The sick or disadvantaged of Venice were marginalised by isolation on various surrounding islands; so, the leprous were kept on San Lazzaro dei Armani, lunatics sent to San Servolo, Jews isolated on the Giudecca and the dead on San Michele.
It is this last island which fascinates me most, the impenetrable walled cemetery, a fearsome fortress risen from the sea, all walls and cypresses.
There is something about San Michele which seems impregnable, indeed for a long time I thought it was impossible to visit unless you were dead or visiting the dead.
Returning from Murano by watertaxi we made to stop at San Michele, this was the first time I had realised that as a tourist the island could be visited. Amy and I resolved to get off, but it seems that something about the island remains impregnable to me, as the taxi was so crowded and the sea so choppy, that disembarking on the island was almost impossible. We tried to squeeze through but the fierce sea had made the crowded passengers fractious, and as more people squeezed onto the boat, we realized we wouldn't make it through. So our taxi rocked and struggled past the high walls and cypresses of the island of the dead, back to the mainland, with us a little afraid for our own lives, fearing we might be soon returning to San Michele as residents rather than visitors.