When you visit Venice, there is a lot of built-up hype about visiting the brother islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello on the Venetian Lagoon. Some people claim that visiting these islands are a little more “off-the-beaten-tourist-path” than the rest of Venice. So naturally, I had to see what the fuss was about. So, I found a boat that would take me there for 20 €.
I arrived at the San Marco port to catch my boat. To (not so much) of my surprise, the boat was the size of a large ferry, and there were about 200 tourists on board besides myself. Let the sheep herding begin…
Murano. Murano is known for its glassmaking. There, you will arrive and be herded straight into the doors of the glass factory. You will then wait on a 15 minute line to see the glass making demonstration. If all these people are waiting on line, it must be pretty cool, right? Well, don’t always trust people. Or tourists, that is. We are suckers for “the hype.” The glass demonstration was kinda cool, if you’re into that kinda thing. A guy put some raw glass on a long wooden torch, put it in a coal fire, then molded the hot glass with a few cool tools and fancy spinning techniques. The audience “ooed” and “ahhhed”, and 10 minutes later it was done. This cute little guy was the final product…We were then herded into the shiny gift shop. There, you could buy all sorts of glass “chotchkies” to bring home to Grammy and Pops; for a high price, of course. If you so please to explore outside of the factory, there is a whole strip of overpriced glass boutiques. All catering to the herds of tourist sheep, of course. Don’t get me wrong, some of this stuff is really beautiful. But you can also find it for a cheaper price elsewhere, without leaving the city. But then again, you do get the novelty of saying “yes, I bought this shiny glass fish at THE Murano Glass factory.” Up to you.
Burano. Ok, this was the island I was really looking forward to. This small island is historically known for its lacemaking, fisherman, and of course, colorful houses. When doing research, the island looked beeeeautiful, full of ambience and a story to be told. Upon arrival to the island, I was greeted by these animated picturesque homes that I had seen in all of the Google photos…And after this strip of houses…that was about it. The center of the little island was full of touristy little lace shops and restaurants. If you like the traditional Italian lace, than you would have a field day. Or rather, if your grandma likes Italian lace, bada bing bada boom. You have found your souvenir. If you find the lace shops to be rather boring, repetitive and well…ugly, you can always fill your time on the island by eating. But then again did you leave Venice, the city of INCREDIBLE restaurants on every corner, to eat at a mediocre tourist haven for lunch? That’s what Daddy Halapeño and I ended up doing, cause we couldn’t figure out much else to do. But hey, a pizza rollup is never a bad idea…
Torcello. The story of this island is actually really cool. And creepy. This now completely abandoned Island (with an exception of tourist visitors) was once a city larger than Venice. After the bubonic Italian plague struck in 1630, the island was pretty much wiped out of all inhabitants. All that is left now is a 1,000 year old Cathedral with some cool mosaic tiles, and a few renovated tourist restaurants. This is the most noteworthy thing I saw on the island…
IN CONCLUSION: Is it worth leaving the city of Venice to visit its much smaller brothers?
If you are bathing in extra time? Sure, why not. Just know what to expect. My main advice is DO NOT take the Viator guided tour like I did (I was with Daddy Halapeño, so he insisted on this route). But seriously, you will save €€€ if you take the ACTV Public Waterbus System, and you won’t feel like a herd of sheep like I did. This option will also allow you to pick which islands to visit. So, if you are not into seeing glassmakers or abandoned islands re-conquered by tourists, you don’t have to. MY BIGGEST RECOMMENDATION*: If you choose to see the outlying islands, there is an option to purchase a 3 Day unlimited water bus pass for young people, ages 14-29. It is 20€ (plus 4€ to buy the initial card), which is basically the price of the guided tour itself. If you buy this, you will have the luxury of going wherever you want for three days. Here are the fares and routes.
But if you only have a few days in Venice? NO. NO NO NO. Don’t waste a whole day. The actual city of Venice is way, way cooler.
What are your thoughts on these partnering islands of Venice? Think it’s worth the visit? If you have a different opinion, share share! A good debate is always welcome 😉