Everyone knows that the Venice Lagoon is composed by many different islands and there are some that still elude most people. San Servolo is one, the closest islands to the old town centre, in front of the Giardini di Venezia, at the intersection between the Lazzaretto and San Nicolò canals. During the twenties, this old Benedictine convent was converted into a military hospital and then a psychiatric hospital (closed as a result of the Italian Mental Health Act of 1978). Nowadays, following a lengthy regeneration project supported by the municipality of Venice, San Servolo has been converted into a multicultural centre.
The Società San Servolo – Servizi Metropolitani di Venezia (of the metropolitan area of Venice) was the first body in charge. It was subsequently taken over by VID - Venice Innovation Design, the startup currently behind this magical place. In conjunction with the Architecture Biennale of 2018, VID has brought forward an ambitious project in collaboration with several furniture and interior design brands (the first stage included Cosentino, Oikos, Lago, Vistosi, LCF, Fimes, Attico Interni, Aresline and Tosetto): to create a design-hub, a place that would foster new ideas and promote Made in Italy design.
Following the positive experience of the Biennale Innovazione, started in recent years as a collaboration with Ca’ Foscari University, San Servolo is now VID’s permanent headquarters, a veritable multimedia stage surrounded by a wonderful garden that houses, besides student facilities and accommodation, conference rooms, a restaurant, a coffee shop, the Museo della Follia as well as public spaces accessible to all such as tennis and basketball courts and a barbecue area.
San Servolo is not only a place for firms and professionals to develop projects and start new ventures, in fact it’s a haven too for the people who want to spend a couple of days in Venice, far from the hustle and bustle of the lagoon, yet it’s still a short ferry ride from Piazza San Marco. Besides, in the old buildings that are currently being renovated, dotted around the enchanting, flower garden, there are rooms for tourists as well (they cater for 350 guests to be precise) or anyone else on that matter.
Strolling around the lush, green tree-lined alleys and flowerbeds, you are bound to come across the students who inhabit the island as if it were a University campus (the island houses the Venice International University, the Collegio Internazionale di Merito dell’Università Ca’ Foscari where the University’s top 50 students reside, the Fondazione Franca e Franco Basaglia and the prestigious Neuroscience School of Advanced Studies). The island has a rich cultural calendar as well with music and film festivals, exhibitions and glamorous events: San Servolo holds 170 events each year, striving to promote international relations and fostering a dialogue between different cultures.
The mood on the island is really magical: one hand you are surrounded by peace and quiet and on the other, you feel the vibrancy of the Italian design that VID aims to promote. VID is just in its beginnings, yet it promises to transform the island into a cutting-edge, contemporary space, an international showcase for the best Italian design has to offer, stimulating and welcoming and soothing as well.
For the time being, San Servolo is definitely a place try, whether you’re looking for an alternative to a standard hotel in the lagoon or a suggestive “pied-à-terre” for the Architecture Biennale of 2018.
Where: The Island of San Servolo, the Venice lagoon