After savouring all of St. Mark’s Square and Dosrudo neighbourhood, hopping on a vaporetto and swooshing off to other enchanting islands on the Venetian Lagoon is a great idea. Out of the umpteen islands, Murano, Burano and Torcello are the most popular ones for a quick half day getaway. Each one better than the other, a trip to the Islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello is bound to be a refreshing treat and a glimpse of how Venice was before all of the world’s tourist hordes descended there.
Island of Murano
Murano is a collection of seven islets linked by arched bridges and is world famous for its ancient glass-making tradition. In 1291, Venetian glass production was shifted to Murano from the Venice city due to the fear of fire from furnaces within the city premises , hence putting Murano on the world map. Ever since, it’s safe to say that Glassware is synonymous to Murano around this part of the world.
The docks of Murano are a hive of activity ; bustling with fishermen , locals and a few tourists going in search of the lesser trodden tracks. One you walk further into the alleys of this quaint island, you are likely to find countless glasswares, trinkets, vases and a lot many other artefacts made of vibrant glass fragments. Put on your bargaining hats and pick up a souvenir or two from these artisanal glassware shops. Nothing gets more Venetian than Murano glassware!
While walking by the canal, watch out for the Cometa di Vetro near the Bell Tower. Cometa di Vetro is a life size interesting piece of public art made of Murano Glass in an eclectic blue. Admire this lustrous beauty and then walk down ahead to the rest of the attractions Murano has to offer
Things to do in Murano
Museo del Vetro
A short walk away from Viarini Bridge lies the Murano Glass Museum, also known as Museo del Vetro which was founded in 1861. This light filled, airy museum houses 4000 state of the art glass crafts that show the evolution of Venetian glass blowing techniques over the years. Though it is a small museum, it has a diverse collection of interesting set of art with corresponding clean description boards in several languages detailing the history of the art piece. Watch out for the Baravier cup, displays of Suguso, Venini, Moretti , Cenedese and the colourful glass bead collection. For those of you who’d like to understand the process of glassblowing and glassmaking, there’s a whole section in the museum is also dedicated to the process and story with video supplements. Watch that and you’ll walk out an expert.
Do note, this museum comes under the Museum Pass, so if you have purchased it, you can walk in without a seperate ticket which would otherwise cost you 10 euros.
- Timings: 10 AM - 6 PM ( last entry 4 PM)
- Suggested duration of visit : 90 minutes
Guarnieri Glass Factory
Those of you looking forward to seeing a live demonstration of glass making after visiting the Glass Museum , walk towards the Guarnieri Glass Factory and seat yourself on wooden benches and watch master artisans blow glass into magnificent pieces. Though the furnace can get really hot, it is a delight to see them moulding glassware and trinkets using the age old glass blowing craft. You are required to pay a small fee for entrance here, but it helps foster and preserve this ancient tradition , hence is completely worth the price. They provide guided commentary and after watching the art, you can wander through their shop where you can see different glassware and buy a few on your way out.
San Pietro Martire Church
San Pietro Martire Church is the biggest church in Murano and undoubtedly the most beautiful one as well. The ordinary brick exterior does no justice to the dramatic interiors and you won’t realise until this until you step onto the pinkish and cream checkered floor of the church . It holds 10 magnificent Murano Glass chandeliers which are an absolute treat and the walls are covered entirely in fresco by Bellini, Tintoretto and del Veronese. Move your eyes from the walls and look up as well to soak in the beautiful truss roof and wooden tie beans with intricate carvings.
Next to the church there is a small 2 storeyed museum which has a fee for entrance, but is absolutely worth it if you’re interested in seeing relics and artifacts of ancient Murano. Though they don’t allow pictures to be taken inside the church you can spend about 20 wonderful minutes etching the beauty of this beautiful church in your memory.
Basilica di Santi Maria e Donato
A 7th century Catholic Church built in the heart of Murano, Basilica di Santi Maria e Donato is built in Romanesque style with slight influences from Byzantine and Venetian architecture.It houses the mortal remains of St. Donato of Arezzo, and is famous for its splendid 1000 year old Byzantine mosaic floor. Built in red brick , this vintage church has a gracious amount of mosaic work all around and due to this bares a slight resemblance to Basilica di San Marco. It has artistic frescos all over its walls and a magnificent altar reminiscent of Paris Sacre Coeur. It also has a tall campanile close to the main building and a colonnaded exterior facing the canal which makes for a beautiful exterior.
