San Lazzaro degli Armeni is a haven of peace and spirituality, about twenty minutes by steamboat from St Mark's Square.
Today, this small island in the Lagoon is inhabited by a monastery of Armenian monks of the Mechitarist Order, who settled there in 1717. The island was initially the location of a Benedictine community, then a leper colony and a residence for the ill and poor.
Since the 18th century, the island has been home to one of the largest Armenian communities in Italy, safeguarding the impressive cultural heritage that has been collected and produced over the course of the decades. With its own printing press, a library that still conserves rare manuscripts, and a series of artistic works of enormous value that were donated by worshippers and followers, San Lazzaro degli Armeni is a treasure-trove of incalculable importance. It even survived the Napoleonic suppression of monasteries due to its exceptional scientific and literary output.
Today the monastery is open every day for guided tours. Every afternoon at 3.25 p.m., when the steamboat from St Mark's docks, these tours of around two hours let visitors discover the secrets of the island and its discreet inhabitants. Among the marvels that are not to be missed are the paintings by Tiepolo, a snow-white sculpture by Canova, a unique Egyptian mummy, and the colourful rose garden where the monks collect the flower petals which they use to produce the fragrant vartanush, a jam made from roses.