Day 2 - Monday : A tour of the islands
> Day 1: From London to Venice
Currently writing my journal on the LN ferry to Mazzorbo and Burano. Can see snowy mountains; a glorious day. The light is incredible this trip. I walked to the Fondamente Nuove stop across the Rialto and sometimes during the walk I could hardly breathe for admiration of the town's beauty. Gondoliers perched on bridges, old couples in suits and furs out buying bread, the smell of coffee (normally don't even like it!) spilling out of bars, the steel prow of a gondola sliding into view from under a bridge, Santa Maria dei Miracoli etc.
I got off the boat and walked past the occasional cycling resident back in the direction the ferry had come from, past picturesque houses and fishing nets. I headed for the old campanile I'd seen from the outdoor seat of the ferry. Santa Caterina was a lovely old church with a wooden arched ceiling, irregular brick walls, a worn red and white marble floor and an assortment of decorative features from different eras. There was no-one in sight, but this was the homely safe sort of place where offerings are left in an open dish. My only reservation about Mazzorbo was the persistent buzzing noise – of planes landing at the nearby airport and of – much, much worse – mosquitos.
The path towards the Burano bridge headed along grass verges with flowers and white butterflies dancing around. Some local people were sitting under an awning alongside the path. Given the homemade banners beside them and all around the island, I deduced they were forming a peaceful protest against a new projected communications mast. A man cycled past and was greeted familiarly, before being asked if he had a few hours free to take part. A short distance along the path three men were standing around chatting, their fluorescent tunics identifying them as 'Polizia locale', there to keep an eye on the protestors, I assumed.
I was tempted into a posh little restaurant called Riva Rosa, attracted by the tables outside in the sun by the colourful canal. Staff – all charming, English-speaking and mostly handsome – produced a lovely vegetarian dish. I know if I'd been travelling with friends we'd have been tempted by the wine list, as were fellow diners, and would probably have spent a tidy sum and most of the afternoon basking in the sunshine and quiet views.
However, the lovely sunny weather was ideal for appreciating for Burano's brightly-painted houses. Walking along with my coat over my arm I noticed a remarkable amount of attention from men. This year's fashionable smock and leggings look seemed to go down rather too well with Burano's menfolk. I remember a friend in Rome theorising that Italian men go a bit crazy in spring, after months of seeing the female form covered up in giant inflatable winter coats and scarves. Certainly the mere hint of woman was bringing men out of their houses on the Venetian lagoon. One middle-aged man descended from his front steps to greet me.
Despite the tourists who roam their streets all day, Burano still feels like a village or even a family home. Many households were drying their laundry outside in courtyards and lanes, and I watched one housewife hanging her wet sheets right across the street from her house, against the wall behind the church. In the main square a girl in dressed in alternative fashion sat lace-making outside a shop, which made me hope that the guidebooks' pessimistic comments about a dying art might be premature. The church being closed for lunchtime, I explored more of the little lanes and canals. It's not hard to get away from the tourist groups, although you'll encounter the odd photographer prowling every so often. I spent some time myself trying to get the best photograph of the canals and of Torcello over the water against the lovely mountain backdrop.
> My previous visit to Burano and Torcello
Return to Venice via Murano
On my way back to Venice, after marvelling at a man in a red gondola who was travelling across the lagoon from Murano to Burano, I got off the boat in Murano. I had recently broken a glass ring I bought here, so I was on the hunt for a replacement. I wandered for a while, and discovered that the island is surprisingly big, with some rather grand villas hidden away off the main canal. I looked around one or two glass shops, rather impressed by the range of products (from beads to dragons), then it was time to return on the vaporetto to Venice.
> Next day : a trip to Treviso
> Venice tourist guide