17 April 2017 – Venice, Burano and Murano on a beautiful Spring day! [Italy]
Our first full day in Venice was going to be a warm and sunny one. With beautiful Spring weather forecast we thought we’d take advantage of some sight-seeing in the historical centre of Venice, and then catch a vaporetto out to some of the popular outer islands, including Murano and Burano, famous for their lace, glass and colourful buildings.
After a long day of travel and sitting on our butts the day before, we all slept until almost 8am in our tiny Venice apartment. As we’d failed to find an open supermarket the previous day, and we only managed to find a few supplies at a deli, we had a bit of a makeshift breaky of pastries and old bread and vegemite purchased the day before. The kids didn’t care as with our water door we watched plenty of boats and gondolas cruise past our door. Definitely a different breakfast experience!
We headed out for a bit more of an explore of Venice by 9:30am. Compared to the overcast and rain of the previous afternoon, it was a beautiful sunny day and obviously too early for other tourists as it was lovely and quiet in the area around our apartment.
Venice is known for being an unpleasant place in the rain. Even the small amount of rain we had the previous afternoon resulted in water everywhere. Many of the cobblestone streets have piles of boards (gangways – planks on iron supports) stacked up that get put out when it rains to give people somewhere to walk. Venice is also subject to the ‘acqua alta’ or ‘high water’ which results from tide peaks in the Venetian lagoon. The phenomenon is worse during Autumn to Spring when the astronomical tides and prevailing winds mean that Venice is often under water. The gangways are usually set at 120cm above sea level, which is sometimes not enough to keep feet dry!
Our next stop was the Grand Canal and the famous Rialto bridge. We hadn’t yet walked down this far and we discovered where all the tourists in Venice are! The grand canal forms an s-shape and is 3.8km long and between 30m and 90m wide, but only around 5m deep. Most of the 170 buildings that line the Grand Canal date to between the 13th and 18th century.
We had a wander over the famous Rialto bridge. The Rialto bridge is the oldest of four bridges spanning the Grand Canal. The present stone bridge was completed in 1591, replacing several timber versions that had collapsed and burnt down!
The kids were fascinated by the number of shops that were built on the bridge, definitely not the cheapest shops. The bridge certainly offered great views of the grand canal and we watched plenty of gondolas rowing past and checked out the nearby expensive hotels.
From the Rialto bridge we wandered down to Piazza San Marco, the most famous public square in Venice. The area surrounding San Marco is full of very expensive cafe’s and shops……. and plenty of tourists.
St Mark’s Basilica on one end of the piazza is pretty hard to miss. It’s at the Eastern end of the piazza and connected to Doge’s Palace. The Basilica is the most famous church is Venice, not only for its position but also for or its opulent design, gold mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power. From the 11th century onwards the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold).
Despite being only 10.30am the line for both Doge’s palace, the campanile and the Basilica were already huge, so we let the kids chase some of the thousands of pigeons in Piazza San Marco, and watched people drinking their expensive coffees before heading over the edge of the lagoon to watch some more gondolas.
We had a walk along the Riva degli Schiavoni, the waterfront promenade that sits on St Mark’s Basin. On such a clear day it was easy to see across to San Giorgio Maggiore island.
The promenade is the place to be, and there were plenty of people, gondolas and seagulls. The sunny spring day meant the water was more inviting than the previous afternoon, and we got the picture perfect views of Venice.
Back in San Marco piazza the crowds were building and the lines were getting even longer for the campanile, so we decided to leave our visit to check out Venice from above until the following day as we had plans to head to the outer islands during the afternoon rather than standing in lines. The facade of the Basilica is certainly spectacular in the sunshine.
From the promenade we wandered over towards Doge’s Palace to check out the famous Bridge of Sighs. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, and passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. The name is reportedly from the sighs of prisoners as they saw their final views of Venice before being taken down to their cells.
With only another couple of days until our next bike tour we had a mountain of washing to get through during our time in Venice, so we decided to duck back to our apartment and swap loads over. Nothing in Venice is very far away as the place is relatively tiny. There also happened to be quite the number of gelato shops in the vicinity of our apartment so we figured it was a perfect time for gelato and coffee.
A gelato shop in a piazza near our apartment was doing a roaring trade and we had a lovely sit in the sun. Astrid had chosen a peach gelato and Soren a chocolate mousse. We think the chocolate mousse was the winner but both were pretty tasty, and the coffee was fairly decent. You always pay a premium to sit down but we figured it was worth the indulgence.
Tummies full of gelato and coffee and washing sorted it was time to head out to some of the islands while the weather was cooperating. We wandered down to Fondamente Nove to catch the number 12 vaporetto out to the island of Burano.
The vaporetto was packed, apparently you can fit as many people on it as can stand with the doors shut. It was a long time standing (over 45 minutes) as Burano is the last stop. The kids did eventually got a seat as people moved off. I just got a good stretch of my legs after all those days sitting in a bike seat!
Burano is an archipelago of 4 small islands in the North of the Venetian lagoon. The islands are relatively small, the total area is only 21 hectares and the highest elevation is 1m above sea level! Burano has a population of 2,800 but is a hot-spot for tourists. It’s known for its lace work and brightly coloured houses and tourists flock over on a daily basis to have a wander around and purchase lace goods.
