A trip to the venice islands
Venice is a fascinating city, but if you have the time it’s worth taking a day trip across the mystical lagoon to visit some of the other islands near venice. Of the other venice islands, murano and burano are the most popular.
You can go under your own steam and take a vaporetto (water bus) there. You can then transfer across to the next island. Or you can take a guided tour starting from about 20 euro. One ride on the vaporetto is currently 7.5 euros (2019) but if you have a day pass, the boat trips will be included in that.
We set off on a guided sightseeing tour from the Piazzale Roma. About thirty others braved the chilly day winter’s day along with us. The tour boat picks you up outside the KFC near the station. This is no ordinary KFC. The Venice KFC looks out over the grand canal! It must be the best view from any such fried chicken emporium in the word! Also it is a good place to get a cheap cup of coffee before you head into the more expensive city centre streets.
Crossing the lagoon you will see lots of other types of boat, including traditional rowing boats gliding along. On the famous gondola boat in venice you only ever have one oar. On the lagoon however, you will see larger boats with people in twos or fours, standing up with oars on either side. This is venetian rowing, designed to manoeuvre through the narrow canals and shallow waters of the lagoon. Francesca who works in the vivovenetia office is a rower herself.
The island of Murano
The name murano is synonymous with beautiful glass creations. Murano glass is very famous here in the Veneto, as it is throughout the world. When we visited Murano, we hopped off our boat onto a little quay, and were taken first to a glass factory or workshop. There we saw a master craftsman demonstrating techniques of handling molten glass and then making it into glass ornaments. He created a perfect small glass horse in the time we were watching him at work. Venetian glass has been made for over 1,500 years since the 13th century, mainly here in Murano!
Next to the workshop is a glass museum where you can see some fantastical pieces like coloured chandeliers and elaborate ornaments. The glass work here is highly ornate and not really my taste. It is also very expensive! However, if you explore the many shops and galleries on the rest of this rather cute venetian island, you are certain to discover something that appeals. Indeed we did find some very beautiful glass pieces. Handle with care!
The island of Burano
Burano island is known for its bright colourful houses. Indeed almost every single house on the whole island sings out in a heart lifting hue! Why is this the case? The story goes that the fishermen painted their houses such bright colours so that they could recognise their homes as they returned from fishing, through the fog. The houses are all colours of the rainbow and while I have seen lots of places with lovely coloured houses, I don’t think I have ever seen quite so many in one place. Each group of houses are permitted to be certain colours. You need to ask permission if you fancy a change of paint!
Fishing remains the main industry here and there are lots of seafood restaurants for you to try. If you don’t want a full meal, there are quite a few cafes where you can have a coffee and try one of the local butter cookies called “bussalai buranei.” We sampled these local cookies accidentally, but as a biscuit aficionado of many years standing, I wasn’t greatly impressed. Burano also has its own leaning tower attached to the church of san martino, and is also famous for its traditional lace making.There is a lacemaking museum here if you want to see some of the best examples of this ancient art..
Why doesn’t Venice sink?
As you sail back to venice you can appreciate the sight of this extraordinary wealth of architecture crammed onto such a small area. You do have to wonder how it all stays there. The city of Venice itself is built on a series of marshy islands which emerged from the lagoon.
The city’s many buildings are supported by closely spaced wooden piles made of pine. The foundations rest on plates of Istrian limestone placed on top of the piles, and buildings of brick or stone were constructed on top of this. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay. The wood then hardens over time in water. This incredible feat of construction is a true testament to the ingenious medieval mind!
Who were the first venetians?
This whole area and the venice islands is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the 5th century It was originally populated by locals from the mainland retreating from barbarian raids, but it became a great maritime power in its own right. The creation of venice symbolises the triumph of man over his environment and the city has remained largely unaltered since the middle ages. Its contribution to the development of architecture and the arts has also been enormous.The incredible art of venice is something to be explored another day…