An ancient island located in a Venetian lagoon is home to a Franciscan sanctuary where visitors are greeted with a spirit of warmth and hospitality. Famed as the location where St. Francis landed upon his return from the Holy Lands, Franciscan friars have maintained a presence here since 1220. The name “del Deserto” comes from a period in the first half of the 15th century, when, due to malaria, the friars deserted the island for twenty some years. After this period of time, the friars returned and have been there ever since.
My visit to the isola was all too short. I arrived mid morning to a small island forested by cedars, flowering bushes and plants. A spirit of silence embraced me as I stepped off the boat that transported me.
The friars warmly greeted me when I entered the church. A walk around the property was reflective and contemplative. Had I planned my time differently, I would have stayed in the guest house, available to those who wish to spend a longer period of time on the island. Unlike the other areas surrounding Venice, this is a place devoid of all commerce. There are no shops, no stores, no food vendors; only peaceful quiet and solitude.
This place certainly offered a very different experience of Venice for me. Quiet, remote and removed from the hustle and bustle one expects to find when visiting Venice, Isola San Francesco del Deserto offered the possibility of finding one’s soul – truly priceless.