The Venice Lagoon
Yes, we are called Bespoke France, but we’re really excited about boating in Venice, or the Venice lagoon, more precisely. In October, we met up with six friends and rented a 12.8m Classique S from Crown Blue Line. We cruised from Casier down the gentle Sile River, then out into the lagoon on our way to the islands of Torcello, Mazorbo, Burano and St Erasmo. After a couple of days we headed for town, cruising past the Arsenale, round to the Piazza San Marco before turning into the broad Giudecca Canal and what passes for heavy traffic around Venice. Robert was in his element, dodging freight barges, vaporetti, water taxis, and assorted pleasure craft. We tied up at a quiet mooring on the lagoon side of the Giudecca, then sat on deck with a glass or two of prosecco and watched the sun set. Dinner that night was at a pizza restaurant beside the canal, with views of San Marco and Dorsoduro.
Next morning, leaving some of our party to spend the day in Venice, we cruised off to the old town of Malmocco, through a scattering of the small islands that punctuate the lagoon. A couple of them are pricey resorts, one is a cemetery, some are privately owned, some are scrubby and deserted and one was apparently a home for stray dogs. Malamocco is a short bus ride from the famous Venice Lido, home of the Venice film festival and the city’s beaches, though was a bit chilly for a dip in mid-October. After an excellent lunch in the garden of the Malamocco pub, we cruised back to our Giudecca mooring to meet our friends, who were badly in need of a prosecco reviver after a hard day’s sightseeing.
The following day we cruised past the glitzy Hotel Cipriani, turned for a last look at the massive white facade of San Giorgio Maggiore, and started back to base. “Can we stop at Murano?” someone asked and so we did, mooring a few metres from the glass museum in the centre of town, while tourists arriving on the vaporetto looked at us with envy.
After some light shopping followed by lunch on deck, we tootled off again towards Torcello.
I’ve been crazy about Venice since I first went there 30-odd years ago, and I was in love with the idea of it well before that. But a land-based, if that’s the word, visit gives only a limited view - yes, of course there are the palaces, the paintings, a church for every Sunday of the year, and history at every turn, but a week on a boat in the lagoon reveals the scale of the place. It’s so much more than the fish-shaped bit in the middle and so much of its life happens on the water - it’s the highway, the farm, the sportsfield, it’s what protected the republic from invasion for a thousand years. Then there’s the sense of freedom that comes from being independent, and able to go where you want, when you want. (Not down the Grand Canal though - no rental boats allowed.) Boating lanes are marked with tripods of sturdy logs, and are easy enough to follow from the boat’s chart. Traffic is generally quite sedate, apart from the odd boy racer, and nothing like Italian roads.
We followed our cruise with three nights in a hotel, went to a lovely production of La Traviata in an old palazzo, visited a few churches and museums, nipped quickly through the Piazza San Marco, dodging pigeons and tour parties, drank a lot of campari, ate a lot of icecream and spent a long time standing on bridges observing the mesmerising variety of boat traffic that we had been part of for a little while.
PS - Those who like the sound of lagoon cruising, but who don’t actually want to take the wheel themselves, should consider the hotel barge La Bella Vita.
PPS - 2024 Crown Blue Line is now part of Le Boat