Venice is practically a patchwork of tiny islands isolated in a sea of canals, but it also has a number of actual islands dotted around outside the main city. I visited three: San Giorgio Maggiore, Lido and Murano.
The Isola San Giorgio Maggiore is a tiny island that sits opposite the Piazza San Marco and offers great views of the Clock Tower and Doge's Palace. If you want to get a good night shot on solid ground, then take the short taxi trip across the water to the SGM. The island boasts its own special history, and its own grand architecture, in the form of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. This church with its spire so similar to the clock tower in the Piazza has existed on the island since the 9th century.
Lido is the biggest of the islands, and is located a good 30 minutes or so away from the Piazza San Marco. It is a long strip of land that acts as a break against the Adriatic, and has some of the best beaches in the area. It's so big it even has roads, cars and buses, that do little more than circle its 11 km length. Apart from the beaches the island also offers grand views of all of Venice, with the Alps visible behind on clear days, across the Laguna Veneta.
Murano is an island on the north side Venice, that can be accessed by a water taxi that sails via the cemetery island, so be careful not to get off too early. Murano is famous for its glass, and has a museum dedicated to its history. I personally found the museum to be a little small and uninteresting, and wouldn't recommend it unless you have very little to do, or have a great interest in glass blowing techniques.
The island is pleasant enough to wander around, and the lack of crowds makes for a pleasant change from the main canals of Venice.
With all my professional life connected to glass, my expectations about Murano were very high. That's why I came back a little disappointed.
I was aware of the industrial crises, but expected more from the museum. Anyway, for those who had never been in Corning or seen Baccarat museum in Paris, it is worth the vaporetto trip.
I went there again - crisis continues, but it is always an astonishment the imagination and technique used in glass manufacturing.
Everyone has heard about the glass made in Venice. The island where it is blown is called Murano. There are several business fronts that cater to tourists, and you will see an entrance sign with crafts made there for sale to the tourists.
This is the real thing, not the glass souvenirs made in China and brought over to be sold to the unknowing visitors. So expect higher prices, but for a good reason.
In these businesses you can view a demonstration of glass blowing. It can be very hot inside during the summer months, and refreshing in the cold winter. They will demonstrate how the shape a vase and sometimes you will see them make a mistake, as I think that these men are kind of training. I am sure the real experts are not wasting their time doing demonstrations.
The murano glass is quite something else. I wasn't expecting to much from our trip to the island, but we got off at the first Vaperetto stop and walked up the main street. You can see the difference reasonably easily between these originals and the massed produced glass in some of the tourist shops on main Venice. There is everything from lights to bowls, necklaces, and glass animals. My Son loved looking at all of the animals and picking his favorite in each of the windows.
We did pop our heads into the factory but didn't bother, there didn't seem to be to much going on to see and was going to cost Euros each.
There are plenty of cafe's and a restaurant in the big Piazza.
As you get off the vaporetto and step onto Murano soil, there are many glass workshops where you can observe the glass blowers turn red-hot blobs of glass into houseware and coax an explosion of colors into the pieces. Fascinating. After the demo, you file into the stores to view the finished products - and be blown away by the price.
Afterwards, explore the island on foot - it's free.
Venice is a wonderful, beautiful city! And, you don't need to travel to the island of Murano to find Murano glass treasures in Venice. But, you should! By ferry it doesn't take long to get there. The glassware shops are phenomenal! And, if you get a chance to see some of the glassmaking process going on, that is great! Don't ever pay to see this (as some places will try to charge you). There is plenty of opportunity to see this free. There are quaint restaurants to eat at and it doesn't need to take all day long. Definitely, worth the visit if you're in Venice!
This is the glass-making capital of Italy. This industry dates to the 13th century. Murano was a busy port long before that. The Glass Museum has rare exhibits of traditional works. It's also a charming little island that is fun to just visit.
Murano is usually described as an island in the Venetian Lagoon, although like Venice itself it is actually an archipelago of islands linked by bridges. It lies about a mile north of Venice and is famous for its glass making, particularly lampworking.
