When you visit Venice, make sure to take a day to explore Murano and Burano — two islands filled with secret paths, intriguing inhabitants and the most beautiful lace and gorgeous glass you’ll find anywhere.
The first time I experienced Venice, I was immediately won over. When I drifted in a gondola on those famous canals — Venice’s intricate architecture and elaborate bridges above me — I wanted to stay forever. But on a whim, I decided to take a day trip to the neighboring islands of Burano and Murano, and I’m glad I did.
Discovering the Beguiling Burano
My ride to the islands took a bit less than an hour and cost less than seven euros each way. The ferry stopped at Burano first. As soon as I stepped off the dock, I was hit with a wave of color. Homes on the island are bright, thanks to Burano’s history as a fishing village: Residents used to paint their houses in vivid hues so they could be seen from the sea, and so fishermen could determine where one family dwelling ended and another began.
Burano also has a rich lacemaking history. Beginning back in the 16th century, Burano women would get together to hand-stitch intricate pieces of lace. Traditionally, each woman only specialized in one type of stitch. Each piece of lace featured seven types of stitches and was passed around to different members of the community until it was complete, which would often take more than a month.
A lot of the lace sold on the island today is made in factories, but there are a few places where you can still get your hands on pieces of handmade (and more expensive) lace. La Perla is one such shop near the town center, and the lace museum La Scuola del Merletto also sells original work.
While I enjoyed strolling around and learning the history of Burano, I really came to the island to eat. It has a reputation for having better food than all of Venice, and I wanted to decide for myself. So I made my way to Trattoria al Gatto Nero, where I savored a caprese salad, spicy seafood pasta (packed with mussels, scallops and fish) and an Aperol spritz. I still dream of that meal and, for many days after it, considered returning to Burano simply to enjoy an encore.
Follow your nose — and other people — when choosing a place to eat. If a restaurant is empty and everywhere else is bustling, there likely is a reason.
Making the Most of Murano
After my delicious meal, it was time to move on to Murano. A quick and cheap (1 euro) ferry ride took me there. While Burano is known for its lace, Murano is famous for its glass. On Calle S. Cipriano Street, I stumbled upon a sign for fornace, which means furnace in Italian. Inside was a glass-blowing demonstration and an adjoining shop where you can buy the pieces made there. Glass-blowing is mesmerizing to watch, so try to catch a demonstration here or elsewhere in town.
Afterward, I was still full from my delicious lunch on Burano, so I opted for a scoop of gelato to cool me off while I continued my walk. As the sun went down, I hopped into the vaporetto (essentially a water taxi) and made my way back to Venice.
If you’re crunched for time, you can do both Murano and Burano in one day. But if you’re in Venice for a week or longer, split up the visits.
An Enchanting Day Off the Beaten Path
While Venice is one of the most tourist-filled places in the world, Burano and Murano manage to retain a working-class charm. In the hours I spent wandering their streets, I often found myself in small alleyways without a single other person. I stumbled upon women hanging laundry out to dry, men coming home after a morning spent on fishing boats, and other slices of everyday working life.
These scenes gave me a glimpse of what I imagine Venice was like hundreds of years ago, before tourists began flocking. It was so nice to escape the crowds for a day, and the views from the water complemented the trip perfectly. And (almost) the best part? Excluding meals and souvenirs, the entire adventure cost less than 20 euros. I’ll definitely be back.
Don’t forget to validate your train, plane, bus or boat ticket. You can buy a single-day Venice Travel Card for 18 euros; this will cover the cost of your boats to and from the islands.
Enjoy a journey through Italy with a guided group tour, available through the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations® Exchange Program.