In the Venetian Lagoon there are several small islands, some of which are now abandoned while others are inhabited by people proud to continue their traditions. The main islands are Murano, famous for its centuries-old art of Glass Blowing making, Burano with its colorful houses and Torcello with its historical artifacts. Visiting these islands allows to take a dip in the past of glorious Venice, thus admiring the art, history and tradition of the Serenissima.
About 30 minutes of navigation from Piazza San Marco there is Murano, this island is known throughout the world for the long tradition of the Glass Blowing Process. Here there are laboratories factories where the glass masters, in front of the burning furnaces, explain how to shape the blown glass to obtain incredible artworks.
I remain for a while to observe these artisans working a material as fragile as glass, giving it life in the form of fine sculptures.
Its inhabited center is composed of many islands divided by canals but joined by the typical Venetian bridges, for this reason it is said that it resembles a miniature Venice. As I walk through the streets of the little Venice, I notice that Murano has the power to bring out the artistic vein that lies within each of us. I meet people who, inspired by the lagoon landscape, dedicate themselves to painting or who, using crystal glasses as a musical instrument, improvise classical music concerts.
For those who want to engage in more frivolous activities, such as shopping, you can buy a blown glass souvenir in one of the shops of the most prestigious companies in this sector. If you have an unlimited budget and a huge love for Italian art, I recommend Venini. Walking through the narrow streets parallel to the canals you can see the famous lighthouse made of fine marble from Istria.
Why did the glass masters come to Murano?
Creating glass has always been a difficult and also very dangerous activity. When the houses were built of wood the presence of the furnaces could cause fires and therefore serious damage to the city of Venice. For this reason, in 1295, the Republic of Venice transferred all the glass-making furnaces to the island of Murano. Moreover, it is assumed that the transfer was made by the Serenissima also for controlling the work of the glass masters and avoiding the dissemination of their knowledge.
Burano, the rainbow island
Ten minutes by boat and I arrive in Burano, also known as the Rainbow Island and elected among the 10 most colorful cities in the world. Famous for its brightly colored fishermen’s houses and for the needle lace work. Another peculiar feature of this island is the leaning Bell tower of the ancient Church of San Martino, which due to its inclination has nothing to envy to the Tower of Pisa.
It is really pleasant to get lost among the streets of Burano, everything is so colorful the fishermen’s houses, their balconies full of flowers and even the bed sheets laid out in the sun. I’m surprised that despite the continuous invasion of tourists and despite Murano is one of the most Instagrammable places of the world, its inhabitants live their daily lives in an absolutely natural way. The colors of the houses so beautiful and so famous all over the world once served a much more practical use, defining the property and allowing the fishermen to recognize their homes even from the sea.
The island of Burano is also famous for the needle lace manufacturing. In fact, it is possible to visit the Lace Museum where you can find historical evidence of this ancient art and its origins. Or you can enter in a lace shop and watch one of the few ladies who still keeps the art of needle lace alive.
Even on the island of Burano I have the pleasure of witnessing the demonstration of a master glassmaker who uses his art to create tiny glass objects. Especially the cribs and miniature Christmas trees are real jewels of craftsmanship.
Along the main street there are many typical taverns that offer fish dishes in particular I suggest to try the risotto of gò (a typical fish of the Venetian lagoon also called ghiozzo). In the pastry shops there are the typical butter biscuits that in the S shape are called the Essi of Burano. Purchase and taste these special cookies and I must say that they are really good as a snack! In reality these sweets have very ancient origins, they were prepared by women for fishermen because they provided enough energy to face the sea.
After 15 minutes of sailing I arrive in Torcello, the oldest and least populated island of the Venetian Lagoon. Walking along the main road, that leads to the town, you come across a truly unique bridge. A bridge without parapets that crosses an internal canal and preserves the original shape of the Venetian bridges. And it is precisely this particular shape the reason why it is called Devil’s Bridge.
In the main square there is the Church of Santa Maria where you can find a beautiful mosaic of the Venetian-Byzantine school, which depicts the Apotheosis of Christ and the Last Judgment. You can also climb to the top of the bell tower to enjoy a 360° view of the lagoon.
Having reached the end of this beautiful day, full of colors and of centuries-old art witnesses, I can now relax during the return journey aboard a boat with an important name, “Il Doge”. A very large ship with an upper deck from which I can admire the Venetian Lagoon at the first light of sunset.
September is certainly an ideal month for visiting the most important islands of the Venetian Lagoon. I’m lucky, I chose a sunny day but not too hot. I purchased this tour on the internet choosing from many proposals the one with the most hours available for visiting the islands. You can find the website at this link. The official departure is from Piazza San Marco but you can book the departure also from the train station. An experience to recommend!