DM and MM's Italy Trip Diary

Day 11 - Venezia, Burano, Murano

Wednesday, 9 May, 2001

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The day started badly with clearly the most awful night of the trip so far. I woke just after midnight to the sounds and scratches of mosquitoes. We'd noticed before going to bed that the room window was open, and simply closed it. Unfortunately it seems the Venice lagoon provides an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes since some clearly managed to get in. After several minutes of hunting, I splatted two of the infernal insects. With bites on my forehead, under an eye, and on my shoulder, I tried to get back to sleep, only to have several cats outside begin howling and yowling. Before 06:00 I was awake again, with another mosquito buzzing around.

After that restless night it took some time to get up, showered, and ready for breakfast. It was 08:20 by the time we entered the breakfast room. I had a cioccolata again and Michelle a cappuccino with the bread rolls and warm croissants as yesterday. The room was a lot quieter today, with the French school group obviously gone. After we had eaten we went back to our room to prepare for the day. I wrote a note saying "Non apra la finestra per favore" and left it on the window, to discourage the maid from leaving the window open and admitting more mosquitoes again.

The first thing planned for the day was a trip to Burano. The vaporetto number 12 left from the wharf at Fondamente Nova, on the north side of the city. Since we wanted to retrace routes as little as possible and see new things if we could, we set out walking up Calle della Misericordia from our hotel in the opposite direction to the one we normally took. The goal was to navigate the back streets of Sestiere Cannaregio rather than retrace the main tourist strip again. Things conspired against us, however, as at least four different calle and access points which should have provided a thoroughfare according to the map were either blocked for repaving, closed off by locked gates, or simply not there. We ran the maze until we determined there was no other way to get where we were going without returning to the main strip, which we did further away from our goal than if we had simply taken our usual route directly from the hotel.

Having ended up near the Ferrovia vaporetto stop, we quickly bought day pass tickets there to cover our intended journeys for the day. Then we walked down Rio terra Lista de Spagna yet again until we could diverge into the old Jewish ghetto region of Venice. This was interesting, since the buildings here were rather more dilapidated than elsewhere, and they often had the odd feature of very short storeys, due to the population pressure and building height restrictions back when the area was first being developed. We stopped at a greengrocer in this area to buy a couple of Granny Smith apples for later in the day.

Wall with poppies
Walking next to a wall on Mazzorbo

Once we reached the Fondamente Nova wharf we only had to wait a couple of minutes for the 10:10 vaporetto to arrive and pick us up for the journey to the island of Burano. The trip took a little over half an hour, stopping at Murano on the way. We actually alighted at Mazzorbo, which is connected to Burano by a bridge, and by the time we walked across to the Burano wharf the vaporetto had reached it too (taking a much longer route via Torcello).

Burano Canal
Canal on Burano

By now the sun was beating down harshly from the cloudless sky, and there was precious little shade to be found on Burano except between buildings on east-west running calle. Unfortunately the main strip on Burano runs north-south, so there was little relief there. The houses however were the main reason for coming to this little island, since their owners paint them in a variety of bright colours, and they make a postcard-like scene lined up in neat rows along the canals. We wandered around a bit, trying to stick to shady areas as much as possible. There were numerous stores selling the intricate lacework for which Burano is known. It seemed the sleepy sort of village where old women would go to retire and spend their twilight years making lace. We also saw a group of school children sitting in a shady spot by a canal, painting watercolours of the scenery, attended to by a man giving them encouragement.

Burano Houses
Colourful houses on Burano

We ate our apples, but were starting to feel hungrier and ready for lunch. There didn't seem to be much choice of eating establishment on Burano and we walked back towards the wharf where we noticed the next vaporetto for Murano was only a couple of minutes away. We decided to sit and rest on the boat and look for lunch on Murano.

Feeling somewhat refreshed after standing on the breezy deck in the shade as we were taken to Murano, we walked along the streets and canals looking for somewhere we could get a relatively cheap take-away meal. A small corner store type establishment operated by a friendly elderly couple who only seemed to know the words "sandwich" and "hot" in English provided us with a hot cheese focaccia and pizza slice, and a chocolate shortbread biscotti with apricot jam filling. We found a shady spot sitting on a closed shop window by a closed supermarket to eat them.


