Venice, Murano & Burano - (Italy Part I)
11.04.2010 15 °C
Sam and I are fast becoming pretty used to the main train/bus station scene in Europe. They don't differ all that much in what to expect from place to place. Grubby concrete stations, overpriced food, fake goods peddlers, "hoods" trying to help you buy tickets for a fee and begging Gypsies. And all this inconveniently located 30 mins from where you need to be in some dodgy unattractive neighbourhood. Well the main train station at Venice blew this stereotype out the door. As you emerge from the platforms, fully prepared to tell the next idiot who attaches themselves to you to head off, you're hit with the most magnificent landscape. The Grand Canal... and we're definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto.
We paid 5 euros each to board a "water bus" to our accommodation. This seems excessive, but you instantly forget about the $20 combined you just spent on public transport once you start floating down the Grand Canal. The weather was gorgeous and the sights equally so. So many places rarely live up to your expectations, but Venice was exactly how stunning I imagined it to be. Boldly striped Gondoliers skirt the edges of the canal and skillfully navigate through impossibly narrow canals. All the photographs you've seen of the Palazzo Ducale, of the Basilica di San Marco, of the pastel palaces along the chalky green Grand Canal have simply been recording the extraordinary truth.
Our accommodation was very nicely located between the Rialto Bridge and San Marco square and after check in we proceeded to stroll around Venice and enjoy the gorgeous weather. Maps are basically useless in Venice, but unlike most places getting lost is a pleasure and half the fun. Under stone archways, down cobbled alleys, over bridges, across another picturesque piazza. Every corner brought more surprises, for which we couldn't walk for a minute without coming across something that was worth a stop. We concluded the day with a walk along the Grand Canal and found a good position to sit and watch the sun drop, and later for me to take some night shots of the Rialto Bridge.
We spent much of day two simply strolling around. With not so much as a plan, other then we wondered North for a few hours, then looped back south, stopping only occasionally for an espresso or two. It was a magical day ... best explained in pictures ...
We decided to head off the main Venetian islands towards the near by Murano and Burano. We made a quick detour to the Venice's main Cemetery (San Michele aka 'Island of the Dead') - quite fascinating with its above ground tombs all self contained on its own little island. The imposing high brick wall around the cemetery island complements well the elegant white facade of San Michele in Isola. After strolling the cemetery we jumped back on the ferry to Murano.
Murano was like a mini Venice, except more spread out with wider canals and alot less tourists. It was quite relaxing. Pint size little shops and houses lined the waters edge. We sensed locals actually "live" here unlike Venice with its transient tourist population. Murano is famous for its glass and glass makers, with shops scattered throughout the island. We managed to get a few sneak peaks of traditional glass blowers hard at work, before jumping on another ferry to Burano.
Burano was a lot further out, but definitely worth the ferry trip. The main route into Burano was a narrow street full of fake goods peddlers and tacky trinket shops which just in time opened out to reveal the brightly painted houses of the village itself. Everywhere you look, you see houses clad in blue, green, pink, rose, lavender, purple, yellow, and other colors, lending to the islands cheerful coziness. The tradition goes that fisherman would paint their houses the same bright colours as their boats, making it easy to identify them as they approached from sea. Sam and I found it too hard to pick which colour we'd choose if we owned a our own house on Burano!
Since Venice was fast proving to be a foodies wasteland we decided to try a recommended restaurant on Burano, still predominantly frequented by locals and serving traditional Venetian fare at a reasonable price (well reasonable for Venice!). We'd read the local dish to try was either pasta (or more traditionally a Risotto) served in a black Cuttlefish Ink sauce (Nero di Seppia). So we gave it a go ...
Sam's local cuisine review
After an exhausting full day we headed back to the mainland for a Gelati and an early night, thus concluding our Venetian adventure. Although it's true that the city can be unbearably crowded, sometimes pushy and expensive, things aren't so bad beyond the magnetic draw of San Marco Square and the kitsch carnival mask sellers. We found heading out into the yonder coupled with visiting in the shoulder season, afforded us a wonderful experience we won't soon forget.