Visiting Burano and Murano
We had the luxury of time in Venice…time to wander alleyways, drink wine in sunny piazzas and sample cicchetti in tiny bars along the canals. We were content, but I couldn’t silence that little voice in my head telling us we “had to” visit Murano and Burano, that our visit to Venice was incomplete without a boat ride to the islands.
The Mister and I caught the 42 vaporetto and spent the morning at Isola di San Michele before catching the same boat to Murano and Burano. We were blessed with sun and calm waters as the boat motored between tiny islands and crumbling ruins to the pier at Murano.
Venice was the epicenter for creative glassmaking for centuries. Artisans lived and worked in the city until leaders decided the fire risk was too great and moved the glassmakers to Murano. Over centuries, creative glassmaking became Murano’s legacy. The island filled with furnaces pumping out heat and smoke, glassblowers worked in shops and studios molding and shaping swirls of colored glass into spectacular chandeliers, vases, figurines, beads and jewelry.
Photo: Hannah Adkison
Glass is Murano’s legacy and the reason tourists flock to the island in droves.
As our boat bumped the pier, glass factory and studio representatives greeted passengers and invited them to come watch their craftsmen at work. Half of the passengers trailed behind the representatives and the rest quickly disappeared down Murano’s main “road.” We decided against a factory tour for two reasons: we live near a glassblowing studio in London and stop in to watch our local artists often and we aren’t souvenir collectors when we travel.
We set off wandering along the Murano’s main canal, admiring the beautiful glass in the shop windows. There were *so* *many* studios and shops selling glass, side by side, street after street.
We walked in and out of a few shops and studios before succumbing to glass fatigue and chose a scoop of lemon gelato and a canal-side spot for two. We slurped gelato, watched kids coming home from school and wondered about the difficulties of being a shopkeeper on Murano. So much competition from within and elsewhere, it had to be really difficult to stay afloat.
We eventually left our sunny spot and spent a few hours exploring the maze of canals and wide, cobbled pathways before finding a waterside cafe with an incredible view and forgettable food. We enjoyed the ambiance, friendly service and sunshine before heading to the vaporetto stop and on to Burano.
Burano is a fishing village known for its handcrafted lace and technicolor houses. Centuries ago, an easily distracted Buranelli sailor was lured to the island by a beautiful mermaid. She splashed her tail and created intricately patterned sea spray which she used as her wedding veil for her upcoming nuptials to her sailor. The village girls were jealous of her veil and did their best to replicate the airy patterns with needle and thread, thus beginning Burano’s tradition of handcrafted lace.
Lace in every style and form floats in the breeze outside the shops along the canals, a nod to Italy’s interest in preserving and supporting its traditional crafts and artisans. I’m struck by the colors lining the canals…eye-catching, almost shocking, a complete contrast to the muted hues and crumbling facades of Venice.
The colors are heavily regulated (you have to write for permission before painting) and their origins disputed. Some say the houses were painted brightly so fisherman returning from sea could spot their houses through the fog. A less romantic version say the houses were painted distinctively so fishermen could find their way home after a night on the town.
Whichever legend you choose to believe, the effect of the colors is indisputable. The jumble of colors and canals, crisp sheets flapping in the sea breeze, the low hum of fishing boats motoring through the canals give it an aura distinct from any other island. Burano is a special place.
Somehow, despite the onslaught of tourists, the island retains a true community feel. Families gather after school to play in the town square. Teenagers wobble along the canals on their bicycles. Formidable looking Nonnas scold children for running through shops with sticky fingers.
The Mister and I realize that a lemon gelato doesn’t lunch or dinner make and saunter off to sample Burano’s famous fresh seafood and risotto. Our return journey is timed perfectly as the final rays of orange sunlight sweep across the water and disappear behind the skyline of Venice.
Things to Know About Visiting Murano and Burano
If you have limited time in Venice, stay in Venice. The islands are lovely, but involve a full day’s commitment of time and effort and a very early start.
Murano is worth a visit if you are interested in glassmaking and/or shopping for unique souvenirs. If neither appeals to you, skip it and head to Burano.
The vaporetto from the Fondamente Nuove was 5 minutes to Isola di San Michele (#4.1/4.2), 10 minutes from San Michele to Murano (#4.1/4.2) and 30 minutes from Murano to Burano (#12). The return journey from Burano to Venice is approximately 50 minutes (#12). If you want to visit all three islands, allow a minimum of 9 hours, including transportation. The return boats from Burano can be busy. We walked along the water to the neighboring island of Mazzorbo to catch the boat from the pier on Fondamenta di Santa Caterina (no lines).
We had limited success finding excellent eats on Murano which was a disappointment. If anyone has recommendations, please share. Burano hosts a number of excellent seafood restaurants, most notably Da Romano. Have the risotto. You won’t be disappointed.
Hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you have any questions or tips (I’d love some restaurant recs if you have them!) in the comments below!
subscribe for email notifications