The city of Venice consists of 114 islands of various sizes, although most of them are not accessible for visitors. For tourists, who often have only limited time at their disposal, it can be difficult to choose which ones of the islands to visit. The list below gives a short description of the main islands in the lagoon.
The islands of Venice
History and description
If you have but little time, but still wish to see one or more of the islands, it is best to start with Murano, Burano and Torcello. All three islands are beautiful, each one for a different reason.
The other two must-sees are Giudecca and Lido.
Murano is the better known of the three, a fame it owes to its renowned glass-blowing industry. One of the main attractions is watching the glass blowers at work, and then being taken by an incredible smooth salesman to the adjacent shop, where you get to see some amazingly beautiful handiwork first, before being taken to see some glass jewelry you can almost afford, and then buying some. And it is all done in such a natural way that you don’t even feel sorry afterward.
Burano used to be an island of fishermen. In order to know exactly where they should come back to shore, the fisherman used to paint their houses all in different colors. Even though not that many fishermen are left, the houses are still there and are one of the most picturesque sites of Venice.
Whereas the first two islands are crowded with tourists, Torcello is a lot quieter. The island has one main attractions, which is its Cathedral. The church itself was built in the 7th century. Its main attraction is an 11th century fresco cycle. The “Devil’s Bridge” is one of the most famous bridges of the city.
The main attraction of Giudecca is not really on the island itself. From its waterfront, you have a beautiful view of mainland Venice across the canal (which is also called Giudecca). The Redentore Church and the Chiesa delle Zitelle are the main sights on the island.
Lido is best known as the location of Venice’s annual film festival. Its nightlife is famous and it is one of the few islands with an actual beach. Lido is harder to get to than the other islands, however, and you need to take a bus from the harbor where the boat lands if you want to go to a free beach.
If you have a little bit of extra time, you could visit San Michele, which is very close to Murano. San Michele is the cemetery island of the city. Famous people buried here include Igor Strawinsky and Ezra Pound.
San Giorgio Maggiore
The main point of interest on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is the basilica of the same name. The island is located across from Piazza San Marco and from the top of its bell tower you have a gorgeous view of the mainland.
San Francesco nel Deserto
The main attraction of the San Francesco nel Deserto Island is the Franciscan convent, which can be visited every day except Mondays.
The island of Le Vignole is located about a mile east of mainland Venice. It is one of the two islands where vegetable for the entire city used to be cultivated. Le Vignole, which is divided into two parts by a canal, is best known for its natural beauty and its free roaming peacocks.
Lazzaretto Vecchio and Lazzaretto Nuovo
The Lazzaretto Vecchio is located off the coast of Lido. It is here that the world’s first lazaret was founded. This former quarantine island is open to tourists only on Sundays. On the Lazzaretto Nuovo ship’s crews suspected of being infected by the plague were quarantined before they were allowed into the city.
A visit to the island of San Servolo and the “museum of the local madhouse” is possible only on request.
Sant’Erasmo, former military stronghold protecting Lido, is now pretty much the city’s vegetable garden.
Pellestrina is closer to Chioggia than to Venice itself. It is one of the few parts of the city where you can go by bicycle and even has public transport by bus.
The island of San Clemente is alsost entirely taken up by a luxury resort.
Interesting, but off-limits
Poveglia was first used as a quarantine station for plague victims in the past, and later became a mental asylum. The patients at the island were allegedly tortured and killed. It is said to be haunted.