Nov 11, 2007: Of course, all of Venice is an island, multiple islands. Most remarkably, man-made islands. I imagine those terrified farmers, fleeing the fall of the Roman Empire, driving piles into a muddy lagoon to create a refuge, and I am in awe. In awe of their resourcefulness, in awe of their tenacity, and in awe of what they built. The refuge was a brilliant idea – life under the Romans may not have been all hot baths and good roads, but it was a whole lot better than what followed. The historians don’t call it the Dark Ages for nothing. Meanwhile, the farmers settled in on their laboriously constructed islands and became craftsmen and traders. And developed an empire, a sea-based empire, of their own.
I could have spent my entire (too short) five days on the main islands, but instead I devoted one day to the outer islands of Murano and Burano. Since I was staying on the south side of Dorsoduro, and I had no intention of limping all the way north to the Fondamente Nuove stop to pick up the boat, it took me a long time to get there from the Zattere dock. I timed the trip back at two hours.
Venice is renowned for its glass, and the glass blowers were sent to work on Murano in case their furnaces got out of control. I love glass – cut glass, art glass, stained glass – but not, alas, most Venetian glass. I find it over decorated, too “precious”. Maybe too Victorian. I did appreciate the Glass Museum on Murano, and I did buy one small coiled glass snake, easily packed, as a present for reptile-loving friends, but I mostly ignored the glass shops and left quite quickly for Burano.
If I hadn’t already been in love with Venice I would have fallen in love on Burano. Not so much for the lace, which is Burano’s claim to fame, but for the brilliantly colored buildings. I ate well – an excellent beef carpaccio with rocket followed by an OK angler fish with equally praise-worthy French fries at the the Ristorante al Vecio Pipa. I looked for lace for my younger sister (I would meet up with her in London in a couple of days) – but I didn’t see anything that looked better than the lace she made herself. And I took lots of photos of the houses.
I didn’t make it to Torcello, the next most-visited outer island, as I had been invited to a slowtrav get-to-gether and needed to get back to Dorsoduro, but it’s on the list for next time. I hope there will be a next time, but just realized that it has been seven years already. Some of the people I met that afternoon were staying in Venice for weeks, even months…