Pellestrina, the island and the legend of the ghost

The island of children still playing in the street, gods fishermen and of women with pillows. Pellestrina, the southernmost island in the municipality of Venice, presents itself to the visitor in all its virgin nature and living tradition. 11 km long and 1.2 km wide from its coast you can see the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Venice Lagoon on the other with a glance. Small churches, colorful houses, manicured gardens and wild beaches help keep the history of the island and its small community of well over 4,000 inhabitants intact.

Pellestrina, the origin

L ‘the origin of the name Pellestrina is still uncertain. The philologist Olivieri connects him with Philistus, general and historian from Syracuse, who, in exile to Adria, would have dug canals connecting Adige and the Venetian lagoon, which then also stretched in this area (called in the ‘ancient fossae Philistinae’). ). Filiasi remembered before him that in ancient times the pits were also called Pistrine, Pelestrine and Pilistine, hence eventually the present name. Another, more popular version, comes from “strange skins”, just as the inhabitants were forced to work all day on the boat.

However, the year of the official founding of Pellestrina is 1380: Doge Contarinis Serenissima, led by Captain da Mar Vettor Pisani, wins the war in Chioggia and deprives the city of the Genoese. Like Chioggia, Pellestrina comes out of the conflict devastated. Podestà then instructs four owner families (Scarpa, Zennaro, Vianello and Busetto) to rebuild the city and reconstruct its residential core. The families divide the territory into four districts, the districts that still make up Pellestrina today.


The island boasts as its only architectural constant the so-called Murazzi (muràssi or muràsi in Veneto). Pedestrian connection between the site Pellestrina and the nature reserve and the beach of Ca ‘Roman, the Murazzians are a set of Istrian stones with the function of a dam, built by the Republic of Venice to defend the shores of the lagoon against erosion of sea. Even today, they are essential for the protection of the coast and have also become a cycle path of great interest in the beauty of the landscape. In fact, in Pellestrina you can get around on foot, by bus or by bike.

The distribution of calli, which cross the island from the lagoon to the sea, and the parallel “carrizade” (calli that can be driven by carriages, hence the name) develop from the Murazzi road, which follows its lines. . Among these streets, there is no shortage of inns, trattorias, cafes and meeting places for tourists and residents, as well as religious sites.

The churches in Pellestrina

They are well four services for the residents, who have become a tourist attraction due to the peculiar state of preservation in which they find themselves.

From north to south there is the small Parish of San Pietro Apostolo, the Church of Sant’Antonio, the Sanctuary of Madonna dell’Apparizione and the Duomo di Ognissanti, all close to the main street of Pellestrina and therefore within the Venetian lagoon. , which in turn joins the Strada Comunale dei Murazzi.

Parties and crafts

Pellestrina is primarily known for the production of coil lace, called “balon”, and is dedicated to typical activities in the lagoon area such as fishing, agriculture and shipbuilding. The maritime traditions related to fishing can be explored at the museum in the southern lagoon. TO folkloristic level during the summer period, various festivals and fairs are celebrated every year, among all the Feast of the Madonna dell’Apparizione on the 4th of August and then the Feast of Santo Stefano in mid-August with its Venetian roregattas.


The legend of Gnuche

Finally, like any island, Pellestrina has its own legend of Gnuche, owner of a small merchant navy that traded in Istrian wood and stone. During a storm, crew members discovered the body of a drowned man and asked Commander Gnuche to be able to pull the body aboard and take it ashore, but the owner asserted his authority and gave orders to continue the voyage. After the storm, the boat arrived in Istria and unloaded the timber to load the gemstone that would later be landed in Venice and Chioggia.

The whole navigation seemed to have no more obstacles, but as it was about to enter the lagoon, the boat encountered a strong headwind, which prevented access to the harbor mouth and pushed the boat back into the open sea. The entire crew left Gnuche and the boat, which was now capsized, plunged into the sea and swam towards shore. Gnuche was left alone in the boat screaming and cursing.

It was then, he saw the emergence of the arm of the drowned dead man who had not wanted to save, and sporty to hoist him on board and then bury him, he realized instead that it was not an arm but a branch, which was wrapped in algae. It was then that Gnuche realized that he had been condemned. Shocked by the experience, Gnuche decided he would never set foot in the sea again and therefore decided to sell his entire fleet. However, the curse of the drowned man never stopped pursuing him, in fact no one wanted to buy the fleet that the old shipowner had put up for sale when everyone was aware of the curse.

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