With the 70th Venice Film Festival currently in full swing, La Serenissima has long been a star of the silver screen, from film adaptations of literary greats such as The Wings of a Dove to the Hollywood juggernauts of Indiana Jones and James Bond, to name but a well-known few. If you fancy retracing the steps of the Hollywood glitterati as they promote their latest film on the Lido, we take a look beyond the principal hot spots of Venice to the often overlooked lagoon islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello, all easily accessible from the mainland by vaporetto and worth a visit in their own right.
A cluster of small islands linked by bridges, Murano enjoys international renown for its stunning glass. In 1291, all Venetian glassmakers were forced to move to Murano due to the risk of fire and over the centuries that followed, the island became renowned for its distinctive glass beads, mirrors and chandeliers. Indeed, by the 15th and 16th centuries, Murano was considered the glassmaking capital of Europe and its glass artisans enjoyed special privileges – immunity from prosecution for one – although were forbidden from ‘setting up shop’ elsewhere. Today, visitors to the island can visit the Museo del Vetro (Murano Glass Museum), as well as a wide range of glass factories and independent glassblowers, all vying for your custom.
Arguably the most famous and prettiest of the lagoon islands, Burano offers a picture-postcard backdrop, easily recognisable for the tilting tower of its San Martino church and the kaleidoscopic pastel hues of the fishermen’s houses lining the water’s edge. As famous for its lace as Murano is for its glass, Burano enjoys a long association with the art of lace making – indeed in the 16th century it was the most sought after in Europe – and there is opportunity aplenty to appreciate this delicate craft at the island’s lace museum, the Museo del Merletto, situated at the historic palace of Podestà of Torcello in Piazza Galuppi, where you’ll also be able to purchase locally crafted pieces and souvenirs.
A favoured haunt of Ernest Hemingway, Torcello is the oldest continuously populated region of Venice, founded as it was in the 5th century and by the 10th century considered more powerful than Venice itself. These days, Torcello enjoys a very peaceful existence, situated just a short boat ride from Burano at the northern end of the lagoon. Jewel in Torcello’s crown must be the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, dating back to the 7th century and renowned for its stunning Byzantine mosaics, particularly the Last Judgement. If you’re feeling flush, why not lunch amongst the rich and famous at Locanda Cipriani, an enchanting and secluded hideaway where Ernest Hemingway wrote Across the River and Through the Trees.