Islands of the Venetian Lagoon

Posted by Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

One of the pleasures of staying right in Venice, rather than visiting for a day, is the opportunity to enjoy it without crowds early and late …. such as this morning as we walk through the quiet Piazza San Marco, just a few pigeons and us. A refreshing contrast to our afternoon walks when it’s difficult to even cross the space, as full as it is with people.
We chug past the Giardini stop, where the city is gearing up for the Biennale (a few art installations are already scattered around the city), around the residential Santa Elena end of the city, and pull up to Fondamenta Nuove, where we change to the Burano-bound line.
Arriving at Mazzorbo, we decide we’ve been on boats long enough, and walk across the quiet little island. Not much here but an old church surrounded by vineyards.
The vine-covered chapel houses public bathrooms – grazie!
A gently arched bridge brings us to the island of Burano. We’ll come back for lunch and a long lazy afternoon stroll, but now it’s time to hop on yet another boat for the five-minute ride to Torcello, the now almost deserted island where this lagoon republic began centuries ago after the sack of Rome. The barbarian hordes were spreading across the mainland, and refugees escaped to the lagoon, first settling in Torcello.
Walking down the canal to what is left of the settlement, crossing one of only two remaining un-parapetted bridges in the lagoon, it’s hard to imagine this desolate and quiet place as a busy trading center, alive with towers, docks, grand houses.
Beside a pretty little vineyard splashed with poppies is a grassy area sprinkled with old carvings, wellheads, and the so-called Attila’s throne, a stone chair.
Today all that is left of the glory days is a truly amazing church, begun in 639 – amazing on the inside, that is. One of those places that you walk inside and are just astounded at what has endured for over a thousand years. One one end of the church is a vast glittering mosaic of the Last Judgment, and at the other, above intricate mosaic floors is the high altar, with steep steps leading to the throne of the Patriarch of the church. A design we’ve never seen elsewhere – a meeting of eastern and western orthodoxy.
From the quiet of Torcello, we return to the bustle of Burano, snapping photos of the impossibly picturesque homes all the way to the main piazza. Even in winter, when we were a couple of months ago, the townsfolk gathered and chatted in the town center, and on this beautiful sunny day, they ALL seem to be here, joined by boatloads of tourists.
Our cameras are kept busy,and lunch on the shady terrace of Da Romano right on the piazza keeps us in the middle of the action.
Time to try some Venetian specialties – we’ve long heard of Sarde in Saor, sardines in a sweet and sour onion sauce, often with pine nuts and raisins. We order a plate to share (it comes with grilled polenta, another Venetian standard) and all have a taste. Interesting, but none of us become instant fans.
Two of us both order Moeche – Venetian soft shell crabs which are in season right now – and those are a big hit!
We stroll around the little island after lunch, watching the laundry dry, then catch the boat back to Venice, dozing in the breeze as we return – it’s the slow life for us!

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The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, lea
rned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.

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