However we didn't particularly think this was a 'must see' place, glass works are something we have often seen in India, so this was a little disappointing! Als there are really very few places to grab a bite or have a coffee that was worth the money.
this is part of a forum reply to a solo female traveller
I travel at least once a year to Venice by myself, and find it's a great place for a solo female to visit. I feel quite safe, even wandering around in the early hours of the morning.
Booking accommodation - I tend to use Venere, Booking.com and Hostel bookers. You can check out accommodation in your price range, read reviews from people who've stayed there etc.
With Venere, you can click on a map of Venice, to chose hotels/ B&B's/ Guest Houses/ Town Houses/ Self catering etc. Also, there is no booking fee or deposit - you pay on arrival or departure.
There are a few hostels including the Youth Hostel on Giudecca Tel.0415238211, but you are advised to book early for July/ August.
Getting around - I tend to buy an ACTV travel card for the vaporetto for 72 hours unlimited travel, when I'm staying 3 days or more. This costs 30 euros. This ticket can also be used on the ACTV bus from the airport to Piazzale Roma and to Mestre also.(a card for 90 minutes is 6 euro and 15 euros for 24 hours).
Although I walk around a lot in Venice,I like knowing that I can just jump on a vaporetto, if the whim takes me. They run day and night, so I quite enjoy a trip up and down the Grand Canal late at night, or out into the lagoon.
If you plan visiting any of the islands, I'd suggest purchasing a 24 hour ticket at least, possibly around late morning/ early afternoon from the kiosk at Fondamente Nuova. Catch the LN (Laguna Nord) vaporetto from here to Torcello(about 50 minutes)and then Burano (or vise-versa) on your return, you could stop off at Murano, OR next morning you could nip across to Murano (10 minutes away) or San Michelle (5 minutes), returning before your ticket expires.
I'd also recommend catching the number 2 vaporetto from San Zaccaria to San Giorgio Maggiore. Here, you can climb the campanile for 3 euros, (it's half the price of the one in San Marco, there will be a smaller queue(if any) for the lift, and you get a panoramic view of Venice and beyond - you also have a church to look around)
If you expect to be looking around lots of churches, The Chorus ticket gives admission to 16 churches in Venice (9 euros for individuals, 6 for students, 18 for a family) and is valid for 1 year. Without the Chorus card, it costs 3 euros to visit each church. When I've visited at Christmas, often entrance is free. (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari - The Frari holds a free concert every 26th December too).
There are many churches not in the Chorus scheme, that you can visit for free.
I found this article that offers an interesting way to see Venice using the Chorus Card http://www.tripso.com/traveler/venices-chorus-pass-%E2%80%94-a-path-to-revelation/
Another discount scheme is the Venice Card,There are 2 types that give discounts for transport, museums, Chorus Card etc. I've not used this card, so I can't really comment on how useful it is. The few reviews I've seen have been quite negative.
There are quite a few guided walking tours, varying in price and content. Some are held at night.
Some of these also include a gondola ride in the ticket price. For a person travelling by themselves it is often very expensive to ride in a gondola (ok it's very expensive for everyone!!) so this might be a way.
I've not been in a gondola, but I've travelled by traghetti a few times - a fun experience, and cheap.
I've seen guided evening walks that visit Osteries to sample local cuisine and wine, which I've liked the sound of- For a solo traveller, it's sometimes difficult to go into a bar by yourself, or for some people to enter busy establishments full of locals, feeling they might not be welcome.
One of my favourite Osterias (or is it a bacaro?) is Al Bottegon(Cantinone Gia Schiavo, which is on Fondamente Nani, opposite Chiesa San Trovaso and the Squero di San Trovasa (gondola boatyard) in Dorsoduro.
This is just some general information for planning your trip, If you visit my Venice page I've planned a walk around Venice that takes in the major sites, and some lesser known places, that might be helpful.
My first visit to Venice at Christmas 2006, I arrived at my hotel as the market closed.
2007 I'd intended getting there, earlier than I did, but due to getting lost trying to find my hotel, I just arrived as most of the stalls had closed. This was an improvement on the previous year!- and I still managed to buy a cup of Vin Brule (mulled wine/ gluewein etc)
2008 -at last - I was there in plenty of time! This was the 10th Anniversary of this Christmas Market.
