We spent 3 days exploring The Floating City, Venezia last year before my sister and I parted ways and I continued my holiday to Tallinn. Over the centuries, the city has garnered so many nicknames reflecting the admiration of those who have been lucky enough to set foot here. La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, Bride of The Sea, The Floating City, City of Bridges, City of Canals are to name a few.
In general, I have always enjoyed being in an old town anywhere. It never ceases to amaze me when I realize how old that place has been in existence and the things that happened that changed the course of a nation and might affect other nations in another continent. But for me, Venice has a certain charm incomparable to other great cities of Italy. As soon as I left Santa Lucia train station and started wandering around, crossing the small and bigger bridges, passing through the narrow aisles, I felt like I was being taken back to centuries ago. It is in a way a very commercialized place with the flocking tourists and some of the gondoliers absurdly singing folk songs from Southern Italy. It is also very expensive. But despite all that, Venice is one of the historical cities that one cannot miss in North Italy.
I visited Venice for the first time in 2002 on a day trip. Then 15 years and 10 kg later, I came back. 😂😂 This time I got to explore the islands nearby (Murano, Burano and Torcello).
It was quite a sunny day. And we were so happy to finally feel the warmth of the sun on our skin after spending almost 3 weeks wearing sweaters and coats. But of course after dark it was back as usual, the shivering 9° – 12°C.
We hopped on Vaporetto (water bus) at Fondamente Nove port that would make several stops, including at Murano, Torcello and Burano islands. Murano is a small island renowned for its glassmaking industry for centuries. The Romans actually had already used glass in their time, but cut from moulded pieces, not blown as we see it done today. The Venetian glass makers initially did copy the works of glass makers in the Middle East, but later on they managed to invent clear, transparent glass works.
With a help from a friend, we got to see a glass making process in one of the workshops there. It was really hot in there and it was basically a series of endless, repetitive motions by a group of workers in order to get a product done.
Another must-visit while in Venice is this tiny island north of Venice Lagoon. There is a saying:
Before there was Venice, there was Torcello.
Unlike Venice and the other 2 famous islands, Torcello island was much quieter and serene (at first I thought there was no one living there!). After walking further, I started to see some human beings (most probably just visitors), a small taverna and finally, the Torcello Cathedral.
Previously inhabited by the ancient Roman settlers, in 638 AD the Catholic bishop of Altino moved here. The construction of Basilica Santa Maria started in the following year. The increasing trading activities developed the island in the next 400 years. But later on, it started to slow down for some reasons and people eventually abandoned the island. Even the bishop left for Murano island in the 17th century.
If you have seen photos of colourful houses by the canals with bridges over them, chances are those were taken in Murano or Burano (even if the the caption said it was Venice). I’m not saying this must be true, but so far I have never come across buildings in Venice painted in such bright colours like those in Murano & Burano. Most buildings I saw in Venice were made of bricks and/or stones and left in their natural colour, while in Murano and (especially) Burano, a lot of them are painted in such cheeky, bright colours.
If Murano is famous for its glass work, then Burano is famous for its legendary handmade lace. Initially, Venetian laces used to be produced in convents and for the church’s use. The demand for lace was then increasing, that in the 16th and mid-17th centuries it became a primary fashion need of the noble families in Europe. So, just like any good business people would do, to increase the output to meet the demand while keeping the production cost low, the merchants relocated the lace production to outside Venice, i.e. Burano island. The popularity didn’t last forever, though. The growing lace production centres in other countries (now French lace is like the most popular in the world!) by the end of the 17th century “helped” decline the demand of Burano lace.
Now you can find there the shops selling different kinds of lace, from shawls, dresses to table runners. The prices were not exactly cheap for me, though! And since I was not on a shopping spree, I just decided to stroll around the island for a bit.
Because we planned to be mostly on foot when exploring the lagoon and would not visit any places with admission fees (we felt we’d had enough in the past 3 weeks, from Athens to Rome to Florence 😆😂), we didn’t make any arrangement for the transport. We just bought the Vaporetto tickets on site for the trip to the other islands and also from the hotel to Santa Lucia station. For the most updated fares, check their website.
That being said, if you do plan to visit some attractions – like museums – and use the water bus quite frequently, maybe it is better to buy a city pass, such as Venezia Unica.