For peace and tranquillity, visit the islands. There are 118 in the archipelago, but many are flat islets in the lagoon. Take the vaporetto to Torcello, the original settlement that was Venice. This now largely abandoned island was once home to 20 000 people, but now only a handful lives here after decimation by invaders, plague and the gradual silting up of canals into marshes.
To walk the path from the vaporetto landing stage across the ancient bridge with no parapet, the Ponte del Diavolo, is to feel the melancholia of this abandoned place. The original cathedral from the 11th century has a bare simplicity not usual in Venetian churches, but is a place of great calm. This peaceful island has paths along ancient silted-up canals that peter out in grassy fields and thick undergrowth, where the only sounds are that of birdsong and whispering reeds.
In contrast, the island of Burano, once famous for its lace making, is a scaled down version of Venice with small canals, and brightly coloured houses. Keep the church campanile in sight and it is impossible to get lost here, so wander at will and enjoy the sights of fishing vessels moored outside the houses.
The island of Murano, famous for its glass making has organised tours around the factories even to the extent of free rides out to the island, but beware the hard sell. Instead, go on your tourist ticket on the No 52 Vaporetto and enjoy the island without buying what you don’t need and don’t want.
If you do want to escape the tourist areas head for eastern Castello and the island of San Pietro where you will find the oldest church of Venice, San Pietro di Castello, which was the cathedral of Venice untill the XIX century.
The island, connected to Venice by two bridges, is the oldest settlement in the city of Venice and a church was built there already in the XIII century. The church you will find there now has been remodelled over the centuries but it features a facade by Palladio and a splendid leaning bell tower clad in candid white stone which was built during the renaissance.
The "Campo" in front of the church is a heaven of tranquillity and the silence is broken only by the activity of local fishermen and by occasional boats sailing along the canal.
Nearby you will find the busy via Garibaldi still a pretty authentic street full of locals and lively bars and restaurants. Stop for a light lunch at Bar Mio, in front of the public gardens gates and try their delicious "Tramezzini". The area is perfect for a relaxing break, especially when visiting the nearby Biennale exhibition and you will have the chance to see how the "last" locals live.
Good restaurants in the area are "il Giorgione" or the Pizzeria "Ai tosi", and obviously the fantastic "Corte Sconta", just a short walk away.
Eastern part of the Castello district, past the Arsenale. Ferry stop: Giardini or Arsenale.
I love this part of Venice. It's a little off the beaten track even though the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Accademia are only a few blocks away.
Stroll the quiet streets and escape the crowds and for a genuine trip in a gondola for a fraction of the price take a tragetto across to S. Maria Griglio. Be sure to stand up though - sitting is frowned upon.
Torcello is the island at the north of the Venetian lagoon that might have been Venice, and that Venice might have been. In their early days they were equally populous, but Venice prospered and Torcello dwindled; as a result, you can find quiet and contemplation on Torcello that sometimes eludes one in Venice itself.
Especially noteworthy for church junkies is the Ciesa Santa Maria Assunta, with its mosaics of the Last Judgement and of the Virgin and child, heavily Byzantine influenced but with some North European influence too.
Take a vaporetto to Burano, a picturesque little island in its own right, and then the Traghetto to Murano.
Venice is always crowded, noisy and vibrant but just occasionally you might feel the need for some peace and quiet. You will find it at the 'Parco delle Rimembranze' at the eastern tip of Venice island. Turn left out of Piazza San Marco and stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni. As you keep walking east alongside the San Marco Canal, the crowds will gradually thin and after about 45 minutes you will reach the park.
It is nothing special but the greenery, the views and the quiet will give you a chance to recharge your batteries.
Small island well away from the city. It used to be an important centre in the 5th-century AD but now just has a scattering of people. As an island it is big enough for a stroll. The main church, famous for its mosaic of Universal Justice, is a fair stroll from the landing pier. In light snow it is a fantastic experience. Go up the tower for stunning views across the lagoon and back to the other islands, Murano and Burano. Don't be surprised by the length of the vaporetto journey though - it's about an hour, far further out than the other islands and a completely different experience. By the way, there's a special place to sit - I won't tell you quite where it is, but if you find yourself there you will be married within a year according to local legend.
In the lagoon, take a vaporetto
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