Far-flung patches of marshy land transformed into fishing villages, monasteries, asylums, hospitals, and market gardens, the islands in the Venice Lagoon are a marvelous world unto themselves. San Pietro in Volta, inhabited by hardy fisher-folk and rowing champions, is a photogenic village set on a slender strip of sand facing the Adriatic, and accessible from the Lido by car ferry, bus, or bicycle. It comes alive in the summer months with a string of saints’ festivities that see colorful processions and dancing in the streets. A bunch of excellent fish restaurants there includes Trattoria Da Nane.
A short distance north across the water on vaporetto Line 20, a dwindling community of Armenian monks on San Lazzaro degli Armeni continue as guardians of a historic library with numerous beautifully illustrated manuscripts.
They also act as tour guides for visitors to their peaceful haven. The fascinating neighboring island of San Servolo (guided tours available), erstwhile psychiatric sanatorium, now not only houses an international university but also hosts artisans’ workshops.
Northwards, most visitors head for Burano for its brightly painted houses and lace shops, but next door is also pretty Mazzorbo, home to laid-back trattorias and vegetable gardens bulging with prize artichokes. A private taxi launch is needed to reach San Francesco del Deserto, a peaceful cypress- ringed retreat for a small community of Franciscan monks who happily show the curious around their island home, founded by Saint Francis himself.
For ferry information
Isola di San Francesco del Deserto
Isola di San Lazzaro degli Armeni Line 20 from San Zaccaria;
Isola di San Servolo
Trattoria Da Nane Via Laguna 282, Pellestrina;