November 2nd is All Souls' Day, a solemn feast commemorating the faithful departed. It is still the custom on this day for Italians to visit the graves of deceased family members and in Venice that means a trip to the island of San Michele, which lies a short distance to the north of the city. In days gone by a temporary bridge was thrown across the lagoon; nowadays people must use the vaporetto.
Up until the fall of the Venetian Republic, in 1797, the dead were interred in the city. Deemed unhygienic, this practise was banned by Napoleon and from 1807 Venetians were interred on the island of San Cristoforo della Pace. Between 1835 and 1839 the channel dividing San Cristoforo from its neighbour, San Michele, was filled in and the cemetery expanded.
In 1892 a crematorium, one of the first in Italy, was opened on the island.
The San Michele cemetery is the final resting place of a handful of famous foreigners, including Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Iosif Brodsky (1940-96) and Ezra Pound (1885-1972).
Blogging about Venice:
its art, history & culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &