Lost at Sea

The main canal in Murano

Faced with the fact that my traveling companions hate walking, we decided to skip walking around Venice for a second day in favor of taking a boat to the islands of Murano and Burano.

We bought a day pass for the public transportation system (which turned out to be an excellent idea) and headed for Piazzale Roma on that wonderful tram.

Megan, my intrepid adventurer daughter, is sometimes impatient with me when I insist on knowing where the bus/train/airplane/boat is going before I board. From the vaporetto station at Piazza San Marco, we followed her onto a boat that she thought was going to Burano, when instead we took a leisurely cruise across the lagoon to Lido – a beautiful 11-mile long island that separates the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.

Along the sea side of Venice Lido there are beautiful sand beaches, and in the 19th century, the first beach resorts with grand hotels were built. Europe had never seen anything like it. Wealthy Europeans flocked to Venice Lido, to sunbathe and visit the nearby city. The word “lido” made its way into the English language, and now cruise ships may even have a “lido deck,” where passengers can swim and sunbathe.

Vaporetti come in all sizes, depending on the populariy of the route.

After a return trip to Piazza San Marco, we got on another boat that was going the right direction, but we got off too soon. This time we ended up on a lovely and large island called Cavallino-Treporti, where Megan found a little beach and collected some shells.

Back on the next boat…and ta da, we come to Burano!

A view of Burano from the #12 vaporetto

Burano is a tiny village of around 5,000 people that occupies its own set of small islands and canals. Besides fishing, Burano has a tradition of lace making going back hundreds of years. The houses are all painted in bright candy colors, and it’s a beautiful place to spend a few hours away from the crowds of Venice.

Too bad we were running out of time.

We hopped off the boat on Burano and stayed long enough to take some pictures. There are two routes for the #12 vaporetto out of Burano, and you guessed it, we took the wrong one.

This time we ended up on the grassy and muddy island of Torcello, quiet and largely abandoned now with perhaps a hundred permanent residents. Torcello is where the original inhabitants of the lagoon built their home – Venice 1.0, if you like.

Megan at the vaporetto stop on Torcello

From the 7th to the 11th centuries, Torcello was a thriving community of 20,000 people, until some began moving to what is now Venice, building a new settlement there. Then, malaria and competition from upstart Venice took over and Torcello was largely abandoned and vandalized for building materials. There are still sights worth seeing on Torcello, but for us, we just sat at the vaporetto stop and waited for the…right…boat.

Finally, we docked in Murano, around 6:30 in the evening as most of the shops and restaurants were closing. “We are not like Venice,” I heard one shopkeeper tell another tourist. “We close and go home when the people leave.” Since the girls were STARVING, I left them eating pizza by the boat dock while I walked the main canal, taking pictures and finding a pair of beautiful glass earrings to buy.

Craftsmen on Murano are usually happy to give tours.

Murano had been a fishing port from as early as the 7th century. Venice had a reputation for beautiful glasswork with Asian and Muslim influences, since it was a major trading port. But at the end of the 13th century, Venetian authorities ordered the glassmakers to move to Murano, fearing that the heat and fire of the furnaces might burn the mostly wooden buildings of the city.

Next boat back to Piazzale Roma by way of San Michele, the island that serves as the cemetery for Venice’s population. All in all, about a five or six hour boat trip. The girls were still complaining, even though we found a way to see Venice without making them walk…oh well. I got to see a part of the city that I didn’t get to see the first time, so I was happy.

Hungry, but happy. Gelato on the way home from the tram stop made it all worth it.

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