Facing the impressive Saint Mark's Basin there is a splendid island that totally deserves a visit: it's the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, close to the Giudecca island.
Even though it is lesser known it deserves your attention because of its amazing history and works of art.
In this guide, we are going to describe the magnificent island, giving all the reasons to come here and explaining all the things to visit and how to get there.
Get the most out of your visit to the small Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice with us!
Why you should come to the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice
Facing the beautiful Bacino San Marco, there is a splendid island that houses incredible works of art.
Nevertheless, the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is lesser known to tourists, and that's why we decided to dedicate a full article to this incredible destination within the municipality of Venice.
Why come to this island? Here we have collected three main reasons to visit San Giorgio Maggiore.
First of all, the Stunning Views: The island offers some of the best views of Venice's skyline. You can take a vaporetto (waterbus) or a private water taxi to the island and marvel at the view of St Mark's Basilica, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Campanile (bell tower). For its romanticism, many people select this island to propose to their partners.
Secondly, the cultural Experience you can enjoy here: San Giorgio Maggiore is home to several cultural institutions, including the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, a center for art and cultural events. The island also has a church, a monastery, and a bell tower that you can visit.
Finally, the quiet and Peaceful Atmosphere: Unlike the crowded streets of Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore offers a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can take a leisurely stroll around the island's gardens or enjoy a picnic with a view.
A look to the history of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice
San Giorgio Maggiore has a rich history dating back to the 9th century when the island was first settled by Benedictine monks.
The monk who decided to build here the first church of San Giorgio was called Giovanni Morosini. The island and the church were called "Maggiori" (the Major, in English) to distinguish them from the island of San Giorgio in Alga.
The importance of this island of the Venetian lagoon was established many years later when it was chosen as the site for a new church and monastery complex, which was designed by the renowned architect Andrea Palladio.
The construction of the San Giorgio Maggiore church and monastery took over 50 years to complete, and the result was a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
During the Napoleonic Wars in the late 18th century, the monastery was closed, and the island was used as a military base by the French army.
After the fall of Napoleon, the island was handed over to the Austrian Empire and was used as a naval station. In the early 20th century, the island was purchased by the Italian government and was given to the city of Venice.
Despite its troubled history, in the middle of the 20th century, San Giorgio Maggiore became a center for cultural activities. In fact, in 1951, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini was established, and the former monastery was restored to its original beauty.
The foundation is dedicated to promoting art, culture, and research in Venice and Italy. Today, the island is a popular destination for visitors who are interested in art, architecture, and history.
What to visit in the Venetian island of Saint George the Major
Today on the island you can admire the imposing basilica with artistic works of absolute value, including the last canvases painted by Tintoretto, and the ancient Benedictine buildings.
The latter are managed by the Giorgio Cini Foundation, which took care of the restoration and redevelopment of the rooms that can be visited today thanks to guided tours organized by the Foundation.
So discover with us what are the most interesting things to see on the Venetian island.
The famous church designed by Palladio
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore is one of the most famous attractions on the island.
It was designed by Andrea Palladio in the 16th century and is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture.
The façade of the church is simple and elegant, being built in brilliant white marble, while the interior is adorned with works by Tintoretto and other famous artists.
The high altar features a painting of the Last Supper by Jacopo Tintoretto, which is considered one of his most important works.
The Bell Tower
Climbing the bell tower is a must-do activity on San Giorgio Maggiore.
The tower offers panoramic views of Venice and the surrounding lagoon. The tower has an elevator, making it accessible to all visitors. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy stunning views of the city, including the famous Piazza San Marco.
The Monastery and places managed by the Giorgio Cini foundation
The Monastery on San Giorgio Maggiore was built in the 16th century and is an impressive example of Renaissance architecture. It was originally inhabited by Benedictine monks, but it was closed during the Napoleonic Wars.
Today, the monastery has been restored to its former glory and is open to the public. Visitors can explore the beautiful cloisters, gardens, and chapels of the monastery.
Here, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini promotes art, culture, and research in Venice and Italy. It hosts exhibitions, concerts, and other cultural events throughout the year and also manages the island's library, which contains over 300,000 volumes on Italian art, history, and culture.
The Vatican chapels
10 chapels plus the Pavilion were projected by a team of international architects and constitute the so-called Vatican chapels, which, in recent years, have been hosting some exhibitions of the Vatican state during the Biennale.
You can visit them by asking the G. Cini foundation.
The famous Borges Labyrinth
One of the most unique attractions on San Giorgio Maggiore is the Labyrinth.
It was designed by the artist Jannis Kounellis in 1995 and is located in the courtyard of the monastery.
Visitors can walk through the Labyrinth and contemplate the meaning of the artwork. Here, the 3250 boxwood plants reproduce the Argentine poet's name and seen from above it looks like an open book.
How to get to the island
To get to San Giorgio Maggiore, you can take a vaporetto (water bus) from the San Zaccaria or Zattere stops.
The journey takes around 10 minutes, and you can enjoy magnificent views of Venice's skyline along the way. You can also take a private water taxi.
All these given, the San Giorgio Maggiore island is a real gem in Venice that offers stunning views, cultural experiences, and a peaceful atmosphere.
From the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore to the Labyrinth, there are plenty of attractions to explore on the island.
Whether you're interested in history, art, or just want to escape the crowds, San Giorgio Maggiore is definitely worth a visit.