There’s something for everyone on this trio of peripheral Venetian islands, all accessible by vaporetto. Lively Murano is famed the world over for its long tradition of glass-making and attracts a number of visitors with its Museo del Vetro and dainty glass souvenirs. Further out into the lagoon, the quaint fishing community of Burano serves up excellent seafood and abundant photo opportunities with its run of brightly-painted houses. For fans of art, architecture, and fine dining, meanwhile, the sleepy outlying isle of Torcello has wonders that belie its pastoral quiet: the astonishing cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the legendary Locanda Cipriani.
Booking is essential at Locanda Cipriani on Torcello, a true Italian institution. Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill, Liza Minelli, Mick Jagger, and, most devotedly, Ernest Hemingway, have all wined and dined at Cipriani’s tables, where expert sommeliers advise on Venetian wines and bow-tied waiters serve up house classics including carpaccio, homemade pastas, and a number of excellent fish dishes.
On the island of Burano, you’ll probably smell Panificio Pasticceria Garbo before you see it. This superb old-school Italian pasticerria specialises in delicious crunchy biscotti, which go down particularly well with the house hot chocolate.
Vintage Murano glass is coveted by curators and interior designers to this day. Open daily, the island’s Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) explores the island’s extraordinary glass-making dynasties as well as the intricate 4000 year old history of glass.
It may be modest by Venetian palazzo standards, but the Murano Palace Hotel sure lays on a royal hospitality. Hosts Cesare and Donatella, both Muranese natives, go out of their way to make guests feel welcome and share their island tips, while the bright and spotless bedrooms look directly onto Murano’s main canal.
If you do just one thing...
Admire the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello. One of the most ancient religious edifices in the entire Veneto region, it dates right back to 639. Rebuilding in the 11th century included two astonishing mosaics: a towering, celestial Madonna and Child on the apse and a frenzied Last Judgement on the West Wall. The reeling visual force of both mosaics is even more powerful amid the basilica’s calm — blissfully removed from the madding San Marco crowds.