Traveling in Venice
SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE AND GIUDECCA
BASILICA Dl SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE. Standing on its own monastic island, S. Giorgio Maggiore contrasts sharply with most other Venetian churches. Palladio ignored the Venetian fondness for color and instead opted for an austere design. Light fills the enormous open space inside, although unfortunately it does not hit Tintoretto’s Last. Supper by the high altar; a light switch illuminates the wraithlike angels hovering over Christ’s table. The beautiful courtyard, to the right of the church, is closed to the public. Take the elevator to the top of the campanile for a marvelous view of the city. (Vaporetto: S. Giorgio Maggiore. Open in summer M-Sa 9am-12:30pm and 2:30-6:30pm; off-season 2:30-5pm. Basilica free. Campanile ‚3.)
ISLANDS OF THE LAGOON
BURANO. In this traditional fishing village, fishermen haul in their catch every morning while women sit in the doorways of their fantastically colored houses, creating unique knots of Venetian lace. See their handiwork in the small Scuola di Merletti di Burano (Lace Museum). The basilica, Chiesa di San Martino, sits across from the museum. (A 40min. boat ride from Venice. Vaporetto #12: Burano from either S. Zac-caria or Fond. Nuove. Museum in P. Galuppi. Open Su-M and W-Sa 10am-5pm. ‚4.)
Famous for its glass since 1292 (when Venice’s artisans were forced off Venice proper because their kilns started fires), the island of Murano affords visitors the opportunity to witness the glass-blowing process. Don’t be fooled by the vendors near the train station or in P.S. Marco who sell tickets to see glass demonstrations the studios in Murano are free. Look for signs directing to the fomace, concentrated around the Colona, Faro, and Navagero vaporetti stops. The speed and grace of these artisans are stunning, and some studios let visitors blow their own glass creations. The Museo Vetrario (Glass Museum) houses a splendid collection that features pieces from Roman times. Farther down the street stands the exceptional 12th-century Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato, which displays the supposed bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus. (Vaporetto #12 or 52: Faro from S. Zaccaria. Museo Vetrario: Fond. Giustian 8. s041 73 95 86. Open M-Tu and Th-Su 10am-5pm. ‚5, students ‚3. Basilica open daily 8am-noon and 4-7pm. Free.)
T0RCELL0. Torcello, a safe haven for early fishermen fleeing barbarians on the mainland, was the most powerful island in the lagoon before Venice usurped its inhabitants and its glory. Today Torcello is a less-visited locale with simple natural beauty that draws visitors seeking a respite from the mainland maelstrom. The island’s cathedral, Santa Maria Assunta, contains 11th- and 12th-century mosaics depicting the Last Judgment and the Virgin Mary. The campanile affords splendid views of the outer lagoon. (45min. by boat from Venice. Vaporetto #T: Torcello from Burano. Cathedral s041 73 01 19. Open daily 10am-6pm. ‚3. Church and campanile ‚6.)
LIDO. Venice’s Lido provided the setting for Thomas Mann’s classic 14th-century novel Death in Venice. Visonti’s film version was also shot here at the famous Hotel des Bains, Lungomare Marconi 17. Today, people flock to Lido to enjoy the surf at the crowded public beach. An impressive shipwreck looms at one end. The island also offers a casino, horseback riding, and one of Italy’s finest golf courses, the Alberoni Golf Club. (Vaporetto #1 and 82: Lido.)
ISOLA DI SAN MICHELE. Venice’s cemetery island, S. Michele, is home to Coducci’s tiny Chiesa di S. Michele in Isola (1469), the first Renaissance church in Venice. Enter the grounds through the church’s right-hand portal, over which a relief depicting St. Michael slaying the dragon is perched. Beautiful, quiet grounds offer a much-appreciated opportunity for peaceful reflection after the hustle and bustle of Venice. Poet, Fascist sympathizer, and enemy of the state Ezra Pound is buried in the Protestant cemetery, while Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Sergei Diaghilev are entombed in the Orthodox graveyard. (Vaporetto: Cimitero, from Fond. Nuove. Church and cemetery open Apr.-Sept. daily 7:30am-6pm; Oct.-Mar. 7:30am-4pm. Free.)
The weekly A Guest in Venice, free at hotels and tourist offices or online at www.unospitedivenezia.it, lists current festivals, concerts, and gallery exhibits.
Admiring the front doors of Venetian houses and palazzi via their original canal pathways is an experience only a gondola can provide. Rides are most romantic about 50min. before sunset and most affordable if shared by six people. The rate that a gondolier quotes is negotiable and the most bargain-able gondoliers are those standing by themselves, rather than those in groups at the taxi-stands throughout the city. The official price starts at ‚62 per 50min. with a maximum of six people, and prices rise at night.