First thing to do-Buy a Vin Brule- I bought this from the same stall as the previous year -1.50 Euros, later I purchased a pastry filled with confectioners custard from a stall specialising in Sicillian produce. It was tempting to go mad and buy lots of goodies- Olives, dried fruit, nuts, cheeses, sausages, biscuits, wines, beers etc, from different areas of Italy- but I restrained myself- The goods although of high quality were quite expensive - and this year 1 Euro virtually equalled £1, so I was even more aware of prices and value for money!
Wooden huts housed craft stalls. Again, I just browsed. There were some items at 'pocket money prices' such as some cut out wooden christmas tree decorations, that would have been light and easy to pack as presents. Other stalls sold jewellery, paintings, pottery, Murano glasswork (genuine and certified) etc.
So, I'd seen the Christmas Market - Will I go there next year? Probably not - It was nice to see it with all the stalls open, but unless I was shopping for a certain food item or present, I'd probablyspend my time seeing something else. ( I much preferred Manchesters Christmas Market and its atmosphere)
This annual market, known as 'Natale in Laguna' is held from December 1st to Dec 23rd each year 1030 - 1930 daily.
Stallholders are vetted by the Craftsman's and Tradesman's Association to ensure goods are of a high quality. There are also Christmas markets in Mestre and Murano.
Throughout the Veneto region, there is a programme of events from November 17th to Jan 6th, (when Italian children receive their gifts from Befania, the witch). I picked up a booklet 'Winter in Venice' or 'Inverno Veneziano', from the tourist info desk at the airport, listing the concerts, chocolate tastings, markets, etc. www.turismovenezia.it for more info.
Murano also had large glass decorations at various sites on the island - check my Murano page for some photos of these.
After visiting the market, I went into the church of Santo Stefano - Well worth seeing for its architecture and paintings - Please see my next tip.
Murano consists of 5 small islands and is situated in the lagoon of Venice. It is home to 7.000 people and famous for its glassware all over the world.
The melting furnaces for the glass were moved in the 13th century from Venice to Murano because of the fire risk.
Among the many little shops with glassware, some old historic buildings like the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato are worth seeing.
The art if murano glass blowing is one of the trademarks of Venice. Although quite expensive, you get what you pay for!
It is really neat to watch men actually demonstrate this artform that is dying out due to technology. Because it isn't a skill learned in college men have to actually be an apprentice to learn this art form. Thus, it is a career that is becoming extinct in today's age.
After watching the demonstration you will more-than-likely be ushered into the murano glass shop. Watch your eyes! You might need sunglasses! It is absolutely breath-taking. There are demonstrations and "sales" that will be presented. Find something you will like and pay the extra euros. It's well worth it!
Murano is aptly called "The Glass Island" because of it's crafts men who produce magnificient gass works. Till tenth centuary Murano was a trading centre and a major port. In 1291 all glass foundries in Venice were moved to Murano as a prventive measure to save Venice from a probable fire risk. Since then crafts men developed very refined technologies such as crystalline glass, enameld glass,milk glass, golden thread glass etc. Their artistic skills are still alive.
Tourists can watch the glass blowers offering live demonstration of their magnificient skill at VIA Fornace. The art works are very expensive, but they are worth the money you pay.
Tourists can reach Murano island from Venice by a "Water Bus"(Boat).
A MUST SEE PLACE.
Murano may not be the glass producer it once was, but the industry still retains the island as ambassador of all encompassing art+glass.
Even if you're not a fan of the glasswork(and I challenge you not to be after a visit), Murano is a great, quick side trip from Venice.
The Vaporetto will whisk you over in a few minutes, and you're delivered to, naturally, tourist central. But wander through some of the side vias and canals and you'll get a glimpse of a quieter Venice. Perhaps, even, a sense of what the city would've been like in another time...pre cruise ships.
Take a tour of the famous glass factory, Vecchia Murano.
Since it is a family establishment, a member will more than likely lead your tour.
Starting in the glass furnace, a master blower will show you how he creates a glass piece.
Shop in the store for anything from a chess set to a unicorn pendant.