After feeling overwhelmed with the crowded streets and alleys in Venice, we on a whim found ourselves booking a tour to a place we had never heard of. We spent an afternoon exploring 3 of the many islands that dot the Venetian Lagoon. The half-day tour from Viator included transportation to the islands of Murano, Torcello, and finally Burano. Each island is known for something unique, and all of our stops were much less busy than anywhere we wandered in Venice.
We booked this 4.5 hour long Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Sightseeing Tour from Viator. Visiting these islands can be done independently, by using public transportation on the vaparettos (water taxis). The tour was really affordable though, so we didn’t look into that option much. If you are wanting to spend more time on the islands though that would probably be the best way to go. Each stop on the tour only affords you 30-40 minutes on each island.
The tour departed from the Alilaguna pier in front of the Royal Gardens (Giardinetti Reali) at San Marco. We misread the directions and ended up at a Alilaguna pier on the other side of Venice! We missed our tour. However, we called them and they had no problem with us joining up on the next one.
Price: $22.36/per person. You will have a hard time finding any 4.5 hour tour for that cheap in Venice!
Murano is one of the larger islands in the Venetian Lagoon and is world famous for it’s Murano glass-making. Venice was known for it’s beautiful glassmaking skills, but due to the city being mostly created of wood, it presented a big fire risk. The glassmakers were relocated to Murano in 1291 so they wouldn’t accidentally burn down Venice.
The tour with Viator started with a glassblowing presentation as soon as we arrived on the island. The room was very warm, so I can’t imagine how hot the glassblower must have been! He made quick work though of creating a beautiful glass horse figurine. It was absolutely fascinating to watch!
After the glassblowing presentation we were ushered into the studio where you could buy a variety of beautiful glass products. You could leave immediately if you want, but we wandered around for a few minutes. I didn’t realize until after I took a few pictures that they did not want us taking any photos. Oops! If you show any interest in something a salesperson will quickly jump on you, convincing you that you must buy it. We almost started our 3 weeks in Europe with a backpack full of beautiful glass trinkets before we realized how impractical that was.
Between the glassblowing presentation and the studio, we only had another 20 minutes to explore Murano before we needed to be back on the boat. We walked along the canal until we got to a cool bridge and clock tower, passing multiple glass shops as we went.
There were not any bathrooms on the boat, but just before we boarded there was an unmarked door that was a women’s bathroom (squat toilet) and there was a mens bathroom back in the glass studio. Just FYI 😉
Torcello was the smallest of the islands we visited and is known for its two Byzantine churches. Torcello was one the most populated places in the Venetian Lagoon, but now there are only a few families that live there year round. Earnest Hemingway even spent some time there in the 1940s while writing Across the River and into the Trees, which reflects life on Torcello.
It was a 10 minute walk from where the boat docked until you arrive to the Byzantine churches. We passed a couple small restaurants and some stands selling ice cream bars, hats, lace and other trinkets. We also passed Ponticello del Diavolo (Little Devil’s Bridge). A ‘devils bridge’ is a term for some bridges built in the Medieval age, which usually has a folklore story that goes along with it.
The two churches are: the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back to the year 636, and the Church of Santa Fosca (11th century). Tickets to go inside the Basilica were not included on the tour and cost £3 per person. There is no ATM on Torcello though, so make sure you have cash if you want to visit. We did not go inside. There is a bell tower that you apparently can buy a ticket for, but I’m not sure of the price.
Our final stop was both of our favorite stop: the colorful fisherman island of Burano. This island is home to not only many fisherman, but lacemakers as well. You will find many shops selling beautiful lace products here. I saw beautiful lace fans all over Venice, which were being sold for £4 to £5. I bought one on Burano for just £2, so prices are much better the closer you get to the source.
The brightly colored buildings here are adorable! Nearly every house you see will be painted a different, bright color you don’t usually see on houses.
We had about 40 minutes on Burano, which was the longest stop of the day. It also appeared to be the most developed island. It had more visitors than the first two stops, and many restaurants. We grabbed a slice of pizza and wandered. The church on the island has a leaning tower, which from some angles is quite pronounced.
Even the boat ride back to the island of Venice was enjoyable. We passed many uninhabited islands, including one that was used as a cemetery. Venice was much more than canals and little allies. Life was different for Venetians were were dispersed across various small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. It was different, but it was a beautiful life that was enjoyable to contemplate and learn a little bit more about for a few hours.
If You Go
The tour we went on is: Murano, Burano and Torcello Half-Day Sightseeing Tour from Viator
The tour costs $22.14 per person and runs multiple times a day
Boats depart from Alilaguna pier just across from Giardinetti Reali (The Royal Gardens)
Boat tickets must be picked up from the kiosk just outside the garden