Murano and Burano – Out on Venice Lagoon
Trip Over to Venice
A trip out on the lagoon is a perfect way to get away from the hordes of tourists that swamp Venice each day. There are no shortage of ideas on how to get there, and everyone has a ‘better’ plan. Of course there are tours to book so all details are taken care of, or DIY on a vaporetto or two. There’s the #4.1 vaporetto from Ferrovia (the Railway Station) and do a trip around the canals before heading off towards Murano. Or the #4.1 from San Marco and just do the loop around the eastern side of Venice before heading off towards Murano. Or the #1 around the Grand Canal to San Marco and change to the #4.1 for the rest of the trip. Or you can walk to the northern side of Venice to Fondamente Nove and get on the 4.1 or 12 and get going straight out to the islands.
As Venice is small and very easy to walk around, choose the method that suits the time allowed and sightseeing requirements – it takes less time to walk to Fondamente Nove than it takes the vaporetto to get around there, but you don’t get to see Venice from the vaporetto. On the vaporetto you will be squashed in with the locals going about their daily business, the gaggles of bored school kids on school excursions, and the tourists ticking off the things they came to Venice to see before moving on to their next destination. As today was all about getting away from the crowds, we opted to have the concierge at our hotel sort our trip to the islands out for us.
After breakfast on the terrace of Al Ponte Antico Hotel looking over the Grand Canal, our water taxi driver came to meet us in the hotel foyer and led us through the streets to where he had parked the boat. Why he didn’t arrive at the hotel at its boat entrance on the Grand Canal remains a mystery, but any opportunity to walk through different little lanes and over more bridges is a plus. Maybe it was easier for him to get out to the northern side of Venice from where the boat was……. Arriving at the boat, it had been parked in by a barge that had pulled up alongside with long stabilising legs stretched out onto the concrete landing like some sort of giant insect, to keep the barge balanced as it unloaded pallets of building materials. Again, this is not a problem, just another interesting side of the way things are done in Venice. It wasn’t long before he was able to pivot the back end of the barge around so we could get our beautifully polished teak water taxi out into the canal, and off we went under bridges and winding through narrow canals until we burst out under a low bridge into the lagoon, picking up speed as Venice started shrinking into the distance behind us.
Within a few minutes we had passed Cimitero (Venice’s Cemetry Island) and pulled up at Fornace Estevan Rossetto on Murano. Our guide was there to meet us, offered a helping hand to get off the water taxi and led us in to see where the glass blowers work, as the amazing master glass blower produced a prancing horse within minutes – very impressive! Then more amazing, we found out that the demonstration horses that are made all get smashed up and recycled as more care is taken when they make ornaments to keep and they go through various other processes before they are good to sell. After the demonstration it was into the showroom to see all the artworks.
Our trip to Murano involved a ‘free’ pick up in the water taxi, a ‘no obligation to buy’ tour of the glass factory and showroom, then a ‘free’ water taxi to Burano to see the ‘no obligation to buy’ lace making.
There really were no high pressure sales tactics in the showroom, if either of us showed a particular interest in a piece our guide/salesman would appear with a bit of information on the piece, then make himself scarce again. As we weren’t on a tour with others we had unlimited time to have a good look at everything in the showroom, in great detail – there was so much to admire.
Christine saw some magnificent chandeliers that she really wanted for her home back in Sydney, lots of discussion happened as to how many lights she should have on her custom made chandelier, and the price was negotiated to something she was comfortable with. Meanwhile over a glass of Prosecco, Christine also decided she couldn’t live without a set of water glasses and I decided my life wouldn’t be the same without a sculpture by Walter Furlan from his Omaggio a Picasso collection. More negotiations took place, and the deals were done. Scarily, I was then given a thick black felt tipped pen and asked to sign my name across the sculpture so I could be sure that was the one that was shipped to me. It was, and thankfully my signature did come off easily.
This is where some might say we were being ripped off, and our ‘free’ boat trips were no longer free. But the way I see it, we got to see some amazing things, we bought some amazing memories, and at no time felt pressured to buy. To be taken to Murano on a private boat, spend time in a beautiful showroom, buy amazing things that they then package up and ship home for us was all worth it. We said goodbye to our new friends and boarded our next ‘free’ water taxi to take us from Murano to Burano.
As the boat approached Burano, we went very close to a neighbouring island, Mazzorbo (pronounced Martzorbo) with a good view of the bell tower at Chiesa Di Santa Caterina, a church originally built as part of a Benedictine Monastery in the year 785, (yes that is not a typo!) then demolished and rebuilt several times over the centuries. It is possible to walk over a bridge from Burano to Mazzorbo, we didn’t do this, but next time…………….for sure.
The first thing you notice arriving in Burano are the brightly coloured houses, each one a different colour to its neighbour. Rumour has it that this was done so the fishermen could find their way home. Now you need to apply to the council to paint your house, you are given a selection of colours to choose from, then you must use that colour – having the same colour as your neighbour just wouldn’t do.
