Recently, I looked at a popular excursion that you can book while docked in the port of Venice if you want to venture a little further afield – a trip to Verona. The idea was to give those who’ve been to the city before an idea of other excursions which are available and with that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at a popular trip which is a little closer to port but one which offers a different experience – an excursion to the islands of Murano and Burano.
Obviously, you’ll know that Venice is situated on the water, but perhaps you’re not aware that it comprises 118 islands, making it in reality a very compact archipelago. Located in an expanse of water known as the Venice lagoon, it’s accompanied by over 60 other islands in this enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea. Two of the most picturesque and therefore most popular islands to visit aside from Venice are Murano, famous the world-over for its beautiful glass, and Burano, which is best known for its lace production and pastel coloured houses. The islands are linked by an extensive water bus network (vaporetto) and there are also dedicated excursion vessels available too, so they’re relatively easy to get to. It’s just like planning a bus route on land really. Just remember though, though they may seem a little novel and exotic, these water buses do get extremely busy, especially during peak commuter times.
Murano has been a commercial port since the 7th century and can date its glass production to as far back as the 10th century, when due to the fire risk posed to Rome’s mostly wooden buildings, the Venetian Republic feared for the safety of the glassmakers’ businesses and ordered them to be moved to the island. Since then, Burano’s reputation for glass production has grown and grown, making it a key destination for visitors. The island’s served by a number of vaporetto stops but it doesn’t really matter which one you arrive at, because Murano’s less than a mile across. In fact like Venice, it’s actually a series of smaller islands linked by bridges. Almost every street you walk down is lined by shops selling all manner of glassware, from master-crafted vases and high-end works of art to replica fruit, miniature animals and of course, gondoliers. If you want to learn more about glassmaking, you can explore the Museo del Vetro, a museum which tells the story of glass-making on the island and displays many key pieces or visit the studio of a renowned glassmaker to see the craft up-close for yourself. Cruise lines’ shore excursions will typically involve a trip to the factory. A stroll around the town reveals a number of eye-catching art installations and quant canalside cafes too. In fact, the island’s a great place to visit even if you’re not a glass aficionado, as it’s just so picturesque and relaxing and offers the ideal escape from the hustle-bustle of Venice. All in all, THE place to pick up a souvenir!
Burano is a relatively short trip across the Venice lagoon away, and on your shore excursion you’ll have plenty of time to visit it in the same day. Like Murano, it comprises a number of islands and lies about four miles from Venice itself. The island was first settled by the Romans in the 6th century and some believe it’s so named because some of its first settlers came from the smaller island of Buranello, five miles south. It only gained a reputation in the 16th century when the island’s women began to produce the lace it’s now famous for after learning about Venetian-ruled Cyprus’ love of the art. To produce a piece of Burano lace in the traditional style can take weeks and in some ways it’s a dying craft commercially. However, you’ll be able to admire a number of laceworks when you visit some of the island’s shops, and it’s sometimes possible to see a Burano lady spending a little time in her doorway working on a piece of intricate lacework. In fact, the homes of the island’s inhabitants are one of its most popular attractions; beautifully painted in pastel colours, they make for a truly picturesque stroll. This isn’t just some random effort with the paintbrush for the island’s residents however. The painting of the houses follows a specific system which dates back years on the island and anyone who wishes to paint their house must send a request to the government, who well then check if the particular colour is permitted in the area of the island their house is situated.
By Simon Brotherton