddo
Torcello is one of the oldest settlements north of the Venice Lagoon. These days there are only a few residents living there, but in the past, this was one of the most prosperous settlements. Here there is a rich archaeological heritage with UNESCO monuments making this island an intriguing place to discover. There’s the bell tower of the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, with its surrounding lovely gardens. The church was originally established in 639 AD making it one of the oldest in the region. It was originally a single nave with small aisles on either side. There have been subsequent additions, but you can still see the original nave, almost like the rest of the church which was built around the original ancient chapel. This is an awe-inspiring place to visit, amazing to think over many thousands of years this has been a place of worship.
There are some gorgeous exclusive restaurants to discover, one of my favourites is the famous “Locanda Cipriani” it’s a magical place, perfect for any occasion, anything from an elegant luncheon, romantic dinner or an enchanting banquet! The restaurant serves delicious Venetian cuisine, showcasing its culinary heritage, the food & wine is presented always with stylish classic elegance. This delightful family owned & run restaurant has hosted many famous guests, including literary legend Ernest Hemingway & his wife Mary, in the of autumn of 1948, Torcello was where Hemmingway wrote his novel “Across the River & Into the Trees”.
Sant'Erasmo - A Green Gem
Image by © Linda De Angelis | Aperol Spritz was my favourite Venecian drink
One of our favourite stops was the beautiful green island of Sant'Erasmo that the locals call Venice’s vegetable garden. Most of the produce you buy from the Rialto Market come from Sant'Erasmo. The island has kept its original uniqueness as there are no large Venetian monuments. We loved the historic centre with an easy to access marina & all the services our boat needed like water, fuel & small provisions. The island is full of market gardens, vineyards & nature. There is a wonderful a 10km-long cycle path & walkway through the island, we saw beautiful lavender, grapevines, artichokes, olive trees & tomatoes to mention a few of the abundance of produce growing in the fields, the diversity was incredible. I was amazed at all the bees buzzing & butterflies flitting in the gardens. The delightful surprise here was we were able to visit beekeepers hives producing delicious, sweet Barena honey.
Unsplashed image by Alfonso Navarro
Having taken this delightful boat charter with Le Boat, I have a much deeper understanding of the beautiful Veneto waterways. It was a fantastic experience to feel like a local with our own houseboat. We were able to do all our exploring by the early afternoon, moor our boat for the evening & then take a Vaporetto each afternoon to discover more of Venice’s Historical Centre. The beauty & history of Venice seems to enrich your soul.