The city of Venice and its bay are among my favorite places. I love going there in winter, when persistent fog, high tide and abandoned canals offer a rough yet unique and authentic experience. Venice in summer is different, but nonetheless fascinating: its main routes are clogged with tourists, and oppressively hot days and warm nights rule the city and its inhabitants and visitors.
In summer, I regularly come to town with some good friends to visit the major art biennale, which takes place in the Giardino and Arsenale, in the western part of the city of lagoons. If you’ve ever been to Venice, you know that finding a place to stay can be quite tricky, especially for a spontaneous visit during the high season, and even more so when travelling in a group. That’s why, one day I happened to come across the somewhat remote campsite Fusina, located on the shores of the main land in the Venetian lagoon. A private Vaporetto line runs from there to Fondamente Zattere in Venice.
Post-industrial waste land and tales of the future
I have no romantic connotations whatsoever with camping or tents. But what I found in Fusina captured my heart.
This is a very basic, down to earth campsite dating back to the 1950s. Lots of beautiful trees and other dense plants grow on the area, giving it a very tranquil mood. The site is quite big, so even at times when lots of young tourist groups were staying there (which happens all of the time in summer) it never made the impression of being packed or noisy.
The campsite is located on the main land shores of the lagoon, right by the sea. So it’s possible to set up your tent right next to the waterfront. As Fusina is surrounded by rundown industrial plants, some of them still active, being awoken by the horns of a passing giant tanker ship is a common thing to happen. Nothing quite beats the view of a tanker outside of your tent, just a couple of meters away.
The industrial facilities, which surround the campsite tell tales of a different age. There’s a sense of past times and long extinct economies to it, despite of some plants still being in heavy use. During my first stay at Fusina, some nearby chimneys were burning stuff at ear-splitting volumes in the middle of the night. Here’s a video clip of some similar Fusina chimneys in action.
It’s easy to feel like being stranded in some post-apocalyptic science fiction movie while staying in Fusina. The campsite itself has quite some 70s patina to it. Besides the large park area, it includes a small restaurant/bar which looks abandoned during the day but comes to life with the young campsite crowd every night. Rituals, repeating. Meanwhile in Fusina.
Camping Fusina was designed in 1957 by the well known Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa. His original designs of the entrance pavilion, the restaurant and bar complex as well as the bathroom area are still well conserved and can be inspected. I especially like the functional, concrete-made outdoor shower blocks.
Jumping between parallel universes
There’s a boat connection – a privately run Vaporetto line – going from Fusina right into the city of Venice. The trip takes about 20 minutes, and it takes passengers to a completely different world. It’s this switch between parallel worlds, that I find most interesting and impressive.
The boat arrives at Fondamente Zattere, not far from the Ponte dell’Accademia. From there, it’s a 30 minutes walk (or another trip by Vaporetto) through the city of Venice to get to the Giardino and the Biennale.
I’m fond of the contrasts between the highly artificial and fanciful art Biennale, the melancholic yet crowded old facades of the lagoon city and the strange, misplaced campsite.
I actually like it so much, that I’ve even put up with sleeping in a tent for a couple of times already …