San Michele Cemetery
Continued from page 2
ABOVE: Mausoleums at the San Michele island
cemetery. INSET BELOW: Venetians visit family members' graves during All Saints'
"Your checkout time is 2024"
Death may be permanent, but San Michele is so crowded
that graves are on short-term lease.
The bodies in each row of graves are allowed to decompose for twelve years, at which
point they're dug up. Occupants whose families can pay for reinterment are transferred to
small metal boxes for permanent storage in smaller quarters. The less well-heeled get
tossed into a nearby boneyard.
In the old days, bones were dumped on the ossuary island of Sant'Ariano, which Michael
Dibdin describes in his novel Dead Lagoon:
"...The surface inside was much higher, almost level with the top of the wall.
Giacomo stepped down and started to push his way through the undergrowth, following a
series of almost imperceptible markers: the torn ligaments of a branch dangling from a
bush, a patch of flattened grass, the sucker of a bramble bush, thick as a squid's
tentacle, lopped off clean by a fisherman's gutting-knife. The ground crunched and
slithered underfoot, as though he were walking on layers of broken crockery.
"A sudden scuttling noise brought him to a halt, wielding his torch-beam like
a staff. The island was infested with snakes, and Giacomo tried with limited success to
convince himself that this was the only feature of the place that scared him."
How to reach San Michele
If you're dead, the undertaker will deliver you to the cemetery
by aquatic hearse (or by funeral gondola if your survivors have a flair for the dramatic).
For a more temporary visit, catch the No. 41 or 42 vaporetto at the Fondamenta Nuove
platform. Get off the
boat at the first stop. After you've visited San Michele, you might want to continue on to
Murano, the glass island, via the same waterbus
Italians, a trade paperback by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall, has a
chapter on the late and the great who are buried or entombed in Venice.
San Michele Cemetery - Page 1
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