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FORGOTTEN ISLANDS of the Venice Lagoon

The Venice Lagoon contains more than a hundred islands – some small, some large; some natural, some man-made. Sara Scarpa invites us on an island-hopping expedition…
Images © Iain Reid

Often, on a sunny summer morning when we are in my home town of Venice, my husband and I will cycle from the centre of the island of Lido to its southern end to reach our cantiere nautico (marina) in Alberoni. The anticipation on reaching our small boat never diminishes as we look forward to another glorious day out in the lagoon. Even after so many years of making these expeditions onto the water, because there are so many islands to visit, we always have the opportunity to embark on an entirely new adventure and experience a different part of the lagoon.

Risen from the waters of the lagoon, Venice has been able to survive for centuries thanks to these islands.

They show how Venice would have been like at its origins – small pieces of land lapped in marsh and mudbank surrounded by canals, water-channels and rivulets.

The islands of the lagoon are as varied as their history is diverse. Some are natural, others man-made; many hold memories. They had different purposes, which often changed during the centuries: quarantine stations (for plague and disease), hospitals, monasteries, powder magazines, prisons, cemeteries and even places of execution. The lagoon holds many secrets.

A large number of the islands that no longer have anyone living on them were inhabited for centuries before falling into abandonment. Attempts have been made to promote the renaissance of some, but these have only been successful in a few instances. Many magnificent churches, monuments, libraries and monasteries have disappeared, or stand weathered in the midst of the lagoon. And some islands now lie submerged beneath the waters and are lost for ever.

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About Italia!

True to form, this issue is packed with fascinating features and articles covering the Italian peninsula. You’ll love the evocative account of a visit to Genoa – our cover star this month – there is so much to see and admire, and take a boat trip out onto the Venetian lagoon to explore the forgotten islands, all with poignant tales to tell. Our newest writer Anna takes us on a tour of the Alta Maremma, once a marshy swamp and now the home to some of the finest wines in Italy, while the Po Delta is the destination for a weekend away.