The Islands of Venice: What to See and Do
One of the best ways to get to know a city is by simply wandering around. But in Venice, wandering takes a bit of a different form, considering all of the canals and islands of Venice. Even so, you can spend hours walking around this beautiful city by foot, especially since so many alleyways and twisting, narrow streets are pedestrian-only. Many parts of Venice are also connected by bridges.
But once you venture outside of central Venice, there's also some popular islands that can only be accessed via boat, either the vaporetto water bus — Venice's public transportation system — or water taxis. All of these islands are still within the lagoon of Venice, and make for wonderful day trips, if not longer.
Situated on one of the outlying islands, Murano is only about one mile across with a Grand Canal that divides the island in two. While it's not a large island, it's a famous and highly popular one, particularly in regards to its history with glass-making. Today, such as during our "Venice Cooking Odyssey" culinary vacation, you can visit glass factories and artisans and see how they make their famous glass. The island is also home to a number of charming sidewalk cafes and restaurants, such as Enoteca L'Acqua Stanca, as well as beautiful churches decorated in mosaics and relics.
If you've ever seen photos of colorful Venetian houses, chances are those photos were taken on Burano. This picturesque place is also known as a true fisherman's island — making it one of the best places for seafood in all of Venice — but it's also known for its artisan lace, which has a history that dates back to the 16th century. See some of this lace for yourself with a stop at the lace museum. If you're looking to buy, keep in mind that not all is handmade and some is now mass produced.
With only about 20 residents, the island of Torcello is truly an escape from the crowds of Venice. The rural, green island features the remnants of the first church of the Venetian lagoon — which originally dates back to the year 628 — as well as a stunning ancient Byzantine church with mosaics.
Last but not least, experience the "Golden Island," such as during our cooking vacation "Insider's Venice." While this island forms a barrier between the rest of Venice and the open Adriatic Sea, it's just a quick 20 minute ride from central Venice. Many of the island's buildings date back to the 1700s, and today it continues to be a tranquil escape that inspires artists and writers. Not to mention, it's also home to the only golf course in Venice and the famous Venetian film festival.
Venice is truly a city unlike any other, and a trip there isn't complete without exploring the many islands of Venice. On your next European vacation, traverse the city's many bridges but also be sure to hop on the vaporetto to explore this magnificent city and its islands.
By Liz Hall