Once in Venice, it is highly unlikely that you will want to let it out of your sight. It is a city of unique, almost dreamy, beauty. That’s why we are adamant that travellers should not do Venice in a day but try to spend as much time as possible there. This way, there will also be time to visit the nearby Venice islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello and enjoy one of the best day trips from Venice.
We planned our Venice Islands day trip on the fourth day of our wonderful trip to La Serenissima. There are many companies operating group or private tours to the Venice Islands. Even so, we decided to visit on our own so as to see each island at our own pace. The most cost-effective way to visit all three islands in a day is buying a 24h travel card for vaporetti, Venice’s iconic waterbuses. The 24h travel card offers unlimited number of trips on the vaporetti for 20€. That’s great value for money if you think that the single 75-minute ticket costs 7.50€.
First stop on our Venice Islands day trip: Murano
Visiting Murano, Burano and Torcello on a single day meant that we had to leave our hotel room very early in the morning. At least as early as the previous filled with wine and seafood night allowed us to. We caught the vaporetto to Murano from Ferrovia station, which is right outside Venice St Lucia train station and very close to Ponte degli Scalzi, one of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal.
Murano has more than one vaporetto stops. We decided to get off at the first one, Murano Colonna, so as to explore the island on foot. The journey from Venice to Murano takes 20′-30′. Murano is composed of seven smaller Venetian lagoon islands and it is famous for its glass making tradition. Back in 1291, the Venetian Republic ordered glassmakers to leave Venice and settle in Murano for fear of a potential fire that could destroy the city.
We walked the entire length of Fondamenta dei Vetrai, where the vast majority of Murano glass shops are situated. Then we crossed Il Ponte Longo and continued our stroll along the Riva Longa. We skipped the nearby Murano Glass Museum with its glass making displays although it seems to be the top thing to do in Murano because we had yet to visit Burano and Torcello and time was not on our side. After all, it is a habit of ours to deliberately miss a couple of must-sees in every destination we visit so as to make sure that we come back for them some day. We then headed to Murano Faro station only to be met by an utterly disappointing and endless queue for the vaporetto. We had to wait for more than 30′ under the scorching sun before we could board the vaporetto to Torcello.
Torcello, the serenest of the Venetian Islands
Leaving Murano behind and after about 30′, the vaporetto reached Burano. However, we had already decided to save Burano for last so we stayed on the vaporetto and got off on the next island, Torcello. Historically, Torcello is of great significance as it was the first of the Venetian lagoon islands to be inhabited by people who fled the mainland in an effort to survive the Barbaric invasions.
Nowadays, about a dozen people live in absolute tranquillity in Torcello. This is a striking contrast to the crowds that flood Venice or even Murano and Burano. Torcello’s main attraction is the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, a magnificent church you can visit for 5€. Built in 639, it is home to some of the oldest mosaics on the Venetian Islands.
There is only one single path to walk on the island, running roughly from the vaporetto stop to the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta. We enjoyed our stroll along the peaceful canal-side path immensely. We passed by Ponte del Diavolo (Devil’s Bridge), three or four restaurants and a couple of B&Bs. And that was it. We pretty much saw the entire island in less than an hour. On our way back to the vaporetto stop, we thought it was time for a break. We couldn’t resist the garden area of Taverna Tipica Veneziana. Neither could we say no to a fritto misto, a mix of deep-fried seafood, served in an edible bowl and washed down with cold Italian beer.
The highlight of our Venice Islands day trip: Burano
We took the next vaporetto that approached the floating stop in Torcello and 5′ later we were in Burano. We couldn’t wait to see with our own eyes the lines of colourful houses that have taken over Instagram. Burano used to be a fishing village in the past. Legend has it that people started painting their houses in bright colours so that fishermen coming home after their exhausting work could tell which house was theirs even when there was thick fog. According to a different story though, drunkenness rather than the fog was the reason why they couldn’t find their way home. Either way Burano has those fishermen to thank for its unique charm.
As soon as we got off the vaporetto, we instinctively turned left. In a couple of minutes we found ourselves walking along Fondamenta Pontinello. Suddenly our eyes filled with colour and it was love at first sight. No matter how many spectacular photos we had seen, no camera can do this place justice. It’s beyond words beautiful.
Burano is famous for its lace making tradition. Shops around the island sell pretty items made of lace. Keep in mind though, that this lace is not made in the traditional way. Nowadays, the latter is hard to find as it is extremely expensive.
We walked around Burano, admiring colourful houses and cute wooden bridges along the way. Rather than following a specific itinerary, we just wandered around the island, getting lost in its narrow alleys and being enchanted by its bright colours.
At some point, the leaning bell tower of San Martino church caught our attention. Its incredible tilt, caused by land subsidence, made us wonder how on earth it was still standing.
Burano is linked by a bridge to Mazzorbo, yet another of the Venetian islands. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to explore Mazzorbo as well.
After a quick cup of café d’orzo, our beverage of choice in Italy that we have Bologna to thank for, we took the vaporetto back to Venice. We silently made a vow to come back to Burano some day. This time for an overnight stay. At first, we had thought that a couple of hours would suffice for Burano. But it turns out we were wrong. We wanted more of it. We could spend endless hours just strolling around its maze of narrow streets and gazing at the brightly coloured houses.
During our 45′ journey back to Venice, we saw ruins of palazzi on formerly inhabited but now abandoned Venice Islands. We couldn’t help but try to picture how the Venetian Lagoon must have looked like in the past. These thoughts of ours added a dash of melancholy to an overall amazing Venice day trip. However, our gloomy faces didn’t stay so for long. Just as we got off the vaporetto, the evening sun in Venice was dying Fondamente Nove in pure gold. What else could we do but smile?
Top tip: To best plan your Venice day trip to the Venetian lagoon islands, check the ACTV website for the waterbus timetables and routes. Make sure you don’t miss the last vaporetti from the Venice Islands back to Venice. Unless you want to, of course!