Apart from its mosaics and marble, this church is famous for the dragon bones behind the altar here! Yes, you heard us right , Dragon bone! Well, they are not really dragon bones, but are mammoth bones from centuries ago that earned the name dragon bones merely because of its size.
Reaching Murano Island
From S. Zaccaria
- Take Vaporetto 4.2 waterbus and get dropped at Murano
- Duration to Murano - 40 minutes
- Take Vaporetto 4.1 or 4.2
- Duration to Murano Colonna - 10 minutes
- Take Boat Number 18 and get down at Museo
- Duration - 25 minutes
By Hop On Hop OffIf you take the Hop On Hop Off Boat Tour, get down on stop number 4 at the Murano dock.
Murano Dock Guide
- Colonna Stop is close to the glassblowing demonstrations
- Museo Stop is close to the Glass Museum and the Basilica of Santi Maria e Donato
Tickets to Murano Island
Island of Burano
Burano is probably one of the most postcard perfect places on earth. One of the prettiest islands on the Venetian lagoon, Burano has a different aura all together. The cheerfully painted houses and the colourful boats docked in front of most houses is a photographer’s paradise.
While there are two legends attributing to the reason for brightly coloured houses here, we’ll let you believe the lore you like more. One goes that the houses are sprightly painted so that sailors could see them from the sea on foggy days. The second legend goes that this penchant rose from the colourful boat hulls in Burano. Visit Burano and let us know which legend you think is more believable!
This candy-colored fishing island is not only famous for its houses, but its 16th century old lace making art that has been carried on over generations. Their exquisite handmade lace making craft has been handed down from mother to daughter and while walking around Burano, you are likely to see many ladies perched on chairs weaving intricate pieces of lace. You are more than welcome to shadow them and watch them intently entwine beautiful designs.
Walk on the main street Galuppi and wander by the aroma of pastries and walk by souvenir shops, bars, cafes and many many pastel coloured buildings. Watch out for the brightest house on the island called Casa di Bepi, a groovy geometrically painted house that is sure to make you want to put on your shades! Another place for splendid photos is the wooden Tre Ponti Bridge which is located at the confluence of 3 canals, and also brings together 3 of the more spectacular streets on the islands. It is beyond picturesque!
Things to do in Burano
Museo del Merletto
Burano is world renowned for its lace making heritage and while you’re here, it is only fair that you absorb all you can about the island’s ancient art . For that, there’s no place better than the Museo del Merletto , a small charming museum that details the evolution of Burano Lace. The first thing you see in the museum is a humorous video ( english subtitles available) explaining the origins of the intricate needlework and lace patterns. On the upper floor, you will witness a great collection of antique lace fabrics dating back to 1600, oil paintings, decorative pieces of lace and a lot many soft intricate lace works.
Though it may seem like a small museum, they have used the space judiciously by accommodating art in pull out drawers and glass sliding cupboards. While you’re here, yo will also get the chance to understand the difference between fine, handmade Burano Lace and the machine-made Chinese lace. This lesson should do you good while buying lace in burano as there are said to be counterfeit lace products in the markets. Rest assured, you will leave the museum with a true appreciation for the painstaking , labor-intensive process and a profound respect for lace artisans.
Do note, this museum comes under the Museum Pass, so if you have purchased it, you can walk in without a seperate ticket which would otherwise cost you 5 euros.
- Timings - Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
- Suggested duration of visit - 30 minutes
Chiesa di San Martino
This 16th century Renaissance-styled Catholic Church is located on the main square of Burano. This church funnily enough has no main entrance and you are required to access it through a lateral chapel. The relics of St. Barbara is said to be housed in this church and the interiors hold several masterpieces of art, the most famous of them all being the painting of the trio of St. Rocco, St. Sebastian and St. Antonio Abate, an attribute to Jacopo Palma the Young located at the main altar.
Right behind this church, you will see a Leaning Campanile which has over the years become an unofficial symbol of Burano. This leaning Bell Tower which resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been undergone several restorations and attempts to stop it from falling. Until 1867, the top of this tower was crowned by an angel which fell during a storm and is now replaced by an iron cross. Standing around the square with the church and campanile to your back makes for a fantastic photo op.
Reaching Burano Island
By VaporettoFrom Fondament Nove
- Vaporetto number 12
- Duration - 40 minutes
- Vaporetto number 12
- Duration - 30 minutes
Tickets to Burano Island
Island of Torcello
The marshy lands of Torcello is said to be the first of the lagoon islands to be inhabited and was a thriving centre for about 20,000 people from the 7th to 11th century. In the second half of the 11th century, a malaria plague hit the island and the island started depopulating and people started moving to other parts of the lagoon.Torcello now has a sparse crew of 30 odd inhabitants and hence is as deserted as an island can get. Those of you looking to run away from the hustle and bustle of Venice, you know where to head!
