San Michele, the Island of the Dead
San Michele has been the city's cemetery since the early nineteenth century. Because important people are usually buried in churches, visitors often skip Italian cemeteries when travelling there.
It is a mistake because some are really charming. San Michele cemetery is one of them. It is distinguished by its high walls and cypresses. Only one stop from the Fondamente Nove it is an easy 2 hours trip or less. It can also be visited while going to Murano or Burano.
Tip: Go in the morning to be sure to find the church open. Be aware that without a map and although it is a small island, it is a very confusing site. Maps are available at the entrance. There is not much shade on the site. Photos of tombs and people in the cemetery are forbidden.
A branch of the Benedictines, the Camaldolese monks, inhabited the island for a long time already when in 1469, they asked Mauro Codussi to build the Chiesa di San Michele in Isola next to their monastery. This was one of the first renaissance buildings in Venice. The Capella Emiliana, designed by Guglielmo dei Grigi, was added in 1530.
The monastery of San Michele was also used by the Franciscan order and even served as a prison.
When Napoleon invaded Venice in 1804, it became illegal and unhygienic to bury people on the main island. In 1808, Gian Antonio Selva designed a cemetery for the San Michele island. It was inaugurated in 1813.
Space being limited on the island, remains can now only rest on the island for 10 or 20 years depending on the location of their grave. Remains in a family tomb can stay for 99 years. Once that period of time has expired, they are moved to another cemetery or cremated.
One of the famous grave not to be missed is the one of Igor stravinsky.
The composer was very fond of the Italian city, where several of his works including "The Rake's Progress" were first performed, and where the Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghliev is also buried. It was Diaghliev, who produced the first performance of "Le Sacre du Printemps" on May 29, 1913, thereby giving Stravinsky his chance to shine.
Other important people are Ezra Pound, Joseph Brodsky, Jean Schlumberger, Christian Doppler, Frederick Rolfe, Horatio Brown, Sergei Diaghilev, Luigi Nono, Catherine Bagration, Franco Basaglia, Paolo Cadorin, Zoran Mušič, Helenio Herrera, Emilio Vedova, and Salvador de Iturbide y Marzán.