Venetian Island Hopping

This perfect fall weather we’ve been enjoying called for an adventure and (more importantly) because Dave finished writing his thesis, we decided to explore some of the Venetian Islands on Saturday!

Murano, Italy
Murano, Italy

We’d heard good things about Burano, a small island known for brightly-colored houses and lacework, so we set off to see for ourselves. After arriving in Venice, we got day passes for the vaporetti (small ferry boats) and hopped the nearest one headed in the direction of Burano Island. The vaporetto made two stops at Murano Island (home of the colorful glass), where we needed to transfer to get to Burano. For a second, we considered exploring Murano, but throngs of tourists had the same idea and that quickly made the decision for us. We opted to get off at the first stop, walk to the transfer point and see some of the glass sculptures along the way. We figured that, if we had time (and energy) on the way back, maybe then we’d see more of Murano.

From what little we did see, I’d certainly be interested in exploring more, but perhaps a Saturday that coincides with a holiday (All Saints Day) isn’t the best time.

Onward to Burano…

Burano, Italy
the colors of Burano

Burano is a cute little village and I would think it’s impossible to feel unhappy there, as guests of the island are immediately greeted with rows of brightly-color houses. Benjamin Moore has nothing on Burano. The vibrant colors are a part of the village’s history and they are still dictated by the local government today. Should a homeowner wish to paint their house, they have to receive permission from the authorities and only then may they select from a list of pre-approved colors, which is based on the neighborhood in which they live. With the government ensuring cohesive color schemes, I guess homeowners don’t live in fear of their neighbors choosing hideously-clashing house colors!

The island was also once known for its lacework, which put it on the map in the 16th century. Women were creating lace via needles (a craft they picked up from Cyprus, which was ruled by Venice at the time) and soon the gorgeous, hand-crafted creations were being exported across Europe. They even opened a lace-making school in Burano. The small shops on the island still showcase lace tablecloths, napkins and clothing, but sadly, the industry is pretty much in the tank now. The time-consuming handmade pieces are expensive and can be replicated via machinery these days.

In addition to lace, Burano was also a big fishing village and I’ve heard stories that the colorful houses helped fisherman find their way home in the thick Venetian fog. The island is fast becoming a popular tourist destination and that, coupled with what fisherman remain, seems to serve as the basis for the economy now.

We wandered around the island a bit, and it being lunchtime, we had hoped to check out Trattoria al Gatto Nero, which came highly recommended by Trip Advisor and Jamie Oliver. Sadly, they were booked, so we opted for another trattoria, where the servers donned white jackets and black bow ties and hustled like no other. The food, which was made in house by a flock of older Italian women (they looked like they were straight out of a movie- it was awesome) was pretty tasty. It seemed to be a relatively local spot, which is always something we try to seek out whenever possible.

Burano also gave me a good chance to practice more of my photography…with such beautiful scenery, I basically just had to make sure the shot was in focus and the rest took care of itself!

After wandering around the island more, we ventured towards the bridge that connects Burano to a neighboring island. A little stroll and we were on the island of Mazzorbo…

Mazzorbo, Italy
Mazzorbo, known for vineyards and orchards

Mazzorbo is another small island in the Venetian lagoon and I think it’s actually governed by Burano, despite it being its own island. Considered Burano’s sixth sestiere (neighborhood), it is home to beautiful orchards and vineyards. Apparently, the wine from the Mazzorbo vineyards used to be the preferred drink of the Doges. Now, the island is receiving some revitalization, with the opening of Venissa, a ristorante-enoteca-hotel. (For a cool look at the islands of Mazzorbo and Burano, check out the Venissa website here. Burano is towards the top and Mazzorbo is the lower area.)

With return train schedules in mind, we made our way back to Venice via vaporetto late in the afternoon and began the journey back to Udine. Though only a day trip, the islands of Venice were a fun getaway and a good way to kick off what I’m calling “end-of-thesis” season. We leave for Emilia-Romagna on Thursday and I couldn’t be more excited to explore what is arguably known as Italy’s best food area. After living in northern Italy all this time (home of some of the best seafood dishes), I’m ready for our trip to ER. Bring on the pasta!