We arrived in Burano around 1pm and it was lovely and sunny, and unlike in Venice, there were trees! It is a lot smaller than Venice and had quite a different feel to the historical centre of Venice but was equally as touristy. It was definitely a more relaxed pace than the hustle and bustle of Venice, but there were still plenty of cafes and endless stores selling lace products.
Like Venice there were canals everywhere and boats lined up. The brightly coloured houses were a sight to behold. Some were shops and cafes but many were residential. I’m not sure how I’d feel about having so many tourists walking past my loungeroom on a daily basis!
After not much breakfast we were all hungry and in need of lunch. Despite Burano being full of restaurants and cafes, at lunch time on a sunny public holiday no one had any spare tables. We eventually found somewhere with a spare table (and it was even outside so we could enjoy the sunshine!).
We ordered the grilled veggies with cheese, a home-made gnochetti with pomodoro, and calzone pomodora with pepporoni and chilli. It was all fairly tasty and a great way to fill our hungry tummies. Our time in Italy was coming to an end so we figured it was only right to finish our meal with coffee and a tiramisu. The lunch times views were not too shabby either…….
After lunch we did some more wandering around checking out the extremely pretty houses. With only a couple of weeks of the trip left we figures we could spare some bag space for a few souvenirs and gifts and we indulged in a little shopping for lace scarves and glass items. There were no shortage of options and the main issue was picking which shops to venture into!
The kids had spied a playground on our first trip around the island so they got a short play before we figured we’d better head back on the next vaporetto as it was now after 3.30pm.
If you staying in Venice we can highly recommend a visit to Burano. It was different enough to Venice to justify the 45 minute trip out, and the coloured houses are simply amazing. It takes very little time to walk around due to its tiny size but we could have spent longer shopping and sitting in cafes!
Back on the vaporetto and again it was packed. We ended up standing for the half hour trip back to Murano. Both kids were very tired and probably would have napped if we had seats.
We hopped of the vaporetto in Murano, another series of 7 small islands linked by bridges that are approximately 1.5km from Venice. Murano is often on the sight-seeing list for those staying in Venice as it’s a pretty short Vaporetto ride from Venice and it is famous for its glass making. In reality you can buy the same items in Venice, for around the same price, but it was a very pleasant place to wander around and again slightly less busy than Venice proper.
Murano is home to around 5,000 people and is again rather full of shops aimed at tourists as well as copious numbers of cafes and restaurants.
Murano is famous for its glass factories. Astrid had been keen to see a glass making demonstration but we’d obviously arrived too late in the day (and it was a public holiday) so none of the factories were open. We settled for some glass shopping in a few of the many shops. Although you can buy Murano glass off the island and many items of ‘Venetian glass’ are now manufactured outside of Venice and even Italy, in order to protect the original Murano Glass art from foreign markets, the most famous Glass Factories of this island have a trademark that certifies glass made products on the island of Murano.
After a little shopping and a wander (although we didn’t end up seeing all of Murano) we caught one of the smaller vaporettos back to Venice. We were still in search of a supermarket for some dinner supplies so decided to venture to the other end of Venice where there was reportedly an open supermarket.
We ended up in a more residential and far less touristy area of Venice (which actually had trees) and we finally found the only open supermarket in Venice, along with every local and backpacker. Dinner and breakfast supplies procured we had a little wander around and were treated to a beautiful rainbow over the Venetian lagoon.
We were less than 2km from our apartment but walking anywhere in Venice takes ages because of the crowds and the rabbit warren of canals, so we saved time and our legs and caught to vaporetto back to Ft. Nove. We were obviously finally going against the crowds and managed to get a vaporetto that was pretty much empty and all scored seats.
As a further bonus we managed to find our way back through the maze of cobblestone streets and canals and found our apartment without need for a map. Anto whipped us up a tasty pasta dinner in our apartment, allowing us to get the over-tired kids to bed at a reasonable hour.
Kids safely asleep, I sent Anto out into the wilds of Venice to get a few shots of the sinking city at night. Apparently it is far less busy and also incredibly dark! With all the canals, and no railings or even warning signs, at night it is pretty easy to wander straight off the edge and into the water. Anto did report one near miss, but he stayed dry and Venice is certainly impressive in the dark…….
Even at night there are a constant stream of boats between the islands, which does give some pretty light trails in long exposure shots………
After a day where we had been blessed with beautiful weather, we were definitely glad that we had been able to visit Venice. It is certainly a very different experience to other areas in Italy but one worth doing. We were missing the quiet and the wonderful (and cheap) food of Sardinia but Venice definitely had a charm of its own.
Daily statistics for Monday 17 April 2017 in Venice, Italy – the temperature range was 8 to 17 degrees with no wind, blue skies and 88% humidity. A beautiful Spring day! The total walking for the day was a sizable 13.25km.
Up next – after the best of Venice we had a taste of how unpleasant Venice can be in the rain. A big day of exploring the historical centre in the wet (including a trip up a freezing Campanile) followed by our overnight sleeper train from Venice to Paris.