jump to navigation

Venice lagoon pictures June 14, 2008

Posted by dorigo in books, history, personal, travel.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

Today I brought my family to a tour of the Venice lagoon by boat. Not one for tourists! Rather, a very interesting excursion organized by Co.ri.la, a research institute which studies the lagoon and the impact of human activities on the environment. Its director, Pierpaolo Campostrini, is a friend (and also a colleague amateur astronomer). He invited us together with other researchers and affiliates to a boat trip to explore some little-known parts of the lagoon, be lectured on the research going on, and spend a nice day together.

The weather was way less than good at the start. Forecasts gave all chances for a nice afternoon, but the sun slept on the job, and rain poured mercilessly until 2 PM. But it was not too bad, since in the morning a visit had been scheduled to the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, where Meckhitarist Armenian monks have had their home since 1717. In that year, on the eve of a defeat of the venetian empire by the Turks and the loss of the territories formerly home of the Armenians, the venetian Senate offered Mechitar the island to settle a monastery and build a place which could be used also for the secular activities of diffusing culture in the east. There, along with the church of San Lazzaro, visitors are welcome in a wonderful library with 200,000 books and 5000 manuscripts, and a museum. The island was home to a very important typography shop which printed books on science, literature, and religion in dozens of different languages since 1786 and was quite successful in carrying out the plan of diffusion of culture designed by Mechitar. The business stayed in the island until 1989, when it was finally moved it to Treporti because of economical reasons.

Another fact about the monastery: Lord Byron spent six months in the island in 1816 to learn Armenian, and he assisted armenian monks in writing a first English-Armenian grammar, which he tried to publish later in England. He was deeply impressed by the armenians and their culture, as he wrote “These men are the priesthood of an oppressed and noble nation…. It would be difficult, perhaps, to find the annals of a nation less stained with crimes than the Armenians, whose virtues have been those of peace, and their vices those of compulsion. But whatever may have been their destiny … their country must ever be one of the most interesting on the globe; and perhaps their language only requires to be more studied to become more attractive.

After San Lazzaro, we had lunch in another small island nearby, San Servolo. This island was home to a psychiatric hospital until a few years ago, and is now home to the Venice International University, whose members are Venice, Duke, Timisoara, Tilburg, Waseda, among others.

The weather finally cleared after lunch, and we left toward the northern part of the lagoon. I took a few pictures from the boat, which I paste below without commentary. The Venice lagoon is home to many human activities (fishing, agriculture) but also a delicate environment where many animal species live unbothered: birds, fish, even small mammals. Moreover, the archaeological importance of virtually every square meter of its floor -which has seen a millennium of human activity- calls for interdisciplinary research between history, archeaology, religion, art, oceanography, climatology, and geology, of the kind that my father, the late Wladimiro Dorigo, has been an acknowledged master. I am bound to cite here two decades of his research on the history of this fascinating place, particularly in two important books, “Venezia Origini. Fondamenti, ipotesi, metodi” (“Venice origins. Foundations, hypotheses, methods“, Milano, Electa 1983) and “Venezie sepolte nelle terre del Piave: duemila anni fra il dolce e il salso” (“Venices buried in the land of Piave: two thousand years between fresh and salty water“, Roma, Viella 1994).

Above, the campanile of Torcello.

Seagulls love to stand atop these poles, which provide temporary clinch to boats and signal the boundary of canals

From a distance, the silhouette of the Colli Euganei (very old volcanic formations) stand on the background of towers in Porto Marghera

A wrecked building in a deserted island

Above, one of ten monitoring stations installed throughout the lagoon for environmental studies.

A view toward the north, with the alps barely visible in the mist.

A seagull lingers over the “barena”.