Venice Has Islands?
But Venice is an island!? you say. Actually, 117 individual islands linked by bridges, separated by canals. But over the lagoon, a short boat trip away, lies 2 other ‘islands’ which are worth your time and effort – I’m talking about Murano and Burano.
(The number 12 Vaporetto from either Fondamente Nove or San Zaccaria takes 40 minutes to Burano, 10 minutes to Murano – €13 return or as part of your €20 day ticket which lasts 24 hours)
If you put Popeye and a bag of Skittles in a magic blender you’d no doubt get a Burano Smoothie – a sweet little fishing village of rainbow proportions. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Pantone have shares in this island and that the locals have as much of an obsession with Dulux paint-swatch cards as I do, but apparently they were painted so colourfully to guide their fishermen home on dark foggy evenings as far back as the 16th Century. And, if anyone does get fed up of their homes’ colour, they actually have to apply to the government to get it changed!
I wrongly presumed that locals of Burano would have a cheery disposition, afterall – their men never get lost at sea and how can the most colourful place on earth not raise smiles. It seems my psyche-radar was totally off, I’ve never seen a more miserable bunch of Italians! Maybe they’re fed up of their daylight visitors and their sense of hospitality has worn thin, or maybe it’s like that time you had a weekend away with your permanently happy friend who woke singing every morning and skipped everywhere, come Sunday evening you were dying inside – perhaps the rainbow is just a little too bright!? Whatever, their miserableness conversely made me smile – there’s nowt so funny as folk!
Once upon a time the Venetians ruled Cyprus (amongst many other places of course) and they watched on as Cypriot women, with their little legs and beige pinnies, crafted the most beautiful lace. The skill was brought back to Burano, taught the young girls, and with a little help from Leonardo Da Vinci who took some to mainland Italy (the Duomo in Milan to be precise) a trade route was established, putting Burano on the map. Unfortunately today the skill is dying out – no one can find the space in their diaries to learn this time-consuming craft (apparently Angry Birds is massive in Burano!) I shouldn’t jest – it’s such a wasteful shame that this craft should die out but it got my back up a bit when a shop keeper tried to force me to buy some with an inflection in her sales-talk that it was my fault! Her English was poor and my Italian is shocking otherwise I’d have told her about the apprenticeships that my local council provide to train youngsters in the ancient art of frame-work-knitting, us Nottinghamians do something about our problems! (She was also wielding a fairly sharp needle and I didn’t want to offend her!)
So, that’s my feel for Burano – I loved it, but not just for the photographic opportunities, there is a lot of History here and the locals are, well, interesting.
Things To Do On Burano
- Grab a coffee on someones terrace – the backdrops don’t get much prettier than this.
- Watch some lace being made – their youngest lace maker is in her 70’s so it may not be around much longer. There’s an official museum.
- Wander the streets – it’s mostly residential, and unlike Venice there are more houses with front doors in contrast to apartments with communal entrances so you get more of a feel for how the locals live.
- Check out the leaning campanile (tower) of the San Martino church – how is it still upright?
- Al Gatto Nero restaurant is a favourite with chef Jamie Oliver and famed for it’s seafood. Make sure you book though!
Murano – The Island Of Glass
In 1291 a wave of paranoia struck the Venetians and thoughts of fires on their ‘no-where to run’ island evoked them to evacuate all the glass making businesses over to the island of Murano – a less populated spot with orchards and vegetable gardens. Ever since, they have been noted for this skill and tradition. Unlike Burano, with its uniform rows of plain (albeit colourful) fronted houses, Murano has a few palaces and a landscape more like Venice itself.
Murano’s glassmakers have always been treated with prestige, pioneering new techniques and showing the rest of the world how it’s done. Even the Venetians recognised their worth, despite being tradesmen they were allowed certain privileges usually only reserved for nobles – allowed to wear swords, immune from prosecution and their daughters were free to marry above themselves, amongst Venice’s wealthiest of families. However, dare to leave and take their glassmaking secrets with them and they’d be put to death.
Things To Do On Murano
- Watch some glass blowing and check out the museum – glass is why you’re here afterall
- Art lovers must visit the Berengo Studio to have their mind blown – click through and you’ll see what I mean!
- Take a selfie in front of the spectacular Cometa Di Vetro – the big, spikey blue sculpture at the end of Fondamenta Manin
- Just wander, a much more relaxed feel than Venice and some great fish restaurants
Murano and Burano are definitely worth a few hours of your time – they’re only a stones throw from Venice yet quite distant in culture and history and you’ll have a great time exploring! Staying on one of these islands is also unique too – you can avoid the crowds of Venice and good food at reasonable prices is much easier to come by too. Murano would be my choice out of the two because it’s not too far at all and the transport links are excellent. If you’re looking for a lovely hotel at a fraction of the cost of an equivalent in Venice then you might want to consider La Gare Hotel Venezia – a former glass making furnace but renovated with all the Italian style and hi-tech gadgets you need. Plus, the hotel has a free shuttle boat to Marco Polo airport and Fondamente Nove. Check out their photos and you’ll be sold!
Pin For Later…