The Island of Sant’Erasmo
The Island of Sant’Erasmo, described as the “market garden” of Venice; is sparsely populated and perfect for a half day excursion.
The most famous crop of Sant Erasmo is the “carciofo violetto” or purple artichoke, available from late April to the end of June.
A visit to the island provides a sense of peace and tranquillity, walking through quiet lanes, cultivated fields, vineyards and canal and coastal pathways.
The Island of Sant’Erasmo, is also known for its spectacular views over the lagoon and for its wading birds, on the sand banks and flats surrounding it.
The island of Sant’Erasmo lies on the north-east of Venice and just to the north of Treporti and at 3.26 km2, is the second largest island after Venice Itself.
Unlike Venice, cars and motorized traffic, are allowed on Sant-Erasmo for the inhabitants. However, outside the harvesting season, you are unlikely to see more than the odd car, a few microvans and cyclists.
It is however nothing like Venice – don’t expect palazzos, museums or shops. A visit to the island provides a sense of peace and tranquillity, walking through quiet lanes and pathways, cultivated fields and vineyards. Isola di Sant-Erasmo, is also known for its spectacular views over the lagoon and for its wading birds, on the sand banks and mud flats surrounding it.
The most famous crop of Sant’Erasmo is the “carciofo violetto” or purple artichoke (above). You should certainly try it when you see it on a menu in Venice. The right season to taste this tender vegetable starts at the end of April; when the first small apical artichoke buds, called “castraùre“, are ready to be picked. The harvest continues until the end of June.
You can visit the Church of Sant’Erasmo, consecrated to “Christ the King” and the imposing landmark of the Maximilian Tower; a round fortification belonging to the war to defend the Venice Lido’s port mouth. It organises cultural events and stages exhibitions of art and photography.
A great way to finish your tour is on the terrace of the Al Bacan restaurant/bar, overlooking a small beach (left). Enjoyed a spritz and a delicious pizza, with a view to the Torre Massimiliana, close-by.
Above:Satellite view of Sant’Erasmo, showing the three vaporetto stops along the northern coastline.
On public transport, you can easily reach it with ACTV vaporetto line 13, which leaves from Fondamente Nuove; the ride taking about 35-50 minutes; depending on which of three stops on the island that you get off. Alternatively you can get there from Treporti “Ricevitoria” or Murano’s “Faro” stops.
The vaporetto first stops at “Capannone“, where you can disembark or change to a smaller vessel to continue to the stops “Chiesa“ and “Punta Vela“. The smaller boat will position itself next to the vaporetto, so you can step from one boat to the other.
It is best to check the vaporetto schedule before your departure in Venice; as depending on the hour and the season, not all stops are served throughout the day. Also, once on the island it is best to check the return times, before venturing off into the countryside.
It’s quite easy to discover Sant’Erasmo on your own. An alternative to walking, you can also rent a bicycle at “Al Bacan”, or at the hotel “Il Lato Azzurro”.
The Island of Sant’Erasmo – HISTORY
The original church of Sant’Erasmo (byzantine but date unknown), at the southern end of the island of the same name; was altered first in the 16th century and then again in the 18th. A drawing by Giacomo Guardi in the Museo Correr Library, shows a church with two rectangular facades and a bell-tower similar to that of Sant’Alvise. That church was demolished by Napoleon.
The present Romanesque-revival church, designed by Brenno del Giudice; was consecrated “Cristo Re” (Christ the King) on the 27th of October 1929.
Inside there is a “Martyrdom of Sant’Erasmo”, by the school of Tintoretto.
There is a small grocery store close to the church, where if open you can buy a drink or a snack for your walk.
Torre Massimiliana (Maximilian’s Tower). The only main landmark of Sant’Erasmo, is this cylindrical fortified tower close to the beach. After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, the French built a fort between 1811–1814.
After Napoleon’s defeat and the destruction of the fort, the Austrian Archduke Maximilian of Austria-Este built a new tower on the remains in 1843–1844. He also found refuge here during a revolt in 1848.
The fort is circular in shape with an internal area of 600 m², an external diameter of approximately 18.5 m and a height of 11 m. Up to 13 cannons, could be housed on the upper floor. The circular shape of the tower meant that the artillery could be used at 360°. This idea was based on studies by the Este Noble Military Academy, in Modena.
The tower was used as an antiaircraft battery during the Second World War, before being occupied by German troops after 1943.
The Torre Massimiliana is now an exhibition and museum space, as well as a meeting place for associations. The tower can only be visited during events or exhibitions.
FESTIVALS, FAIRS AND EXHIBTIONS
During the year there are various festivals, listed below.
> The Epiphany’s Feast on the 6th of January: at 5.00pm a big bonfire is made to burn the “berolòn” or “berolla” – a sort of big witch, made with scrap wood and fabrics.
According to the popular Veneto’s tradition, the wind that carries with it the smoke and the sparks of the bonfire will indicate how the new year just begun will be. The “garbìn”, which blows from south-west, announces the rain and the harvest will be plentiful; while the “furlàn”, from the northeast, brings dry weather: the soil will be dry and will bring little fruits. After the witch burning ceremony, the caliper and the mulled wine is offered for all participants.
> The Sant’Erasmo’s Violet Artichoke Festival, the second Sunday of May.
The Maximilian Tower organises the tasting and the sale of local products.
> The Feast of Christ the King, the patron saint on the first Sunday in June; at the village’s square.
> The Must’s Festival of Sant’Erasmo, the first or second Sunday in October.
The wort is actually the “Torbolino” wine, made from white grapes; not fully fermented and slightly sparkling.
WHO WAS SAINT ERASMUS?
Erasmus was also known as Elmo. He was the bishop of Formiae, Campagna, Italy, and suffered martyrdom during Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians. He once fled to Mount Lebanon during the persecution and lived a life of solitude there for some time, being fed by a raven. After the emperor discovered his whereabouts, he was tortured and thrown in prison. Legend claims that an angel released him and he departed for Illyricum, eventually suffered a martyr’s death around 303 AD and was one of the Fourteen Holy Helper; saintly figures of Christian tradition who are venerated especially as intercessors.
He is venerated as the patron saint of sailors and abdominal pain, (often associated with childbirth).
Please see my other posts in the series: Islands of the Lagoon