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  • Writer's pictureStefania Gioia

A Lagoon to Fall in Love

Back from our last adventure in the Venetian lagoon, where we were blessed by a warm sunny day, we felt so excited, fulfilled and grateful that we decided to turn the entire experience directly into a tour. A special suggestion for our friends who would like to spend a different Sunday and a recommendation for the adventurous visitors willing to explore the lagoon’s off the beaten paths. This is the chronicle of about 8 hours of pure joy:

10:00 am - Destination → Mazzorbo. Happily leaving a very crowded Piazzale Roma, we took vaporetto Line 3 to Murano, where we transferred to Line 12, that goes directly to Mazzorbo, a small island connected to Burano by Ponte Longo wooden bridge. In order to reach the island with no transfer, you can also take Line 12 from Fondamenta Nuove. Consider that the whole trip might take, more or less, 1 hour and 30 minutes.

A peaceful oasis mostly covered in rose and jasmine scented gardens, Mazzorbo was founded in 604 A.D., right after the barbaric invasions. At that time it was called Maiurbium (from the Latin, “major town”) and it was densely populated, hosting noble palaces and important monasteries filled with works of art.

Crossing the island through a walled, verdant vineyard, we couldn’t help but stop by Venissa for a refreshing glass of white wine. Relying on its own winery and on a rich vegetable garden, the Michelin starred restaurant and osteria boasts an imaginative menu that combines typical ingredients, such as fresh seafood, with herbs growing wild among the vines. Although, for today, we’ve more audacious culinary plans…!

Beyond the bridge, for a little while we follow a group of Italian students visiting Burano, the lace island. Despite its small dimension, it’s still possible to avoid the tourists’ flock and explore some of the most typical alleys, strolling by the colorful Bepi’s house or walking by the prominent sculptor Remigio Barbaro’s ancient residence. In Piazza Galuppi, the only square on the island, we scheduled a few stops by the most authentic lace workshops and by the famous Carmelina Palmisano bakery, where Carmelina in person still bakes bussola’, zaletti and other popular Venetian biscuits. Talking to the residents, the pride to be part of this small, operose community is vivid and palpable.

12:00 am: Destination → The beautiful lagoon. It’s time to shove off, again. Only not on a public water bus, but by a typical flat bottomed boat. Our sailor, Domenico, is one of the last 20 moecanti: in Venetian dialect these are soft-shelled crabs fishermen, who practice a particular fishing technique two times a year, in spring and autumn. Domenico, who lived in Burano his whole life, has dark, sunburn skin and large, blue eyes that alone tell a million stories about the lagoon and its secrets.

He drives us along the mysterious lagoon paths, sometimes in open wide spaces, some others through meandering canals overshadowed by lush vegetation. Tamerisk bushes hide old huts, where fishermen use to store their tools, while close to the shore, suspended on the water, wooden baskets are filled with swarming crabs. Not far from there, in the vicinity of La Cura island, on a peaceful canal between two green strips of land, Giacomo Casanova used to bring his luscious conquests.

Domenico has been navigating these waters for many years and remembers when, still very young, with his father used to cook polenta on the wooden boat.

Our itinerary includes San Pieretto island; Palude della Rosa, a swamp where recently a flamingo flock uses to gather; Centranica island, now totally submerged; Santa Cristina and Saline islands. Our last stop is in Torcello, where the third part of this incredible journey begins.

2:00 pm: Destination → Torcello. Everything on this island is a sign of a glorious, remote past: from Attila’s stone throne to the outstanding Basilica where ancient, magnificent mosaics are still preserved. Inhabited only by 9 people, this small piece of land is enveloped in a mysterious aura, also fuelled by many legends from the past. Here we are to hear these fabulous stories from the lips of Paolo Andrich who, together with his trusted dog, greets us in his beautiful retreat.

Nephew of the celebrated artist Lucio Andrich, who spent on the island most of his life, the architect inherited his house and turned it into a charming museum that contains several samples of his uncle’s multifaceted work.

From the turbulent love story between Lucio and his lovely companion Clementina, who used to sew radiant tapestries that inspired the artist’s imaginary, to the novel “Across the River and into the Trees”, that Ernest Hemingway wrote during his stay on the island while drinking an indefinite number of Amarone bottles, every story seems to enrich our poetic experience.

In the garden of the low, white house Paolo, eclectic as much as his precursor, installed an ancient door frame made of stone that he likes to call “The Paradise Door”. Facing Palude delle Rose on one side, on the other it leads to the garden, where the architect grows artichokes and apple trees. Besides an exquisite jam, with his Prussian apples Andrich produces a notable vinegar, whose unique label shows one of his uncle’s masterpieces.

Seduced by painted silks, colorful glass tiles and exotic sculptures, we didn’t even realize Domenico has started to cook a promising fish fry, whose mouthwatering smell spreads all over the backyard. Prosecco has been served by Paolo, who also thought about a final homemade dessert, obviously dressed with his delicious jam.

It’s almost the end of our journey, and I guess now you can easily understand why, in my first line, I chose the word “grateful”, and why every step of this tour turned into an unforgettable experience.

We thank our wise mariner Domenico, who led us through the impenetrable lagoon and cooked the most genuine meal; Paolo, whose house-museum and kitchen are always open to whoever is curious to explore this parallel world; Burano’s inhabitants we had the chance to meet and interview, and whoever is working to preserve the magic lagoon ecosystem. We hope our tours become an opportunity to inform and empower people about nature and history of this natural reserve, which represents one of the most precious sources in Veneto.

Have a Glass in Venice arranges full or half day tours that can be customized according various interests and needs. What are you waiting for?

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