Visiting the lagoon on the north of Venice by sailing between isles, barene, velme, casoni and cane thickets is a truly unforgettable experience.
Many writers as Titus Livius and Hemingway have been fascinated by these wonderful stretches of water and green isles. Sailing in the lagoon is indeed like discovering a dreamscape: the distances double, the borders seem bigger and the surface of water unveils the submerged spectacle of the shoals.
Since the antiquity the man has considered the lagoon as a natural barrier against enemies coming from the sea, and also as a source of richness, with all its ports, its inhabited and cultivated isles. But nowadays, with the exception of settlements such as Burano, Mazzorbo, Torcello, even the human presence is no more stable. There are only some buildings, ruins and cottages for fishers, which are an evidence of still withstanding activities like horticulture and fish-breeding.
An itinerary around Cavallino Treporti
This is an itinerary which can be recommended in every season of the year (with the exception of the days when the sirocco and the bora blow hard) and should be completed on a boat not longer than 4 meter, with a flat or careened bottom and a highest draught of 50 cm.
While sailing, you can discover the vastness of the lagoon, see the colours of the water and the sky, the salt-pans, the nets, the shoals, hear the voices around and admire the bounds of fishes and birds.
You can visit the barene, where the vegetation is characterized by such species as the Spartina, which is a graminaceous plant that can bring about the raising of the ground, and the Salicornia, a plant that can resist the salinity level extremely well. On the less salty grounds not far from fresh or brackish water, the barene are characterized by the giunchi.
An interesting itinerary can be started from the lagoon of the Cavallino and its small fishing valleys and from the inhabited lagoon of the Canale Pordelio, which is full of gardens and characterized by the activities of the fishers. After crossing the wild and bright landscape of the Palude Maggiore, where you can sail between the barene of San Felice and of Lio Piccolo, you can find the canals separating the small isles, their urbanized coasts and gardens along the Valli Liona, the Canale d'Arco and the Valle Falconera.
The depth of the canals varies between 20 meters and 1,2 meters.
Visiting the isles of the Northern Lagoon
Burano: lively fishing isle, also known as isola del merletto e dei mille colori. It is typical for its coloured houses and a long gastronomic tradition. It is 9 km away from Venice.
Torcello: the old "capital" of the Northern Lagoon seems now a phantom isle with rustic and desolate features: very few houses, meadows and some gardens. Being there is like finding yourself in surrealistic place dominated by the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, which is the oldest one of the lagoon.
San Francesco del Deserto: Franciscan convent, which was built in 1229 and has a church dedicated to the saint, who lived there for a short period. The isle offers an atmosphere of peace and quietness and can offer every visitor a period of meditation and tranquillity. The garden gives also the chance to enjoy a wonderful view over Burano.
Mazzorbo: it is the "main town" with gardens and orchards which attract the tourists. The only church is that of Santa Caterina. It is not so often visited, quiet and remote, also gothic and old at the same time. It contains very important historic proofs of the Middle Age lagoon.
While you sail among the little isles of the lagoon, you must enjoy the chance to taste the various dishes of fish which make the cuisine of this territory so typical. Soles, sardines, eels and crustaceans are very frequent in numerous receipts like the stewed eel (frisato in umido), the baked frog-fish (rosta de rospo), the sardines in saor (a very popular receipt) and even fried soles, mullets, sea basses. The various kinds of the famous risotto with the seafood and the fish soups (broetì), that can be cooked in many ways, taste delicious.
The Venice Lagoon
It has a surface of 550 sq km and is the largest lagoon of the Mediterranean Sea. It has in fact an overall length of 52 km from Chioggia to Caposile and a width varying from 8 to 14 km. It is composed by the Laguna Sud (Pellestrina, Valle dei Sette Morti, Cason Figheri and Chioggia) and the Laguna Nord containing an archipelago of isles such as Burano and Torcello. Venice is in the middle of this area, is shaped like a fish and accompanied by the neighbouring isles San Michele, San Giorgio Maggiore, San Servolo. The isles of the lagoon are about forty.
Shoals formed by the silts of river and sea water, which make a deposit on the bottoms along the banks of the canals. The velme emerge by low tide.
Flat and low isles built by the sand silts and covered with vegetation, which rise over the average sea level.
Small internal canals of erosive origin, which cross the barene.
Chiare and Paciare
Ground depressions where the salt water, which has made deposits by low tide, is mixed with the meteoric water and originate small lakes.
Typical wooden pile-structures, which are used by the fishers as temporary houses and equipment stores.
To be read
Rallo G., Guida alla natura nella laguna di Venezia – Itinerari, storia e informazioni naturalistiche - Franco Muzzio Editore, Padova, 1996.
Masiero F., Le isole delle lagune venete – Natura, storia, arte, turismo - Mursia Editore, 1981.