Last time I visited Venice I went on a tour that encompassed three of the lagoon’s more interesting outer islands. These are the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello.
I got a ticket for a tour that took you round these three Islands. This lagoon cruise cast off from the pier adjacent to Rio dei Giardinetti, the gardens next to St Mark’s Square.
Didn’t get much time on each island but did gain a flavour of the lagoon’s huge variety. In this account I will try to convey some of this rich flavour.
Murano – Workers of Glass
Years ago I used to play a computer game called Machiavelli: The Prince. In this game you represented one of the illustrious families of old Venice. You engaged in intrigue and traded, like Marco Polo, with the pre Columbian world. The cargo of choice at the beginning of your path to trading empire fame and fortune was always Venetian glass.
The island of Murano was therefore a priority destination in my expedition across the lagoon. This is where Venetian (Murano) glass is actually made and this was the first island on the tour.
When you disembark in Murano, you are guided to one of the glass making factories only a few steps away from the quay. Here you see the glass being made, feel the heat from the furnaces and look on in wonder at this ancient art.
You can then buy something at the factory shop and take a short stroll to see a bit of the Island. You can’t see much as the boat will soon leave for the next island. You do get an impression of the place and have laid the foundations for a future more detailed visit.
Burano – Vivid Colour and Lace
The first thing that strikes you about Burano is the vibrant almost surreal colour. It is a real feast for the eyes and a great place to walk around.
There was an opportunity to be guided round a lace making operation – Burano is famous for its lace. I gave this a miss and concentrated on the place rather than its commercial activities. I don’t have much interest in lace anyway! Managed to see quite a bit of the place before moving on.
Torcello – Land that Time Forgot
Torcello could almost be described as rural Venice due to its green and unspoiled landscape. It is more like a nature reserve than anything else. It’s hard to grasp this island’s historic significance.
Nevertheless, it was from this humble location that the Serene Republic of Venice began its march to commercial greatness. The refugees who founded Venice settled here to escape the ravages of Atilla the Hun and his hordes who were rampaging down the mainland. These horsemen were effective warriors on dry land but they couldn’t walk on water. The islands of the lagoon provided the perfect refuge where people could escape their wrath.
You disembark on the western side of the island and you are immediately in the Venetian countryside. You follow the canal on its eastward course and enjoy a peaceful stroll. You may be interrupted by the posh tourists who occasionally glide up the canal in their expensive water taxis.
You arrive at the eastern side of the island where the last remnants of the civilisation of old Torcello are located. If you wanted pyramids and hanging gardens then you have come to the wrong place. All that remains is a rather charming Byzantine church, but it is a lovely area to explore.
After your visit here you return to the pier and enjoy a relaxing cruise back to Saint Mark’s Square while dreaming about the romance and drama of old Venice.