The Venetian Lagoon divides up into two parts, the Northern and Southern Lagoon. Both areas are dotted with islands, large and small. Many of these islands are now uninhabited and abandoned, but they still offer a strong sense of Venetian history.
I sometimes have a chance to go and visit a friend who bought a house on one of these islands in the Northern Lagoon called Torcello.
Torcello is quite a distance from Venice. To get there, you can take the No.14 water bus. It departs from the pier in front of the church of Santa Maria della Pieta, which is a few steps from San Zaccaria.
During the trip, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the lagoon from the upper deck of the water bus. The trip lasts about an hour during which you cross much of the Northern Lagoon and arrive as far as Burano.
After a short stop at the Lido, the water bus sets off again in the direction of Punta Sabbioni. Along the way, you can take in the fortress of San Andrea as you pass in front of it. This fortress was a military fortification which once defended the entrance from the sea into Venice.
The route then meets up with the waterway leading out of the Port of San Niccolò. From there, you can gaze out toward the seemingly endless open sea. After disembarking at Punta Sabbioni, you continue the journey by passing through the quiet canals of the Northern Lagoon.
When he’s working in Venice, my friend is constantly in the midst of the frenetic chaos that dominates the city centre. This is why his house in Torcello, set in the silence of the lagoon, is a retreat for him. There, life moves along according to the slower rhythms of the past.
To relax and work off stress in this peaceful oasis, my friend takes a boat out in the canals. I accompany him sometimes. We drift along together surrounded by a silence that one is almost not accustomed to anymore. It’s broken only by a few passing fishing boats. Along the banks of this marsh area, herons and egrets live on small mounds barely jutting out of the water and black-winged stilts scurry around in search of food.
Rowing is hard work if you haven’t trained at it or don’t do it often. So after a brief trip, we turn back toward the colourful houses of Burano. They guide us in as they did fisherman long ago.
Returning to Venice in late afternoon, the light of the sunset paints the lagoon with unexpected shades of colour. The singular emotion this evokes in me is an added gift as I travel home over the water which surrounds Venice and makes it unique.