Islands of the lagoon, Venice
If you're at all interested in Venetian glass, you probably already know that the nearby island of Murano is the place to go. This is where all the glass factories were moved centuries ago, when it was determined that they posed too great a fire hazard to remain in Venice proper. Most people come here to tour a glass factory or the glass museum and to buy glass - shop after shop line the main canals.
Even with all the people who come here for the glass, though, it's still more like a small town, especially compared to Venice. I came here just to relax for half a day while my friend shopped for glass, and it was nice just boating across the Venetian Lagoon to get here. Vaporetti leave from Venice's Fondamenta Nuove, in the Cannaregio District.
To the north-east of Venice, about 10km from Saint Mark's, four little islands make up Burano. Canals, narrow houses painted in pastel colours or decidely contrasting with the single shades of the lagoon, interweave with sails and fishing boats.
The island was already known in antiquity for the trade in fruit and vegetables which the people of Burano plied with the mainland, but what really brought fame to the island was the craft of lace-making.
San Giorgio or the island of the Cypresses is situated opposite the piazzetta of Saint Mark. In 982 it became the site of a Benedictine monastery by order of Giovanni Morosini. The earthquake of 1223 destroyed part of the buildings on the island, but the reconstruction began immediately under the doge Pietro Zani, who was buried here in 1929.
In the 15th century the island became the focal point of the artistic-cultural revolution that was ragging in Italy.
In 1559 Palladio built the Refectory, which today contains a Marriage of the Virgin by Tintoretto, and in 1565 hebegan building the church, completed in 1610 by Simone Sorella.
Lido lies in the lagoon, about 1,5km from Saint Mark's, forming an ideal barrier between Venice and the Adriatic. Today it is a famous and elegant bathing resort, but in the middle of the last century there was nothing here at all, apart from Malamocco, the convent of San Nicolo and the military district.
The church of San Nicolo, originally from the 17th century, was the former convent of the Benedictines, today used by the Franciscans. There are two 11th century Byzantine capitals at the entrance to the convent and, next to the 16th century cloister, part of the older one from 14th century.
Nearby to the convent is the 14th century Jewish Cemetery.
Favorite thing: From the Zattere, you can take a waterbus to la Giudecca, where the main sights are the church of Il Redentore, and San Giorgio Maggiore. San Giorgio Maggiore is located at the tip of Giudecca Island, and you can climb to the top of the bell tower, for great panoramic shots. Just don't go when the bell is about to ring!!
There many islands to explore, not just the main island that most people visit.
Fondest memory: The boat ride to Murano to see the glass factory. I visited the factory there on my first trip, but now the factory has moved to the main island of Venice due to the rising water.
Burano is another island to explore.
Fondest memory: Burano is one of my favorite islands, I love the colorful houses and miniture canals and bridges. You can read and see more about Burano on my Burano page.
Look for the sign in the picture near St. Mark's Square - these are the boats that go to Burano.
When we were in Venice we went on one of those three hour excursions that take you to the islands around Venice. They take you to Murano, Burano and Torcello. The one island we wished we could've spent more time in was Burano. Murano is all about trying to be sold one of the beautiful glass items that are made in one of the factories and that is it. Torcello is nice but you should know that there is about a fifteen minute walk from the dock to where you go see the old church where they say there is one of the nails from the cross that Jesus was nailed to.
Fondest memory: Burano was the island that I wish we could've spent more time on. It is so cute. You really feel like it is a place that is behind the times, in a good way. The different colored buildings, the little shops, restaurants. I'm dying to go back to this little island. I hope the next time we go back we can just go to Burano!
Favorite thing: Isola di San Michele is the island of the dead. This is the cemetary for Venice and that is all that is there, no life, maybe only the afterlife. I imagine it is very quiet there at night.....The water bus that we took did not pass real close, but thats okay..
Aaah.... the vaparetto to Burano.... I don't want to show you any pics of Burano in these general tips. Those photos are all in the 'off the beaten path' section. Hmmm, but the boatride is wonderful, and Burano.... just breathtaking! The colours of this place will amaze you.
When Venice becomes too much and you need some space, head for Murano. It's like Venice but with a vastness of sky above it ,which on a hot June day made a wonderful change from the humidity, bustle and oppressiveness of the city. It's sleepy and laid back - ignore the herding of tourists towards the glass factories as you get off the vaporetto and head in the other direction. The little squares have amazing glass sculptures in them. The Glass Museum is quite interesting and will only take an hour or so to look around at most. The glass shops are varied - trinkets to fine art. Manin56 my favourite. We found the shops with the most interesting and unique glass were also the least pushy. Always visit the local cemetry when on holiday abroad - always interesting and a peaceful haven in an oft busy holiday schedule - Murano was no exception - I have never seen such a colourful graveyard!