Waiting for us in Burano as the water taxi pulled up was a young lady who knew our names and said she would take us to see how Burano lace was made, then recommend some places for us to have lunch. Having an interest in all things fashion, I was really looking forward to seeing the lace making. We were taken to a shop called La Perla, I very quickly realised that seeing lace making was going to be secondary to them try to sell things to me, to the point of annoyance! One lady came out and sat in the middle of the shop with her lace making cushion draped in a piece of lace she was making. I got the distinct impression she was told we had arrived, “quickly do a few stitches”. She seemed horrified by my interest, and a sales lady kept unpacking sheets and table cloths to show me to try and steer me away from the lace maker. I explained that I really wasn’t interested in sheets, I really wanted to know more about the lace making. They showed me some uninspiring pamphlets. I asked what was on other floors in the shop. “More lace making upstairs” came the answer. Relieved I went up to the next level expecting to see a full lace making demonstration, with all the stages from the idea to the finished product. But was so disappointed to find only more product with lace trims and the pushy sales lady getting everything out to show me. All of the products she was showing were beautiful, but not items I wanted to own, and certainly didn’t want to be faced with her holding up more things for me to look at every time I moved. I’m sure I might have been more inclined to buy something had I been left to look myself. There was going to be no escape, every time we turned around more sheets, tablecloths, doilies, nightdresses, were thrust in front of us, everything except the thing I had come to see – how the lace was made. I did buy a piece of lace that will one day trim a fabulous outfit I make, but this piece of lace wasn’t hand made in Burano. I would like to think it was made somewhere in Italy, or maybe France, but I suspect China was involved.
The lady who met us at the boat was waiting, so we explained that we would go and have lunch and have a look around Burano before making any decisions on what to buy, just so we could get out of there. She suggested a few lunch places, but Oliver at our hotel had recommended we eat at Trattoria al Gatto Nero (the Black Cat) and having lost faith in the Burano guide and her having lost interest in us she pointed in the direction we should go. We followed a path between more brightly coloured houses, took many more photos, crossed a bridge and there was al Gatto Nero, with tables all set up next to the canal……………and a queue of people waiting for a table! There was one empty table outside which we had an eye on. Christine told me she was going to try something………….She told the waiter that we were staying at Al Ponte Antico and she was sure they had made a booking for us – they had (good on you Oliver, or maybe it was Alex!!) The empty table that we had an eye on was reserved for us!
Now I know you are thinking again that we were being taken for a ride here, and everyone was getting a cut. I hope they were. I hope the hotel got a cut for recommending the restaurant and the water taxi, and hopefully the water taxi was paid for taking us to Murano where we bought our glass treasures, I’m not exactly sure what happens about the lace shop as there were no cuts to be had there, but for all the things we enjoyed enormously, I hope everyone got their cut, they all did a fantastic job.
We had the most delicious meal ever, my mouth is watering as I write about it, simple light pasta with shrimps and fresh new season baby artichokes, the waiter told us the secret was all in the butter! We got chatting with the waiter who had grown up in Venice, then moved to Burano as an adult finding that Venice had been overrun with tourists, and now cruise ships, that show no respect for the history and beauty of the island city. He has never been back, and says he won’t until at least the cruise ships stop coming. He doesn’t even go back to visit his mother, she comes to Burano to visit him.
Another glass of wine and an exquisite dessert and we were ready to explore more of Burano. There is no limit to the photos to take of rows of coloured houses and boats reflected in canals, I did try to not take photos of the washing hung out of the upper level windows of the houses, but that proved impossible – just another of the many sights in Burano!
We later visited the lace museum, which was far more informative that the shop we went to first, and a fantastic bead shop called Alla Fiera Dell’Est owned by a local lady who had recently won a small business award. We spent some time there chatting getting a bit of the Burano history, and some of the curiosities were explained like the many houses that have curtains hanging over the front doors, on the outside, apparently for privacy. If you want to leave the front door open to get some fresh air, you don’t need all the people passing looking in. Wandering in and out of shops down the main street there are plenty of things to see and people to chat with as we made our way to the ferry wharf to catch the #12 back to Fondamente Nove, our ‘free’ transport had come to an end………
Itinerary for Trip Over to Italy – Milan, Como and Venice
Qantas flight (Emirates code share) to Milan (Malpensa) from Sydney via Dubai
Stayed in Milan, Airbnb, for a week before going to Como
Picked up in Milan by Como Limousines and driven to Como
Stayed in Como, Airbnb, for 3 weeks
Picked up in Como by Como Limousines and driven to Venice
In Venice, water taxi to Al Ponte Antico Hotel for 3 nights and water taxi back
Picked up in Venice by Como Limousines and driven back to Como
Picked up in Como by Como Limousines and driven back to Milan (Malpensa) Airport
Qantas flight (Emirates code share) to Sydney via Dubai