San Giacomo in Paludo, Sant’Erasmo and Fauna della Laguna
San Giacomo in Paludo
The Venetian Lagoon is scattered with tiny islands which look utterly abandoned and wild; many, however, were once not only populated but very well-kept, mostly housing convents or monastries. One such island which you’ll see closeby is San Giacomo in Paludo; like many of its kind, it hides a fascinating diverse history. It was initially a place of recovery where boatmen coming in from the mainland would rest on the way to Venice; it then was turned into a convent, but the nuns there allegedly engaged in somewhat unholy activities with frequent male visitors, and when the last two nuns moved to Torcello, San Giacomo here became a lazzaretto for lepers, and once the plague was over, it was turned into a monastery. It lost all its religious functions in 1779, and with Napoleon’s arrival in the early 19th century, almost all of its buildings were torn down, as you can see.
Sant’Erasmo is also known as the Garden of Venice, l’Orto di Venezia as it is from here that Venice imported its fruits and vegetables, essential on a fish-based diet; the inhabitants here have always led a very different lifestyle compared to that in the historical centre of Venice; they were essentially farmers, and if you take a walk there you’ll be surprised how very different atmosphere may seem, with its bucolic feel and rhythm. Unfortunately, the tourism in Venice has little space for what Sant’Erasmo has to offer, and so its population is steadily decreasing.
Fauna della Laguna
You’ll definitely have seen pigeons and seagulls all over Venice either waiting for food or snatching it from you; but of course they are the usual customers, as the variety of animal life in the Venetian Lagoon is beyond your imagination. If you took a swim, or even a walk in the shallow patches here, you’d see all types of fish, molluscs, insects, reptiles and small mammals swimming or crawling around. Naturally, they are the reason why there are so many birds lurking around; if you look out for them you’ll see more species than you can count, such as sparrows, egrets, grebes, black-headed gulls, mallards, cormorants, likely sun-bathinging wings open on top of the wooden bricole, and on rare occasions greater flamingos.
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