It is hard to believe that Venice was once a deserted swamp land, a strange place to found an empire. Venice though became one of the most beautiful cities in the world, filled with marbled palaces, churches and museums enough to occupy any tourist for a few days.
Venice as we know it is a very unique city, vaporettas a kind of boat is used to transport people down the canals, no cars are allowed in Venice except on the island of Lido.
Venice is made up of some 117 islands and every time you cross a bridge or plank you are moving from one island to the next. You are unable to walk to some nearby islands but you definitely should jump on a vaporetta and explore.
So here are 5 islands worth exploring while in Venice.
1. Isola Di San Michelle
Venice being a city that virtually floats on water, sometimes even under depending on the aqua alte(hide tide). You could imagine, it would be a hard place to bury someone in Venice. After the fall of the Venetian Republic, Napoleonic authorities dispatched the dead to a new walled cemetery on the island of San Michelle.
The island is great for photography with tall cypress trees, a 15th century church and the graves and tombstones. The catholic section is rather elaborate while the Protestants and Orthodox are less formal and even neglected. Most of the shallow graves are occupied for 10-12 years after that the bones are excavated and are transferred in boxes to mausoleum niches or dumped into a communal ossuary.
Murano Island is home to the famous Venetian glass, which was made in Venice until the 13th century. The glass blowers plied their trade in Venice until being moved to Murano due to fire hazards.
Murano glass is very colourful, gaudy and extremely expensive. On the island there are quite a few furnaces that are open to visitors to witness the blowers in action. If you still want to see more glass you may feel like visiting the museum of glass which features some items dating back to the 15th century.
Burano is a colourful fishing village with houses painted in pastel blues and greens as well as the more vibrant hot pink, fluorescent yellow and other bright colours.
If the people from Burano aren’t fishing, a traditional occupation then they would be lace makers. All the souvenir shops are filled with doilies, table linens and even wedding dresses.
Burano is a great place to just walk around and take some pictures but if you want to know more about lace then there is also a lace museum.
It is hard to believe that Torcello was once a city of 20,000 people, the largest and the most important in the Venetian lagoon. That was some 1500 years ago, then it became a malarial infected area and the majority of people moved to Venice. Today only a few innkeepers and farmers live on the largely abandoned island.
Lido di Venezia is a long, narrow island that acts as a barrier between the Venetian Lagoon and the sea. Lido island is the resort island of Venice, where Venetians come to enjoy the sandy beaches in Summer. People also participate in the annual January 1st, New Years day swim.
Lido island is also home to the Venice film festival. I happened to stay on the island and recommend it as its much quieter than Venice and only a 5 minute vaporetta ride to San Marco’s square.