The energy of Venice is exhilarating, but if you’re in the mood for something more relaxed on a trip to Italy, it’s well worth considering a barge cruise on the Venetian Lagoon. Seeing the sights from the water is a laid-back and peaceful way to enjoy the scenery, plus you’ll get to explore a number of pretty islands and towns along the way.
Spanning 55 000 hectares, the Venetian Lagoon itself is home to a unique ecosystem and is rich in biodiversity. The expansive body of water is enclosed by the Adriatic Sea and is actually the country’s largest wetland. Rich in birdlife, the lagoon was classified as one of the primary migratory bird refuges in Europe by the World Wildlife Fund and makes a refreshing change from the city. As you cruise between the archipelago of islands, you’ll pass through pristine natural surroundings, while small towns and villages will ensure that you don’t miss out on your cultural fix along the way.
Most boating trips on the Venetian Lagoon begin in Casale, a pretty town characterised by Gothic-style architecture — stock up on freshly baked bread and pastries here before setting off on your journey. From there, the river winds its way towards Padua, one of the country’s oldest cities and a great spot to see some of Italy’s best-preserved historical structures. If you choose to hop off here, it’s possible to visit one of the area’s wine farms by bicycle or explore the town’s famous Scrovegni Chapel.
Venice is, of course, a must-see on the barging route. Take your time seeing the city, or simply watch it go by if you prefer to stay on board. Just a few minutes from Venice is Murano, a town comprised of seven islands and known for its glass-making industry. A creative hub, it’s a good spot to take a walk through colourful, character-filled streets.
Other spots that are well worth a stop include Burano, also known as ‘Little Venice’ and well-known for its lace; Torcello, the first of the lagoon’s islands to be inhabited; Lido di Jesolo, a pretty beach town; and Concordia Sagittaria, an ancient city packed with historical sites.
It’s possible to hire canal boats from Le Boat, who offer a range of options. Magnifique is their biggest vessel, and at 14.5 metres, it’s a great choice for a group of up to ten. The boat boasts a spacious sundeck with cushioned seats, a full-width swim platform and shade umbrellas, while the interior is beautifully appointed with wooden flooring and finishes.
Each of the cabins is cleverly designed to maximise storage space, and the communal saloon is perfect for relaxing — large picture windows let in plenty of natural light, and guests can enjoy a comfortable settee, dining area and fully equipped kitchen.
To find out more about what Le Boat offers, take a look at their website: www.leboat.com.