This charming rustic town pulls those in search of calm and greenery around Venice, so you are likely to see a lot of locals picnicing around here away from their tourist driven homes. Torcello also happens to be an archeologists delight as it has a lot of stories beneath its mucky surface that talks about the glorious past of Venice
Things to do in Torcello
Ponte del Diavolo ( Devil’s Bridge)
One of the first things you see after a 10 minute walk into this quiet island is a wafer-thin span of brick-and-stone without railings called the Devil's Bridge by the locals. It is a striking landmark and has an interesting legend behind the unnerving name.
The story goes 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 were against the relationship. The grief stricken lady sought the aid of a witch to bring back her dead lover and the witch is said to have used the help of a devil to bring him back to life. The devil is said to have made a pact with the witch to fulfil this deed ; the witch was to bring the soul of a dead child on Christmas Eve to the designated bridge for the next 7 years. The witch however died in a fire and wasn’t able to keep her promise hence the devil is said to come back on 24th December every year in the guise of a black cat and claims in vain the souls he was promised.
It remains the only public bridge in the Venice area without bulkhead till date.
Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta
A hidden gem amongst the Venetian attractions, this Basilica was established in 639 and despite its plain jane outer facade, its interiors are decked in timeless Byzantine mosaics. It is also called the Cattedrale di Torcello and the 2 crown jewel mosaic arts to look out for here are the Madonna and Child in the apse and a Last Judgment on the west wall. Walk around the cosmatesque floors and feast your eyes on Christian relics, early Christian Basilica features like the pulpit, ambo , choir and cathedra behind the altar and other liturgies that whisper the glory of this Basilica. If you’re up for a little trek, walk up the 84 stairs to the top of the bell tower and enjoy the incredible views of the Venetian Lagoon and all of her islands.
There is an entrance fee of 5 euros and an additional cost for an audio guide. Photography is prohibited inside the basilica.
Chiesa di Santa Fosca
Right next door to the Basilica lies St. Fosca Church, a poignant and quaint church nestled in Romanesque elements. This one’s a 11th century Greek cross church dedicated to St. Fosca, a martyr from Ravenna who was buried here alongside her nurse and fellow martyr, St. Maura. It is a relatively unadorned church with plain brick walls, a domed wooden roof and Corinthian columns in grey marble so a quick 5 minute walk through is sufficient here.
In front of the church is the famous stone throne called Sedia di Attila which dates way back to 5th century. This throne is said to have been used as a seat of the governor of the island to administer justice during Torcello’s first years of settlements.
The admission to Chiesa di Santa Fosca is free.
Museo Archeologico della Provincia di Venezia di Torcello
This grandly named church is just across the churches in Torcello and houses a clean collection of archaeological fragments and post christian settlement objects that once sprinkled Torcello's landscape. It is a small yet modern, well laid out church that gives one a complete picture of the first settlers in the Venetian Lagoon.
- Timings - Tuesday to Sunday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Suggested duration of visit - 30 minutes
Reaching Torcello Island
By VaporettoFrom Fondamenta Nuove
- Line N vaporetto to Torcello
- Duration - 30 minutes
- Important : To stop at Torcello on this route, you are required to call 800 845 065 around 20 minutes before the scheduled stop time.
- Voporetto Line 9
- Duration - 5 minutes
The islands of Venice can be easily reached via regular vaporetto (water bus) service from Venice. These depart from the stop at Fondamente Nove on the north side of the city. The 4.1, 4.2, 12 or 13 routes will all take you to Murano, the closest island to Venice.
Venice Three Islands Tour: Murano, Burano and Torcello.
Venice Three Islands Tour will take you to the most famous islands of the Venetian Lagoon: Murano, Burano and Torcello. An extremely relaxing tour, which combines many different characteristics of Venice.
Burano and Murano – two islands with almost the same name and yet they're both so different. Like Burano has its lace, Murano is known for its old glass-making tradition.
Burano is famous for its lace-making industry, while Murano is renowned for its glassmaking, offering a fascinating insight into niche areas of Italian history. These islands are also home to some of the most interesting attractions in Venice, from magnificent churches to beautiful bridges.
I would say yes, if you have some time to spare and would like to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Venice's touristy life. Just take note that in the off-season, many shops in Murano will be closed.