Our Costa Mediterranea cruise was supposed to dock in the port of Trieste today, but due to “inclement weather”, the captain had cancelled the port and given us an extra day to explore Venice. We were a bit bummed out about this because Trieste looked like a fabulous port and we had already planned for two days at the end of the cruise to explore Venice but c’est la vie!
After disembarking, we checked out the tours on offer at the port. A 3 hour Murano/Burano tour for 20 Euros per person sounded like a reasonable deal, but we didn’t want to be limited time wise on either island. So we looked at hopping on a vaporetto and doing the excursion independently. With a single vaporetto ticket costing a whopping 7.50 Euro, we quickly calculated that a full day 24 hour unlimited pass (20 Euro) would be slightly better value since we had to take a minimum of 3 vaporettos for the day. We bought our 24 hour pass at the ticket office in Piazzale Roma and then waited for vaporetto number 3 or 4.2 lines in the direction of Murano. The first vaporetto only went to San Michele (the Cimitero or cemetery island), so we were glad we asked before hopping on. Thankfully we remembered to stamp our tickets in the yellow machine before getting onto the vaporetto, because the waiting area got super crowded and people started pushing their way on as soon as our vaporetto arrived.
The boat ride out to Murano was pretty scenic as we got to see a bunch of mansions that overlook the Grand Canal and the lagoon. Before we knew it, we had arrived at the island of Murano (aka the “Glass Island”), famed for its many glass workshops. We had read beforehand that Venetians have long been famous for their work with crystal and glass (since the 10th century). However, due to the fire hazards associated with glass blowing, in 1291 the entire industry was uprooted and moved to the island of Murano. Apparently, Venice wanted to avoid the numerous fires caused by the furnaces as almost all the Venetian houses during that time were made of wood! We also found out that glass blowing was such an invaluable trade secret that any glass worker who left Murano was deemed guilty of treason and subject to assassination!! Manufacturing secrets were so jealously guarded that they were handed down from father to son, and the expatriation of any glazier-masters from Murano island was strictly forbidden to guarantee Murano’s monopoly on the glass blowing industry.
From the Murano Colonna vaporetto stop, we walked down into Fondamenta dei Vetrai (the waterfront) and stumbled upon dozens of shops selling Murano glass, ranging from chandeliers to gorgeous jewelry and opulent trinkets. We spent about two hours exploring the island before it became overrun with tourists by lunchtime. So we quickly decided it was time to head over to the nearby island of Burano, catching vaporetto line 12 from the Faro (lighthouse). We had seen photos of Burano beforehand, but nothing prepares you for the shock of colors when you visit in person. Unfortunately, we arrived to this photogenic island during the midday sun, which bleached out the obscenely colorful rows of fishermen’s houses. Burano is famous for its handmade lace, but very few women maintain the local traditions and only a handful of production houses remain. Apparently most of the lace for sale in the local shops is NOT hand made but of the machine variety. We weren’t here for the lace though. The colorful houses intrigued us most, so we wandered the backstreets and took photos to our hearts content. Robby quickly proclaimed Burano was his favorite part of our Italian itinerary thus far! We spent the entire afternoon here, and finally had to tear ourselves away for the long (and super crowded) vaporetto return trip back to Venice. Overall a fantastic day!