If you are planning a trip to Venice, Italy, you need to schedule some time to visit the three most famous islands of the Venetian Lagoon – Murano, Burano and Torcello. It’s like taking a trip back in time and is a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. You will marvel at the unique personality and charm of each island and the picturesque surroundings will leave you in awe.
My family and I booked the Murano, Burano and Torcello half-day sightseeing tour through Viator. If you just want to hop off the boat, take some pictures and grab a quick gelato, then you may like this option. While it was nice, I would recommend finding a different tour because we were only given 45 minutes to explore each island which was far too little time to really enjoy it. I constantly felt rushed.
I prefer to explore slowly and enjoy stopping in cafes for a coffee, wine or a snack. I like to take my time strolling through shops, meandering around canals or cobblestoned streets and viewing the unique architecture.
One other thing about this tour. It was supposed to be translated into English, but since my family and I were the only English speakers on the boat other than the tour guide due to Covid-19 travel bans, disappointingly it was not translated into English.
Here is a bit about our experience touring Murano, Burano, and Torcello.
The first stop on the boat tour was the 1,134 acres island of Murano which became the manufacturing center of Venetian glassblowing in the 13th century and peaked in the 16th century. Many glassblowing artisans have created unique Venetian glass pieces through the centuries from this island and distributed them all throughout all of Europe. Venetian glass is still produced on and exported from Murano, but on a much smaller scale.
We were able to observe a presentation by a glassblowing artisan at Ferro-Lazzarini. We watched while he skillfully transformed blobs of glass into a wine goblet and a horse. My eight-year-old daughter thought it was amazing. The pride the artisan felt and skill required to produce such pieces were evident in how he transformed the raw materials into unique pieces of art.
After the presentation, of course they were persuading you to stop inside the shop and purchase your own unique Murano glass pieces….and…well, we did. Possibly a little too much.
The next stop on the tour was the tiny island of Torcello, founded in the 5th century it is older than Venice and was once an important trading and political center, but now only boasts a handful of fulltime residents. The island has a deserted, eerie feel to it. You can sense that it was once an area of great prosperity, but has been more or less abandoned by many of its former residents as illness decimated its residents and Venice and nearby islands grew in size and popularity.
I think it would provide a nice setting for a spooky story of love, loss and ghosts.
While my family stopped for lunch at one of the several restaurants that lined the Maggiore Canal, the waterway that connects the historic center of Torcello with the lagoon, I explored the sparsely populated island, best known now for its Venetian-Byzantine churches and Devil’s Bridge.
Three main attractions on the island:
- Devil’s Bridge, Ponte del Diavolo: There is a legend associated with this bridge. Through research, this is what I have found out about the legend. Legend has it that during the Austrian domination over Venice, a young lady fell in love with an Austrian soldier, who was subsequently killed by her family as they opposed their unpatriotic relationship. True…I don’t know, but it makes for an interesting story. This bridge is a popular photo opportunity.
- Church of Santa Fosca: Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, this octagonal church has a beautiful portico with raised archways in a Venetian Byzantine style. It is one of the most ancient religious building in the Veneto, and contains the earliest mosaics in the area of Venice.
- Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta: Established in 639 according to the wishes of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius and the Exarch of Ravenna. An inscription at the site, dating from the cathedral’s founding, is considered the oldest known document in Venetian history. The church was expanded and renovated on several occasions over the centuries, reaching its current size in the 11th century.
After exploring, I met back up with my family and devoured a basic ham and cheese sandwich they had ordered for me and a water. We took a minute for a photo at the Devil’s Bridge and rushed back down the sidewalk along the main canal to make sure we arrived at our boat in time for departure.
The next and final stop on our boat tour was the beautiful and colorful island of Burano. Stepping off the boat onto this island was like stepping into a box of crayons. Every building was brightly painted. Known for its long history as a fishing village, it is said that the buildings were painted in these bright colors so that the fisherman from the island could find their way home even in the fog.
The island of Burano is known for its lacework, which I found odd at first, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Inhabitants of fishing villages were probably having to mend nets constantly so why not capitalize and expand your skill a step further and create beautiful lace pieces.
This was my favorite island of the three because it was so colorful and lively. I wanted to spend hours here, but we only had 45 minutes.
Wrap Up and Recommendations
I hope this information inspires you to visit these beautiful islands of the Venetian Lagoon in Italy. As mentioned before, my family and I recommend you seek an all-day option instead of a half day in order to truly explore these islands at a more enjoyable pace. At a minimum, see if there is an option that provides an hour and a half at each stop. It will be worth it.
Happy travels everyone!