Island hopping around Venice!
While exploring Venice was a mammoth task in itself, short trips to other islands brought much needed respite from everything Venice! Not far from the historic center, there are a series of islands scattered in the lagoon, each with its own personality and charm. Some of these can be explored by a vaporetto (waterbus) ride of less than an hour. I spent next few days Island hopping around Venice! Here are some of the islands which should feature in your bucket list.
Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
The pretty church you stare across the water from Piazza san Marco is the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore. The imposing white marble facade of the church shines across the lagoon in the maze of red roofs. Designed by Palladio in in 16th century, the facade appears more of an ancient Roman temple. The island houses one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries in the world, which is now part of Cini foundation.
With an advance booking over the phone, it is possible to be an overnight guest at the monastery; where you can stay with monks and eat in a communal kitchen. Well, there was no time to stay but i was able to accommodate a short elevator ride up the bell tower, which offered eye catching perspective of the lagoon and Piazza San Marco across it.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 2 from Piazza San Marco takes less than 5 minutes.
Lido di Venezia
The Lido is a well known beach island of Venice. In early 18th century, the ocean front was lined by mansions built by wealthy merchants. These have been converted into heritage hotels and resorts now. Lido, also known as the resort island, is flanked by Venetian lagoon on one side and the Adriatic Sea on the other.
The calm waters of the 11-kilometre long beach is ideal for swimming during the summer. The café-lined promenade offered an idyalic stroll in the evening. After spending an hour sipping cafe , i headed to the village of Malamocco, worth visiting for historical ruins from 8th century.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 1, 2, 52 or LN from Piazza San Marco takes about 15 minutes to reach Lido.
La Giudecca is separated from the main island by Giudecca Canal. Despite of the proximity to Venice, Giudecca feels like a different city altogether; it can be compared with what Brooklyn is to Manhattan. The quiet residential streets and family-run restaurants are a big draw on Giudecca. I settled for a quiet lunch while enjoying incredible waterfront views of Piazza San Marco from here. The imposing facade of Doge’s Palace and towering Campanile were stark reminders of the greatness of Venice. La Giudecca is in fact preferred by many for a stay while visiting Venice, i would do the same the next time!
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 2 or 4 from Piazza San Marco takes around 5 minutes to reach one to one of the four stops of Zitelle, Redentore, Palanca and Sacca Fisola.
Isola di Murano
The island of Murano is known worldwide for the art of glass making, which has been part of its tradition since 13th century. The artisans were forced to stay on this island to guard the secret of glass making and avoid the fire hazards to wooden buildings on other islands.
There are still quite a few glass factories and it was fascinating to watch a glass maker in action, creating glass products using the glass blowing techniques. After that i headed to Murano Glass Museum in the Palazzo Giustinian which sheds light on the history of glassmaking through centuries. We ventured into the historical quarter of Murano where the imposing facade of 7th century Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus graces the square. The eye catching sculpture “Comet Glass Star,” created by master glassmaker Simone Cenedese in front of Murano clock tower was unmissable while walking around the center.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 12, 13, 41 or 42 from Fondamenta Nove takes around 35 minutes to reach Murano.
Isola di Burano
Burano is an island known for colorful fishermen’s houses. This is the most picturesque of all and a must on the list of ‘Island hopping around Venice’. My excitement grew as i stole a glance of the canal lined with vibrant houses while approaching the island. The fishermen in 19th century started painting their houses in bright colors to identify them from far, the tradition has continued since then. The trigger happy me went berzerk clicking pictures. I ventured into quiet lanes where i could spot house facades covered with pretty flower arrangements and curtains concealing the life of its residents.
The villagers of Burano prefer to stay indoors during peak season time, while the tourists storm over this tiny island. The best time to visit Burano is after 6pm when residents of Burano come out after most of the tourists have left. Burano is also famous for the art of lace making since 16th century, the fact which is now submerged under the colorful houses.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 12 from Fondamenta Nove takes 45 minutes to reach Burano.
Isola di Torcello
Torcello is a quaint island located close to Burano. The island is filled with canals surrounded by green fields. A peaceful stroll by the canal was quite welcoming after a shutter crazy times on Burano. A short walk brought us to 7th century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, famous for Byzantine mosaics from 12th- and 13th-century.
A visit to the cathedral, archaeological museum and an adjacent vineyard was enough to get transferred to the medieval era. Do not miss an unassuming ancient stone chair, known as Attila’s Throne which occupies the piazza outside the cathedral. Once the day trippers vanish, the island a serene isolated retreat. The hotel of Locanda Cipriani is the main attraction after the medieval marvel.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 12 to Burano from where one needs to transfer to Line 9. It takes around 50 minutes to reach Torcello.
Cimitero di San Michele
San Michele is Venice’s cemetery island. Located close to Venice, it has been city’s main cemetery since the early nineteenth century. The Cimitero di San Michele was a quick stop over while on the way to Murano. Wandering around the island revealed tombs of some of the of the eminent historical figures including that of Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Christian Doppler, Horatio Brown and Sergei Diaghilev.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 41 or 42 From fondamenta Nove takes around 10 minutes to reach San Michele, before heading to Murano.
Isola di Mazzorbo
Mazzorbo is another quiet island located next to Burano. It is linked to the main island by a wooden bridge called “Ponte Longo” (long bridge). The island is known for its agriculture produce of artichokes.
Besides this you can find vineyards as well as fruit orchards scattered around the island. The Ristorante Venissa, a new gourmet destination specializing in Italian Slow Food movement, is a prime attraction on Isola di Mazzorbo.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line LN (Laguna Nord) from Fondamente Nove takes 40 minutes.
Isola di Sant’Erasmo
If you really really want to escape the whole touristy nightmare, head to island of Sant’Erasmo. It is the largest island in the Venetian lagoon and is mainly an agricultural island, where there’s never a tourist in sight.
In the 8th century, the island was known for maritime trade. The ruins of Torre Massimiliana (Tower of Maximilian) from 16th century is the most famous historical sight on Sant’Erasmo. Besides the activities around Rialto Market, the island is quite peaceful.
Getting there: Vaporetto Line 13 from Fondamente Nove takes 30 minutes to reach the 3 stops of Capannone, Chiesa and Punta Vela.
While i wandered around Venice exploring its historical wealth, the Island hopping around Venice brought much needed relief from the madness. The waterfront views of Piazza San Marco with Doge’s Palace and towering Campanile were incredible. The vaporetto rides gave opportunities to marvel the grandeur of the epic city from a different perspective.