Venice, Murano, Burano, Torcello
Yes, I’m writing about Venice and the islands in the Venetian lagoon. Venice is special for me because it was the first ever long solo trip that I was taking. It was also the first long trip that I was taking in Italy. Who knew then that I’d fall in love with Italy and go on to see so much more of it!
The name itself exudes romance. It’s considered to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, and for reasons good enough. Before the travel fad and social media caught on the world, I’m certain that it would have been way more charming than it is now. Having said that, Venice is today and eternally romantic.
So without overloading you with information about places to visit and things to do in Venice, I’m going to touch upon the most interesting ones of those according to me.
1. For sightseers and architecture lovers – Palazzo Ducale and St. Mark’s Basilica (cathedral) are absolute architectural marvels and truly captivating in all their essence. 2. For people watching and enjoying the vast canal views – St. Mark’s Piazza (square). 3. For the couples – a gondola ride through the Grand Canal with your beloved would be one of the most romantic gestures for him/her. 4. For people watching while lunching/dining – restaurants by the canal side under the the Rialto Bridge. 5. For art lovers – Gallerie dell’Accademia
While I was there a fellow solo traveller from my hostel stay passed on a sweet tip to me and made my experience a memorable one. The Venetian lagoon is made up of multiple islands, including Venice, Murano, Burano, Torcello and others. A day trip to Murano, Burano and Torcello is what made my Venetian experience a sweet one. Why? Because these islands are so distinct from one another, yet so inherently beautiful, and bonus – lesser tourists compared to Venice.
Murano – all things glassy
This lesser known island of the lagoon is renowned today for it’s glass making, which dates back to 1291 when all the glass makers in Venice were required to move to Murano. It alo bears a striking resemblance to Venice for that perfect #gram one might be looking for. The residents of the island have preserved this tradition over the centuries and evolved well with time. Head to Murano for satiating your artistic mind with some of the most unimaginable, colourful and exquisite glass pieces that will blow your mind away!
Some companies that own historical glass factories in Murano are among the most important brands of glass in the world. These names and companies include Venini, Alessandro Mandruzzato, Ferro Murano, Barovier & Toso, Simone Cenedese and Seguso. As prestigious as the possessions from these luxury brands may be, they can also be quite expensive. However, if one might be looking for glass products that are certified to be from Murano, yet within relatively cheaper prices, it’s best to look for products with the “Vetro Artistico Murano” trademark. Do note that relatively cheaper may not mean cheap, but rejoice with the fact that window shopping for the artistic souls is always an option😉.
Burano – the colourful one
This colourful island also stands out for it’s distinct characteristic – the bright colourful houses, much like it’s glass making counterpart. It is also an island rich in tradition, albeit a lesser known distinct tradition of it’s own – the lace making. Lace making in Burano dates back to the 16th century, however the art gradually died over time due to more evolved techniques and technologies than the ones of hand made lace. Having visited the four islands in the lagoon, I’d undoubtedly call Burano the most photogenic one of all. Since every house in Burano is painted with a bright colour and no two adjacent houses have the same colour, there’s no dearth of picture perfect shots (#gram) around every corner. Just take your pick!
Legend has it – the residents of the island painted their houses with bright colours to be well sighted; thus preventing the big boats approaching the island from afar clashing into their canal side land/porch on a foggy, misty day or night. Fixate your eyes on these eccentric coloured houses while you soak in the sun sitting at a gelateria by the canal side and relish your gelato! Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? If and when I revisit the lagoon, I’d choose to stay at least one night in Burano, to take in the island’s beauty that might be even more alluring minus the day time crowds that leave by the evening with the last ferry (water bus) to Venice.
Torcello – the lesser known one
I choose to call Torcello the lesser known island of the lagoon, for it is sparsely populated and doesn’t boast of any distinct characteristic that it is famous for. The island has a full time population of less than 50 people and sees lesser tourists than any of the three above. Having said that, it does have a handful of Italian bars and/or restaurants to refresh yourself with a quick espresso or a even enjoy a slow meal lost in time. I particularly loved this island for two reasons – the surprisingly low touristic footfall that it received and thus it’s untouched silent beauty that you can see and experience. While heading to the island, I almost had to convince (read pull) my fellow traveller who was island hopping with me the whole day as it was our last island before heading back to our hostel in Venice and we were pretty tired. However, while leaving, she couldn’t stop thanking me on convincing her to join. If offbeat places are what you’re looking for – put this one on your list and you won’t regret it.
When to visit Venice
Venice, due to it’s popularity, is overrun, and I mean that literally, throughout the year. I visited Venice in mid April and it was already very crowded. So even though it is so romantic, the romantic vibe to it diminished when I was practically pushing my way through the tourists at the Rialto bridge or through the narrow alleys of this town. I shouldn’t complain though as I was a tourist myself. However, just like most of the other places in Italy and Europe – there are weeks, months when the touristic footfall plunges and one can truly enjoy the magic of this place. The best time to visit Venice in terms of escaping the crowds would be during the days starting from November end to mid February. It must be noted though, that it can get crowded in the week starting from Christmas up until the New Year’s eve. Also, Venice is situated in the north of Italy, so even though these months are ideal to beat the crowds, they aren’t ideal in terms of beating the chilly European winter. Make sure to pack up your woollen wears if you prioritise fewer crowds over better weather. However, if your priority is good weather over less tourists, you will want to avoid these months.
How to reach Murano, Burano and Torcello?
You can get to these islands by using the water boats/busses run by the official public transport company Actv. Do note to use the latest timetable as time tables of public transports in Italy are subject to seasonal changes in general. You can find the timetables on http://actv.avmspa.it/it/content/orari-servizio-di-navigazione-0 . Some of the tips on this post may also come on handy while planning your visit – https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187870-i57-k6303879-How_do_I_get_to_Murano_Burano_and_Torcello-Venice_Veneto.html .
Where to stay between Venice, Murano, Burano and Torcello
Depending on whether this is your first trip to Venice and the lagoon and the duration of your trip, it is best to decide the base for your trip.
Venice – for easy access to the various famous sights, a more active vibe, vibrant night life, ample public transport options throughout the day and a few during the night, and more options for lodging catered to your needs. If Venice is your choice for lodging, the Dorsoduro neighbourhood, which is just outside the city centre, yet well connected by foot and water buses is a good option.
Murano and Burano – for distinct island characters, a laid back and leisurely vibe, fewer crowds, slightly more expensive but fewer lodging options.