San Francesco del Deserto, Burano and San Lazzaro degli Armeni boat tour
In the beginning of April I attended a press tour of Venice’s spirituality islands, San Francesco del Deserto and San Lazzaro degli Armeni. I was invited by Piero Casetta of Padova Originale to discover a new itinerary of the Delta Tour, a shipping company, which organises tours along the Venice lagoon, Padova canals and Po river.
Meeting on a Sunday morning at 8.15 sharp to leave at the Fusina boarding area, 100 meters before the parking lot where I left my Penelope, the car.
The Delta Tour boat was rather big, with a capacity of about 200 people.
We started our slow navigation towards San Francesco del Deserto, a small island just in front of Burano, and the nice staff offered us some mini croissant and coffee.
For the first time in my life I saw the well-known MOSE.
While sailing towards the island, I moved on the top terrace and… what a sight! Between San Francesco, recognizably by the amount of cypresses all around it, and Burano, flocks of birds were flying over the water in beautiful geometric shapes.
San Francesco del Deserto
San Francesco del Deserto is famous because, according to the legend, Saint Francis of Assisi stopped here to recover after a storm during his return to Italy from Egypt. Before that its name was isola delle vigne, vineyard island. I was particularly pleased to visit it, because this island is only accessible by private boat, and not by public transport. Therefore it was a great opportunity.
A friar welcomed us and narrated us the story of the island. He was cool, I must say it. At the end of the speech, he told us: Now, if you’re interested in the church, come with me. If you don’t give a damn about it, you can go see the garden. 😀 Very modern of him. Bravo! Finally!
Interesting is the possibility for people to spend a weekend of meditation there with the friars.
No regrets in Burano
After this visit we had a merenda with fried veggies we stopped in Burano. I was only slightly disappointed. See, in the program I was given, the planned destination was Torcello, which I haven’t visited yet and I was looking forward to do it. On the other hand, you know how much I love Burano. So my disappointment lasted about 9 seconds and I rushed with open arms towards Burano. Moreover we had a free hour to get around. I couldn’t help but returning on the scene of the crime, which is the Casa Blu shop. A lovely elegant shop full of treasures: bags, necklaces, shawls, etc and buy the lace bracelet I fell in love with the previous time. Birthday self present a week in advance! 🙂
As usual, the colours and the atmosphere of Burano won me over. Honestly, I don’t know if I could actually live there. I guess I would miss the city, but every time I’m there I fantasize about buying that pink house with the ON SALE sign on and live my old life behind. At least I hope to have the chance to spend at least one night there sooner or later.
Back on board we had a copious seafood lunch. About the food, its quality surprised me, considering the fact that it is prepared on board. Everything quite good, especially the fish fry.
San Lazzaro degli Armeni
Next stop, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, once a leper colony, then a hospital, now a monastery. There we visited the library, the manuscripts room, Lord Byron room (he often frequented the island and wrote an Armenian – English vocabulary and a grammar book), the church and the lovely cloister. As for the manuscripts, room has a peculiarity that recurs in every Armenian church, a circular ceiling. According to the tradition, the priest, after hearing someone’s confession, must confess himself. So he gets to the centre of the room, where only he can listen to the echo of his own voice.
The sphere that you see in the photo (with my reflection) was made by a monk, who (in 10 years) carved a unique peace of ivory and obtained (who knows how!) 15 independent spheres, one inside the other like a matrioska. Impressive!
The tour guide was fantastic. A willfull woman, speaking perfect Italian, well capable of leading a group. She was very pleased when she realized I was taking notes. She was rightfully proud of her cultural heritage. And moved when she pointed at some objects, belonged to some victims of the Armenian genocide.
In the church, with a vivid blue ceiling in honour of the virgin, the altar was covered by a red tent. That’s because we are in Lent, period in which the altars of the Armenian churches cannot be seen. Below you can see the island.
Breathtaking views from the boat bow
The navigation from San Lazzaro degli Armeni to Fusina was a marvel. We headed towards San Marco basin and, for a long moment, the campanile di San Giorgio and that of San Marco looked like two twin bell towers standing side by side against the blue sky. I had never seen the basin from this perspective before. It was breathtaking and one of my favourite moments of the entire press tour. While the majority of people was sitting here and there, I took possession of the boat bow and filled my eyes with all the beauty I could steal.
I can’t but thank the organisation: Piero and all the Delta Tour Staff, in particular the young Gloria, who made me feel welcome from the beginning, and my other “table mates” Roberta, Maria Cinzia and Marina. Plus Lina, beautiful and also very kind. And this confirms my usual thought after these experiences: The best part are the people. 🙂