With 180 islands connected by over 400 bridges, you can arrive by rail and walk from the head of the fish (western Venice), all the way down to the arsenal and Giardini della Biennale in the tail of the fish (the easternmost point). However, you would miss out on more than half of Venice if you didn't catch a boat somewhere. Not just for the experience mind you, Venice Lagoon is home to many numbers of smaller, fascinating islands. If you want to skip the crowds of San Marco and experience beaches and farms, Universities and Luxury Hotels, and islands overflowing with the brightest most colourful houses you have ever seen, then island hopping in the Venice Lagoon is a journey you will adore.
This article has become quite large, so I have split it into two. I'll start in the North Lagoon form Torcello to Venice in this blog and then continue in the next blog in the South Lagoon from Venice to Chioggia.
Starting at the north of the lagoon, Torcello is regarded as the most atmospheric island of Venice and was the original location of Venice before the current city was built. It wielded considerable power in the region and was the seat of the Bishop for over 1000 years. Times have been tough on the island though, from a peak population of 35,000 in the 10th century, ten people are living there today. Not 10 thousand... just 10. From numerous palazzi, twelve parishes and its sixteen cloisters, only one palazzi remain today. It houses the 7th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the most significant attraction on the island due to the 11th-century mosaics, the oldest in the Venice area. It remains a quiet sanctuary with a couple of restaurants, a devil's bridge, a few farms and lots of open space.
The mist can come in thick in Venice so the fishermen came up with the novel idea to paint their houses cherry pastel colours to quickly identify their homes. It is like the lovechild of Venice and a box of crayons. I've been told from locals that it might have been the drink more than the mist... regardless, it makes Burano a rainbow explosion craving to be photographed, with perfect views at every corner. The municipality still controls the colour scheme, so if you want to paint your lot, you need to request permission before being given the appropriate palate from which to choose.
Connected by an old wooden foot-bridge to nearby Burano is the small islands of Mazzorbo, often overlooked for its colourful sibling. This secluded island forms part of the "countryside of Venice" and has artichoke farms and a medieval walled vineyard open to the public that produces Dorona, a golden-hued wine only grown here. It makes Mazzorbo the perfect place to relax and soak up the magical atmosphere. Dine at the Michelin stared Venissa Osteria to sample the local produce.
The islands of Murano are known for their glass. It might seem trivial now for a glass blowing to be monumental, but once upon a time, Murano was the glass capital and the only place in the world where one could get glass mirrors made. They kept their secret heavily guarded, and no one was allowed to leave the island to produce it elsewhere. When the King of France commissioned the Hall of Mirrors at Versaille, he insisted everything was Made in France, the Doge of Venice responded by poisoning any Venetian found to be conspiring to work on Versailles. You can still watch craftspeople working on glass today, or just take in the quieter streets and good food along their smaller, but still just as adorable Grand Canal.
Isola di San Michele
Before Napoleon ruled over La Serenissima, the dead were buried under churches, or oddly, under the paving stones that made up the streets. For a city that regularly floods, this wasn't that sanitary. So something needed to happen, and Isola di San Michele was that something. A cemetery island, separated from the Cannaregio by 400m and a very high wall. With no shops, cafes, ice-cream stands or commerce of any kind, It makes for a delightful afternoon stroll, but beware, photography is prohibited on the island.
Part Two: Discover Venice's Other Islands - South Lagoon is coming soon.
If you enjoyed these images and would like to learn how to use your camera like a pro, while exploring the Other Islands of Venice, book a walking photography tour with Aperture Tours Venice.
Author: Alexander J.E. Bradley
Alexander is the founder of Aperture Tours which run photography tours in the most photogenic cities across the globe. A professional photographer for over a decade, Alexander enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images.