One might think that Jesolo is in some way the ‘younger sister’ of Venice, at least in terms of tourism, but it has not always been that way. In the annals of history, Jesolo preceded Venice and made a notable contribution to its development.
An ancient city of the Roman empire, as various archaeological discoveries demonstrate, it began as a vicus (village) on an island near the mouth of the Piave. It was one of the numerous stops for merchant vessels, where they sheltered from the wind (especially the Bora) and storms on the route from Ravenna, where grain was loaded from Augustus’ eighth region (Aemilia), to the great city fortress of Aquileia, the bulwark of the Eastern boundaries of Rome. Equilo, from equus (city of horses) and, according to accounts also Equilio, then Esulo, Lesulo, Jexulo, Jexollo,
and Jesolum, became one of the most flourishing ports in the Lagoon Confederation. With the fall of the Roman Empire Jesolo and the other cities of the Veneto estuary, had no political leader and therefore created a congregation, with an autonomous government headed by Paoluccio Anafesto, the legendary first Doge, with a capital, Civitas Nova (Eraclea) at the geographic centre of the
Comune Venetiarum. However, the inhabitants of Jesolo were not happy with the government being based in Eraclea, as they knew that their city had far more illustrious origins. Around the year 1000 it became a bishopric, with 42 churches and numerous convents and became extremely rich from its salt banks.
Venice and its Islands
From the ACTV dock, on the North-Eastern side of the island, you can wander down the narrow streets of the island, following the island perimeter in a clockwise direction.
After the bridge that connects with Burano, turn left and follow the perimeter of the island, passing by the historic Church of St. Catherine
From the ACTV dock, follow the tourist route to the basilica and take a quick look at the uncultivated area behind it.
Lenght: 6 km
Duration: Due to the number of interesting things to see the excursion requires a whole day.
Getting around: The route is totally along paved waterfront, except for a short stretch on Torcello
This excursion is extremely interesting from an artistic, ethnographic and scenic point of view , where the brief route is compensated for by the extraordinary amount of interesting, educational and suggestive things to see. The visitor can explore the historic, artistic and popular heart of the Northern Lagoon, which unveils the multi-faceted, contradictory aspects of its life. This is an experience that requires a whole, unhurried day, and the state of mind to discover and be amazed by the beauty and noble elements of history that this area of the Lagoon has played host to.
Burano: You can get to Burano from the “Ricevitoria” in Treporti with the public transport ACTV steamboat. The same boats also go to Torcello.
Sant’Erasmo: There is something new, or rather ancient, this year in Sant’Erasmo: the imposing, historic Torre Massimiliana (Maximillian Tower) that dominates the little beach of the ‘bacan’, the place where Venetians traditionally go to swim and enjoy themselves, is no longer an illustrious ruin of Austrian military architecture (1800) but a large, physical presence that lives and enlivens the historic area along the ‘line of fire’ that protected the Lagoon. It is dedicated to Archduke Maximillian of Austria, who took refuge there at an extremely turbulent time in 1848. It has been completely recovered and renovated by the Venice Water Authority, with a project by architects Carlo Cappai and Maria Alessandra Segantini. The works were part of a project to safeguard the area from flooding and of urban renewal. After many years of gradual abandon and decay, the green island of gardens and vineyards has its most important monument once again.
The Maximillian Tower on Sant’Erasmo
Now freed from military servitude, the Maximillian Tower has been restored by the Venice Water Authority to the town and to the island.
A Walk on Sant’Erasmo
The same beach, the ‘bacàn’, has also benefitted from the restoration work that has involved that part of the island that for centuries has been linked with San Francesco del Deserto and Burano
on one side and Treporti and Punta Sabbioni on the other. It is a place with prevalently local, domestic, non-invasive tourism. From the strip of sand dedicated to sunbathing with the family, you can now see the imposing Tower as a living, scenic presence, changing colour with the passing of the hours, especially at dawn and sunset when its redness seems to want to indicate that the present has brought the fortress to life once more and, by making it liveable for both islanders and visitors, has transformed it into a meeting place and a place of historic collective memory for various generations and their work in the area around it.
