San Francesco del Deserto's island
San Francesco del Deserto is a small and peaceful island in the Lagoon of Venice, located between the island of Burano and the island of Sant'Erasmo.
The San Francesco's island is home of a Franciscan monastery (Minor Friars) founded in 1230.
It is surrounded by sandbanks and is wrapped around its perimeter by cypresses and pines.
The island is accessible only by private transport or taxi and you can visit it and stay there for a few days in retreat after getting agreement with the monks who live there.
San Francesco del Deserto's history
Anciently the island of San Francesco del Deserto, was called Isola delle Due Vigne and was owned by the Venetian nobleman Jacopo Michiel.
It is said that in 1220 San Francesco d'Assisi stayed there in retreat for a short time, returning from the East and from the Fifth Crusade (not for fighting, but to meet peacefully Malek-el-Kamel, the Sultan of Egypt).
At that time, on the island there was already a small Byzantine church where St. Francis stopped to reflect and pray with Friar Illuminato da Rieti, his traveling companion.
In 1233 Jacopo Michiel donated the island to the Franciscan Order and sice this moment the "Isola delle Due Vigne" was renamed to "Isola di San Francesco".
Because of diseases and plagues such as malaria, which spread in these swampy areas, in '400 the island was abandoned for a brief period: it was on this occasion that the the suffix "del Deserto" (of the Desert) was applied to his name, renaming it in Island of San Francesco del Deserto.
From the '400 onwards San Francesco del Deserto has always been administered by the Order of the Franciscans, with the exception of the early nineteenth century (1808) when Napoleon's troops transformed the island into a warehouse and a tinderbox.
In 1858, through the work of the Padre Bernardino da Portogruaro, the island was given to the Diocese of Venice, which allowed the monks to refound the monastery, even today active.
Visiting San Francesco del Deserto's island
If you want to visit the island of San Francesco del Deserto with a owned or rental boat, or taking an excursion with a typical Venetian boat like a "bragozzo" or by taxi, at its entrance there is a small dock landing where to get off easily: in the channel adjacent are available spaces to moor smaller boats.
Just got off you can see a large wooden cross and a cobblestone road that leads to the entrance of the convent, to the adjacent church and the San Francesco del Deserto's monastery.
Once you arrive at the entrance of the monastery, after ringing the bell, you are greeted by a monk who will accompany you during the visit on the island.
Looking at the walls you can see the writing on marble describing the miracle of the birds' silence and the act of donation of the island to the Franciscan friars by Jacopo Michiel.
In the monastery there are two cloisters, the first cloister of the San Francesco del Deserto's convent dates back to '200: it was partially destroyed by Napoleon's troops and rebuilt by the Franciscans in the second half of 1800; instead the second cloister dates back to '400.
The Church of San Francesco del Deserto is of 1401 and was built over the ancient Byzantine church.
On the island there is also the tomb of "Bernardino da Portogruaro", general of the Franciscan Order who took charge of the run and follow the restoration of the convent and the Church of San Francesco del Deserto, after its destruction by the Napoleonic troops that took place in the early '800.
Walking in the garden full of trees and flowers, where the friars raise a few animals and cultivate the ground, you will come across two wonderful terraces that allow you to admire the Venice lagoon and offer a stunning view towards the island of Burano.
Getting to San Francesco del Deserto
The easiest and cheapest way to reach San Francesco del Deserto is to go to Burano, then taking a private boat that links Burano to San Francesco del Deserto.
In fact the way to San Francesco del Deserto from Venice, Murano, Treporti, Punta Sabbioni or from Venice Lido is the same that you undertake to visit Burano: you can find all the necessary information on the "how to get to Burano" page.
Boat Excursion to San Francesco Island
There is also a tour from Venice to San Francesco del Deserto. The excursion to the island of San Francesco takes place in a typical Venetian wooden boat, built over 50 years ago.
On the return journey from Burano to Venice, you can visit this island of peace and prayer, unique in its kind.