Islands of Venice: Murano, Burano and Torcello

The minute Elizabeth described the lagoon islands of Venice, I knew we had to go. Even though she’d been before, we stashed a copy of Rick Steves Italy in her bag and set off for new discoveries. The vaporetto ride was the perfect way to get onto the water – both getting us to the islands and crossing a critical must-do off of my trip’s wanderlist.

Murano

Stepping into Murano felt like something from a Hollywood set. The day was still early and the streets were fairly quiet. Tourists rushed from one boat to another – continuing their tour of the islands. We stopped though. Murano is, after all, the glass blowing island – and I was more than obsessed.

We ducked in and out of shops all along the island’s canals. Many offered handmade glass tchotchkes – perfect travel tokens to drop into a bag and recover once home. Others looked more like art galleries showcasing meticulously crafted vases and sculptures. One, a chandelier shop, was everything I could have ever hoped to see. We tip-toed through while the delicate creations dangled above our heads. Every color, every facet – glittering with the sunlight peering through the window.

Making our way to the second vaporetto dock, we discovered an open shop door with tourists gathered around. Inside, glass blowers plunged sticks into fire and shaped molten glass into baubles. The sight was seriously spectacular and it became one of those surreal moments where it was really real that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

After winding through the canals, crossing countless bridges and stopping for plenty of photo ops, we stepped back onto a boat and set our sights on Burano.

Burano

The vaporetto to Burano was much more calm and quiet than the packed one we’d taken to our first stop. Elizabeth snagged a few photos of me standing on the boat – fulfilling a request my dad had made to send pictures of what we were seeing. Of the two stops for the island, we chose the first – not realizing that it left us with a fairly decent walk to the islands main attractions.

To me, that’s often the best part of traveling without much of a plan. Our little misstep led us through a gorgeous park and across a serene bridge – giving us a beautiful introduction to the island before throwing us straight into its energetic marketplace.

Burano is know for its brightly colored buildings standing boldly against the murky canals. It’s the island of lace and is loaded with shops selling stunning pieces for every use. Curtains, tablecloths, clothing, the works – it was all beautifully done and ready to go home at whatever fantastic price you were prepared to negotiate.

We wandered through the canals while continuing to pause for touristy photos in the most perfect spots. The day’s walking was taking its toll and as our energy was winding down, we crash landed into a bistro table on a restaurant patio at the heart of the action. We ordered something in a cream sauce – this is what I remember. It was divine. We both raved over our accidental lunch pick while sipping the delicious house white wine. From a pitcher. No bottle. No carafe. A full pitcher of wine.

“These are definitely my people,” I thought.

Our afternoon continued with more lace shopping. I bought the first souvenir gift for my mom at the lace shop across the street from our lunch. We stared up at a leaning tower at the edge of the island, then sat along the edge of the water and let our feet dangle toward the waves.

Eventually, we ducked into a few more canals for photos and exploring. Every twist and turn through the alleys and piazzas of the bright, old buildings was simply magical. Maybe it was exhaustion or the too-exceptional wine, but even then it all felt like a dream. The warm sunshine battled the cool afternoon breeze on our faces as we made our way back to the docks.

Torcello

We arrived at Torcello with significantly less bustle than the other two islands. The boat carried fewer tourists, the dock wasn’t quite as busy and the walk into the more active part of the island was a long, quiet stretch of path along a single canal. A few small vendors set along the road with carts of goods. At its heart, the island hid historic treasures – a church, vines, buildings and stories.

We continued our newfound tradition of wandering, photographing, reading and exploring. At one point, we wound our way to a public restroom off the beaten path. The newer-looking building was very out of place among the history surrounding it – so trees, vines and grasses grew up around it in an effort to keep the illusion alive. Here, I learned that public restrooms cost money. I think we paid 5-10 euro cents each to enter. It was a strange custom, but also made perfect sense – while also being a shockingly small amount considering what remote facility maintenance must cost.

Our time on Torcello was more brief. The day was slowly winding down and I – less than a week into business ownership – had a new client interview on the afternoon calendar. We made it back to the docks just in time for my meeting and chose a quite spot along the water to sit and talk while the vaporetto boats swooped in and out. Elizabeth patiently waited about 30 minutes while I took my call. Meanwhile, I was confirming that every decision I’d made in recent history was exactly the right one.

I sat on that bench in the afternoon breeze and pitched every detail about my talents and what I do for businesses. Six hours ahead of the office in New York, I was a ball of excitement in realizing that I truly could juggle life, adventure, travel and working in the industry I love – I could and was actually having it all.

Torcello may not have been the most energetic of islands or even the most appealing to typical tourists – but in the grand scheme of my Italian experiences, it holds an incredibly special place in my heart. It’s where I proved this crazy plan of mine was going to work.

30 Days in Europe
From Venice to Sorrento to Rome to London – follow my month on the go in Europe. See the trip

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