There are those who, through an act of love, would like to transform it into the museum of the Northern Lagoon.
“Bicinbarca” (Bike and Boat)
From April-September, on the islands served by ACTV transport, you can take your bike free thanks to the ‘Bicinbarca’ (Bike and Boat) initiative. One route starts in San Giuliano
(on the outskirts of Mestre) and arrives at Sant’Erasmo and the Lido. Another (a ferry),
goes from Tronchetto to the Lido and to Punta Sabbioni.
A thin barrier over 11 kilometres long and suspended between the sea and lagoon and protected from the impetuous waters by one of the mightiest sea defences that the Venetian Republic built in the 18th century to defend its city: the Murazzi. This is an artificial, vertical rock barrier towards the Lagoon, facing the Adriatic. It was built with blocks of Istrian stone, cut roughly to cover around twenty kilometres of the coastline that are the natural defence of the artistic, cultural and economic heritage centred in Venice.
Thus defended, the coastline protects the tiny fishing villages, full of sounds, voices and cries, which overlook the murky waters of the Lagoon.
San Pietro in Volta
Portosecco (an ancient port, now covered in sand), the carizzada San Antonio and Pellestrina.
The easily reachable Pellestrina Lido stretches from the port of Malamocco to that of
Chioggia. Its name is said to have come from the III century Fosse Filistine, dug to link the River Adige with the Lagoon of Adria. It later became inhabited by the fleeing inhabitants of the mainland pursued by the Longobard invaders and, due to its geographical position, was also involved in the bloody war of Chioggia between Venice and Genoa, from which the Venetian Republic emerged victorious in 1379.
The island, full of kitchen gardens and little coloured houses, is a true pearl of nature and of human ability, a fascinating place where there is still a close relationship between man and the Lagoon and where there is intense activity in this delicate eco-system: hunting, fishing, agriculture and tourism. It is no coincidence that, although there are much fewer of them today, the lace-making housewives sit on their doorsteps to use their dancing spindles on their lace pillows, surrounded by the intense, forgotten scents of this Lagoon area, where you can admire spectacular sunsets.
Here, village life is typical of the island and has ancient roots. The population represents the Venetian identity that is disappearing elsewhere.
Here, immersed in this typical culture, tourists can enjoy enchanting, relaxing bike rides – perhaps at sunset, when the sun dives into the sea and seems to wink at you from the water. The area is waiting to be discovered and will amaze those who combine a stop on the dyke on the main route with a diversion amongst the narrow streets and along the route bordering the Lagoon. Then, after passing Pellestrina cemetery, visitors can peddle for about a kilometre along the imposing Murazzi just a few metres from the sea until they come of the lido of Ca’ Roman, the green heart of the island, which opens out into forty hectares of beach, dunes and Mediterranean scrubland. This is the last refuge of many species of flora and fauna – a pine forest transformed into a protected nature oasis of great ecological interest and home of two species of bird – the snowy plover and the little tern– who have found an ideal habitat in Ca’ Roman.
The Sandbanks of the Northern Lagoon
The sandbanks are generally an area with a slightly higher border and central depression, surrounded by small canals caused by erosion – the ‘ghebi’.
The extremely salty and compact terrain of the sandbanks stop air reaching the deeper parts; this is why plants never grow particularly high. The vegetation of the sandbanks is fairly homogeneous and is a result of the level of salinity in the terrain.
At the edges of the sandbanks, in the areas most affected by the tides are the Spartina (Spartina marittima), a grass that often raises the terrain, lead to the growth of other species and therefore to the evolution of the ‘velme’, areas that occur only periodically, in phases of low tides.
Samphire (salicornia veneta), is a plant that is extremely resistant to variations in salt levels and is therefore widespread. These alternate with other species like the Puccinellia (Puccinellia palustris), the Limonio (Limonium serotinum), the Salicornia fruticosa (Arthrocnemum fruticosum), the Patano (Aster tripolium) and the Roscano (Salsola soda), etc. In the less salty waters, near the brackish water or fresh water, the vegetation is dominated by reeds (Juncus acutus, Juncus