By now it appeared that most things were closed on Murano on Wednesdays, including (we knew) the Murano Glass Museum, which would have been interesting to see (not only because of the James Bond fight sequence). Indeed the place seemed fairly dead, except for a number of glass shops which stocked an enormous variety of glassware of all shapes, sizes, and functions, from practical through decorative and artistic to kitschy and downright ugly. We stopped at several of these (including one on the way to getting our food, which had glassworkers making pieces right next to the showroom) and perused the items within. Some of the good quality work was very attractive and we were drawn to items with colourful fish suspended inside the glass (several examples of which we'd seen back in Venice). Some shops clearly had cheap and nasty versions, but the ones made with care were quite beautiful, and also depressingly highly priced. We considered a vase for LIT380,000 but decided against buying.

Still scorching under the hot sun we decided to head back to our hotel for an afternoon rest before another round of sightseeing in the evening. We took the vaporetto back to Venice and walked back by a fairly direct, though new, route to the main strip. Michelle remembered seeing a shop nearby with model cars, which she thought would make good gifts for her two young nephews, so we went there and bought 1/24 scale Ferrari and Polizi vehicles from an old man who thankfully understood our intentions from my limited Italian.

Some canal
A random canal

Once back at the hotel room we noted gratefully that the window was still closed. Our shower curtain had been replaced, by a wider one which would more easily prevent any water escaping on to the floor of the bathroom. While I traced our day's routes on our map and wrote a postcard entirely in Italian (which took some time (a) to come up with sentences simple enough to translate and (b) actually translating them using our phrasebook) Michelle took a brief siesta.

By 18:30 or so we were hungry and had decided to eat food from the Indian restaurant we'd spotted yesterday on one of our walks. Michelle was feeling a bit tired and stomach-achey, so I walked out to get take-away. I arrived at the restaurant at 18:40, saw it was closed and read the opening hours. It said it opened at "17:00", which for some reason I read as 7pm. Thinking I had 20 minutes to wait, I continued walking deep into Sestiere Dorsoduro to find the Mega 1 Supermarket mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook. I found something resembling a tiny supermarket, though it seemed to have everything a normal supermarket would have except food: Cleaning products, toiletries, plastic plates and cutlery, pet food, stationery. This was okay though, since I was after insect spray, in case of further mosquito infestations. I located and purchased a can and made my way back to the Indian restaurant. It was just after 19:00 when I got there, thinking it should have opened by now. It hadn't. Only then did I check the opening hours more closely and noted "Chiuso: Mercoledi": closed on Wednesdays.

Side street
Another random canal

I walked back to the hotel empty-handed foodwise. Michelle was feeling better and agreed to come back out for another walk to locate somewhere to eat. I said I'd passed some good looking places on my way out to the supermarket just now, so we retraced that route. We stumbled across a Middle Eastern restaurant on Fondamente Rio dei Frari which looked good, not too expensive, and most importantly not full of pizza and pasta dishes. We had felafels to start, followed by a vegetarian couscous for Michelle and a mansaf for me. It was all very good, and very much a pleasure to eat something without cheese and tomato in it.

After dinner we continued retracing my steps to find the good-looking gelateria nearby, which was found with alacrity. I had a cup full of green apple, rockmelon, and choc-mint gelato. Mmm-mmmmm.

Grand Canal sunset
Dusk over the Grand Canal

From there it was walking towards Piazza San Marco with the sunset happening all around us. The light on the buildings and canals was beautiful, and using my tripod I took a few photos. By the time we got to the piazza it was almost dark, but still hopefully enough colour in the sky to make some great photos. The square was abuzz with evening activity, including at least three live musical trios or quartets playing various instruments in front of the al fresco restaurant seating.

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco in the evening

We walked over to the vaporetto stop and took advantage of our day passes to catch a ride back on the number 52 vaporetto to Ferrovia, right near our hotel. The sight of the lights of the city on the water as we floated across the lagoon was wonderful. It's easy to see why Venice has such a reputation as a beautiful city.

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