Fondest memory: I miss most standing at bars drinking espresso, or prosecco, watching the locals pop in and out, chatting to each other. Middle-aged venetian ladies going out at 6pm for a spritz and swopping gossip. I just loved how people live there.
Also - the best meal we ever had - Restaurant B on Murano not far from Colonna Vaporetto stop. Sitting in a shady campo, we told the manager we would eat anything and what did he recommend? It's the best thing you can do - they love to show off their food skills and we had a fantastic 4 course meal with wine and complimentary drinks, coffee etc for about £30 a head. So many people turned away from restaurants because the menu is not in english - don't make the same mistake. They will help you, they speak good english and you are abroad - so embrace the experience!
The 4 star Amadeus Hotel in Cannagerio pleasantly surprised me with a free round trip private boat ride over to Murano with a private tour (one on one ) of one of the "furnaces" there, complete with a history of the art of glassblowing. They do not advertise this feature , so before paying for transportation or private tour of Murano just ask your hotel.(if its 4 or 5 stars) ps. you dont have to buy anything - they will still give you the tour... Also the Amadeus Hotel is immaculately clean with a huge hot breakfast and a great location. Another tip for a cheap transfer from the Airport is to get on the nbr 5 bus (actv) only 3 euro and take it to Piazale Roma then its a 10 min walk to the Amadeus. You really dont have to pay USD100.00 or more to get from the Airport to any hotel. Research the local transportation. The 10 minute walk had 2 bridges with lots of stairs to climb but a teenage boy saw me struggle a little and asked if he carry my bag over the bridge but only if he could practice his English!! He refused money and I was thrilled with my 1st introduction to the Venetian people!!!!
Fondest memory: I am a single, mid-aged pretty woman who has always traveled alone. While on my way to my Doges Palace Tour I was rushing through St. Marks Sq and right in front of the 4 pc orchestra,who were playing a waltz, an Italian man (older) just grabbed me by the hand and I started waltzing with him. The crowd applauded us and kept saying STAY ---but I yelled back "The Doge awaits me...."
After much laughter, the Italian man kissed me hand in a very gallant way.
Everything is so ancient there. After Sunday Mass in St. Lucy's Church there was a local bake sale and the priest took me through the "secret passage way" to get there because the rain was coming down hard. It really was the secret way with a spooky hidden staircase... I absolutley loved my trip to Venice. But stay away from buying a coke at St. Marks sit- down restuarant - 8 euro -($11.20) Stick with the water - only 4 euro better yet buy it from a grocer only 1.5 euro....
Favorite thing: Along the white sands of the Lido strolled Eleonora Duse and Gabriele d'Annunzio (Flame of Life), Goethe in Faustian gloom, a clubfooted Byron trying to decide with whom he was in love that day, Alfred de Musset pondering the fickle ways of George Sand, Thomas Mann's Gustave von Aschenbach with his eye on Tadzio in Death in Venice, and Evelyn Waugh's Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder with their eye on each other in Brideshead Revisited.
I loved going to Murano, Burano, and Torcello for the day. They are mellow and of course totally geared for the tourists...esp Murano & Burano.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory was spending a day on Torcello. It seemed to be standing still since the 15th century, There is an old church there, the roses grow up the side - they are an intense bright blood red. The feeling you get is of time standing still and there are places where the wild grass is a few feet tall.
I sat in the church - it was cool and very peaceful. Another time there was a service on and with media folks..don't know what. But it was great to observe a local ritual.
It is so serene and quiet. And then I had lunch at the cafe not far from the church. It was incredible. It was a simple zucchini ravioli with zucchini sauce and zucchini french fries sprinkled on top. I was amazed at the simplicity and yet quality.
If you get a chance and want to slow down and step back in time - go to Torcello!
Sometimes - when it gets really busy for me - I think of that day and invariably I smile and feel peaceful.
If visiting Venice, a trip to the various islands in the lagoon can provide a good overall basis for what Venice is like in terms of canals and life. The islands of Murano and Burano, the islands of lace and glass are provide a good microcosm of what the main sections of Venice are like. Both Murano (Glass) and Burano (lace) have canals, churches, and many of the typical elements one associates with Venice.
Fondest memory: The Island of Burano is a wonderful island with the houses being painted in a wide variety of colors. Although Burano is becoming a bit touristy, the island still allows for a bit more quiet than the main islands.