Visited: March 2017
There are two things every visitor to Venice notices right away. The first is its beauty, the second is the crowds. This is a city that sees up to 25 million tourists a year.
One strategy a traveler to Venice can take is to visit the outer islands. There are more than a hundred islands in Venice’s lagoons. Don’t just go and camp near St. Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs. The outer islands are where Venetian culture still runs deep. There is history and art and quiet settings for reflection that would be impossible on the Grand Canal.
The Tour Company
I booked our tickets through Insidecom which gives lots of different types of tours. I booked a three island tour for the afternoon for a VERY affordable price ($40 for 2 people).
The prices of gondola rides are a bit pricey (average cost $100), so in exchange we went Island Hopping all afternoon instead for less than the price of a 30 minute gondola ride!
Simply print your voucher, check in at the desk, and wait for your water bus to arrive.
The staff was warm, the boat was clean, had a bathroom on board, and you could sit inside or outside while they told you about the history of the islands you pass on your way. They even included this 10-Useful-Tips-on-Visiting-Venice-by-Insidecom.
We found a seat on the water bus and we got off at the first island of Murano. Murano is the home of glass blowing- and that’s about it. Fearing fire and the destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, glassmakers were ordered to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. There are glass blowing factories, a museum, and all the shops I could see (seriously no grocery or pharmacies) selling things made of murano glass.
We saw a glass blowing demonstration which was fun. However the island felt a little strange; like it existed only to sell to tourists and nothing else. No other industries have developed on the island in all this time. The glass was lovely and consists of it’s own style. In the demonstration, which lasted about 15 minutes, the artisan created a horse and a bowl. To demonstrate how hot the glass is that they are working with they threw in a piece of newspaper that immediately burst into flames and ash on contact!
Torcello once was an important town, an island that was the Venice before there was a Venice. Once the main islands developed, Torcello continued to served Venice when it was a busy port. Today there are less than 20 residents on the whole island.
The main attraction is to experience the green, to see the first Church of Venice a 12th century Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta with its beautiful Byzantine mosaics, and take in the view from the church Santa Fosca bell-tower.
We toured the Santa Maria Dell’Assunta church and viewed the simple cemetery. It was a breath of fresh air and moment of calm away from Venice. For awhile we even discussed moving there for a summer. Set up a hammock, eat yourself silly on gelato, and watch the sunset over the water every night. A quiet island paradise.
We stopped at the Taverna Tipica Veneziana for some homemade gelato but you can always get a yummy lunch there too.
This lovely little island’s main attractions are: fishing, lace making, and the colorful fishing houses which line the canals.
We saw plenty of locals wandering round with their groceries and having dinner. Our tour was one of the last for the day so it was nice not seeing the place full of tourists mulling around and taking up all the space. Fishermen were bringing in their boats and give the whole experience a more natural feel.
They have a leaning bell tower. A lace museum. And of course many shops and places to eat.
The island and houses were so picture perfect. We wish we could have had one more night to stay.
There are many more islands you can enjoy. It all depends on the type of traveler you are.
Want to go to a cemetery island? San Michele is for you.
Sant’Erasmo is the “orchard of Venice.”
Want to sit on a beach and relax? Lido and Pellestrina Islands are just for that.
Go out and explore. There is so much to experience in Venice.