From colorful fishing villages to organic farms, the Venetian lagoon is filled with must-see islands that are worth a day trip from Venice.
It’s not easy to leave a gorgeous city like Venice behind – even for a day trip. But the surrounding lagoon is filled with fascinating islands and hidden gems that are well worth exploring.
Here’s my list of Venice islands that you shouldn’t miss:
1. Color and lace in Burano
Burano is a tiny fishing village in the Venetian Lagoon famous for its brightly painted homes and its tradition of lace making.
The rows of colorful houses – in every shade of the rainbow – are every photographer’s dream. Wander down the canals to admire this kaleidoscope. And explore the quaint shops, magnificent churches and restaurants that dot the island.
Historians say Burano’s houses were painted bright to guide fishermen through the foggy lagoon on their way home. Others claim the different colors were meant to help the fishermen (after they’ve had one too many) find their own houses.
Today, there are few fishermen left and the island mainly relies on tourism. There are also strict regulations on what colours each house can be painted.
Photos courtesy Venice Lace Museum
Burano is also famous for its lace-making, which dates back to the 16th century. The craft was brought over from Venetian-ruled Cyprus and Burano lace was later exported across Europe.
The trade fell into decline in the 18th century, but it survives today thanks to the Burano Lace School (1872-1970) that kept the tradition alive.
Today the Lace School has been transformed into the Venice Lace Museum (Museo del Merletto,) a must-stop on any itinerary for arts lovers. The museum boasts a collection that narrates the story of lacemaking from its origins in the 16th century to the Burano Lace School through 1970.
Videos, illustrations and an array of vintage items like clothing, drawings and books, illustrate this exacting and time-consuming discipline. You can also watch a group of skilled lacemakers at work inside the museum.
And although few women now make lace in the traditional manner, but you can still find the genuine article across Burano. Watch out for cheap, machine-made dupes at tourist shops, and look for reputable artisan ateliers like Dalla Lidia, Emilia Burano and Martina Vidal.
Don’t miss the leaning campanile of the 16th-century church of San Martino, and head inside to see paintings by Rococo master Giambattista Tiepolo.
Bepi’s House is another local gem: it’s the most colorful home on this rainbow island where local man Bepi once held an outdoor cinema for Burano’s children. Bepi would also regularly adorn the facade with new drawings – and his home is still a photogenic feast for the eyes.
And don’t miss the local fish restaurants and their hearty dishes made with the local catch. Try spaghetti al nero di seppia (squid ink spaghetti) or spaghetti vongole (clams). Trattoria al Gatto Nero is always reliable for local Venetian food fresh from the lagoon.
Burano’s yellow s-shaped cookies called Essi make a great treat inbetween sightseeing.
Burano is best visited by Vaporetto line 12 from Fondamente Nove, which stops at both Burano and glass-making island Murano. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Alternatively, take Line 14, which has fewer departures and takes 65 minutes – but it leaves right from San Marco.
For an unforgettable experience, spend the night in Burano at a charming hotel like Casa Burano and experience the island without the daytime crowds. You’ll see locals chatting, heading to mass or tending their boats.
Known as the “Garden of the Doge,” Sant’Erasmo’s farms and vineyards supplied the city and its ruling class with food since the 16th century.
Today, the bucolic island is still rural – and perfect for exploring on a bike. Get off the ferry and take a short walk to the Hotel Il Lato Azzurro, where you can rent a bike for the day.
Peddle around the island to best experience its natural beauty. Stop by some local farms and pick up a few regional specialties. From vineyards crafting prosecco and local honey producers making Miele del Doge (Italy’s best honey), to farms selling cut flowers and violet artichokes, the island is a vast departure from the bustle of Venice.
The island is also home to Venice’s only winery, Orto di Venezia. Sample a few of their wines and pick up a bottle. Then grab a picnic table overlooking the lagoon and enjoy a relaxing afternoon.
When you return your bike, order a platter of classic Venetian dishes or cicchetti from the hotel for a perfect late lunch.
It’s best to visit Sant’Erasmo in the spring and summer when the island is green and the fields are lush with bright flowers. But fall also gives you a chance to see the grape harvest in full swing.
Sant’Erasmo is about a 40-minute ferry ride away from the city. Take the Vaporetto line 13 from Fondamente Nove and get off at the Capanonne stop on Sant’erasmo.