Friday, May 29, 2015

Venice Italy.....And The Islands Of Burano & Murano.....

As we stood on deck we could see the city of Venice approaching in the distance as we cruised along the  Giudecca Canal.  For months I'd been waiting, longing to visit this special city in the water expecting it to be my favorite port. Silently we watched taking it all in as we bypassed the hotspots of the city and docked on the other side in the cruise port. Nearby a fellow passenger squealed and said out loud, "oh my gosh I think I'm going to's sooooo beautiful."  I was fighting off a few tears too as I took in the landscape so vastly different from any other place on earth.

Cruising Into Venice

  Posing On NCL's Sprit Coming Into Venice

Built on hundreds of  small islands connected by over 400 foot bridges, Venice sits in a marshy lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Originally built as a refuge for Italians looking to escape from Rome and nearby cities, Venice was built one island at a time. The entire city of Venice and its lagoon is listed with UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

A Water Taxi Whizzes By The Ship

Approaching Venice......Getting Closer

It was early afternoon when our ship docked in the port of Venice and we were cleared to leave. Since Clyde and I are staying in Venice a few days once we disembark from the cruise in the morning, we didn't book any shore excursions here. But at the last minute while trying again to spend our on board credit Clyde suggested spending the money on a tour today. So we booked an excursion to visit the islands of Burano and Murano since they were on our list of must see's anyway.


So Pretty

Life On The Water

Today's tour would be unlike any other shore excursion where we walked off the ship and boarded a bus.  Since Venice sits in the water we went directly from the ship onto a water bus.  The water bus was staffed with two tour guides, a male who's name I don't remember and a female named Suzy.  Our first stop was the island of Murano which is actually seven islands linked by bridges and separated by channels. Famous for it's glassmaking it was settled by the Romans in the 6th century. Originally it thrived as a fishing village and through it's production of salt. 

A Tender Platform Used To Leave Ship

Our Tour Boat

In Venice Lagoon Heading To Island Of Murano

Glass Making Factory

Master Glass Maker Crafting Vase

Finished Vase

In 1291 glassmakers were forced to move out of Venice due to risk of fires so they moved to Murano. During the next century exports began and the island became known for mirrors and glass beads.  Later the island became known for chandeliers and to this day glassmaking is the main industry in Murano. 
Glass Horse Made By Same Man

Our tour included a stop at a glassmaking factory to watch as a master glassmaker crafted a vase and horse.  Handed down through the generations, this glassmaker apparently had a father who specialized in these two items and that's what he taught his son. The narrator explained that had his father been an expert in chandeliers, that's what he would have learned to make. From the factory we headed upstairs into the many showrooms where they'd try to get money out of us. The ornate selection included thousands of chandeliers, vases, glassware, stemware, plates, horses and more. The average price of a chandelier was $1,500 to $2,500 and certainly wasn't anything I'd ever wanted. As soon as we could make a break for it we snuck out of the glass shop eager to explore the island.

Island Of Murano

Crossing My First Bridge Of Many

Coming Into Colorful Burano

Murano was nothing more than wall to wall glass factories as far as the eye could see.  While there were obviously homes located above the stores we saw little else.  We watched fascinated as a group of three or four women pushing baby carriages turned backwards to a bridge.  Each one dragged their carriages step by step up and over the bridge, grunting with each pull. Our tour guide Suzy had been telling us how difficult it was to live on an island and I was just starting to see what she meant.

Green Space And Charming Buildings

Back on the boat we headed up the lagoon about 45 minutes to the charming island of Burano.  This tiny colorful island is known for lace making, an art passed down through the generations. Like Murano the island of Burano was probably settled in the 6th century by the Romans also.  There are several theories as to how the island claimed it's name and both are as follows.   One story says the island was founded by the Buriana family while the other says its first settlers came from the island of Buranello , about five miles to the south.


During the 16th century women on the island started making lace by hand using needles.  In 1481 when Leonardo Da Vinci visited the island he purchased a cloth to be used on the altar in the Milan Cathedral. Word spread and soon people began visiting Burano in search of home made lace items.  But in the 18th century business declined until 1872 when a school of lacemaking opened on the island giving the lace industry a much needed boost. 

Handmade Lace

Today along with the tiny shops selling lace items Burano is known for its small, colorful houses.  According to our guide the reason for the colorful houses is this.  When fisherman would return home their houses were frequently covered in fog, making it difficult to know which house was theirs.  To avoid any mishaps like climbing into bed with the wrong wife, people began painting their houses bright colors that could be seen through the fog. Islanders liked the change and ended up keeping the houses colorful.  Nowadays when someone buys a house in Burano they're not allowed to change the color without permission from the government.  Kind of like living in housing developments in the states with committees of sexually frustrated, rich bitches that dictate what color you might be allowed to paint your house.  Obviously I've never lived under those circumstances and don't intend to either.


Showing Us A Stitch

We entered a small shop to witness a demonstration of lace making.  The interesting part is that each women specializes in only ONE stitch so it takes several women to complete any one project.  Unfortunately, today less of the lace is made by hand with easier methods found to be more efficient and economical.

As usual Clyde and I broke away from the tour to go explore and get lost on our own. Our tour guide mentioned some "S" shaped biscuits that Venice is known for and we didn't need to look far.  Walking into a nearby bakery the attendant immediately came out from behind the counter offering up a taste of the S-shaped delights. The lightly sweetened cookies called "bussola" were tasty so we picked up a bag to buy before heading out of the shop. Since it was lunchtime we stopped for our standard cheap Italian fare of sharing a slice of pizza and a drink before checking out more of the island.

Quaint Alleyway

And More Colorful Alleys

Strolling along the narrow streets many doorways were covered with curtains making me wonder what was behind.  Apparently it's just their way of decorating their doorway making it look different from the neighbors. I was starting to understand the appeal of island life which was soooo quite with no traffic other than the occasional boat.  Because of the colorful homes this island had much more charm that Murano.  We snaked through the alleys and cobblestoned streets that ran near the waterway pretending to be a local, lost in a world so unlike our own. 

Decorated Doorways Give This Place Real Character

On our boat ride back to the cruise port we pumped Suzy our guide for information on Venice.  Since we'd be disembarking from the cruise in the morning and staying in Venice a few extra days we needed tips on how to get around. She pointed out must-see's on the map, gave us information on the water bus routes along with how to get around on foot.

After exiting the water bus tour near our ship it was still early and I couldn't wait to see more of Venice. We headed over to the People Mover, a train that connects the cruise terminal with Piazzale Roma.  Piazzale Roma is the last place for cars to drive before going it by foot or water bus.  Upon arriving at the plaza it hit me that here we were on the Grand Canal, in gorgeous Venice, Italy.  We walked along the main street lined with little touristy shops as it followed the canal.  Water buses called, "Vaporettos" cruised by full of passengers.  With dark approaching Clyde didn't want to be out too late with a chance of getting lost.  Although we had no worries about the ship leaving us behind since it was docked there for the night, we made our way back. After a brief stop in our cabin we headed out for a late dinner on the ship.


As this was the final show on board it was a spectacular called "Elements." With a combo of singing, dancing, acrobatics, magic, water, wind and even fire it had something for everyone.  Since we always like go get good seats we headed in to the theater early which was filling up fast.  After the fabulous show we headed to the poolside buffet for some late night snacking before going back to our cabin for the night. Once inside we had some packing to do in order to be ready to disembark in the morning.  But since we had only carryon luggage we would be walking off with our bags and not have to put them outside of our cabin door to be picked up.

Time to catch some z's before more adventures in the morning as we'd head into Venice, the most charming of all the places we visited......along the gringo trail.

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