We thought it was time to go home. We’d spent almost three weeks scampering around Italy, starting in Rome and meandering our way north to Venice. Everything was packed, we had comfy travel clothes on and we were ready to go home, ready to be in one place for more than a few days.
We took a boat to the airport, checked our bags, had one last glass of wine and got in the line to board the plane. It was a bittersweet moment. The trip we’d spent our lives dreaming about was coming to an end. We had some feelings.
But then, about five minutes after our flight should have departed, the gate agent yelled an announcement. The flight was cancelled. Not delayed. Cancelled. She told us one of the pilots had fainted that morning, in his hotel room, and was still at the hospital so he was not going to be flying our plane back to America that day.
Four hours later we landed at a Marriott five minutes from the airport, courtesy Delta Airlines. It was Thursday and our flight home wasn’t until Saturday so we made the best out of an absolute cluster fuck of a situation and, after throughly napping through the rest of Thursday, set out for the nearby islands of Burano and Murano on Friday.
Murano, like Venice, is a group of islands connected by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon. It’s a relatively short boat ride away from either the airport or from Venice. It’s where Venetian glass has been made since 1291, when all the glassmakers in Venice were forced to relocate to Murano. Glassmaking involves fire and sometimes fire is a mean motherfucker, so authorities reasoned moving all the fire-happy glassmakers to another island would make Venice a safer, less fire-centric sort of town.
Today, glass is still made on Murano and the streets are lined with galleries containing some truly incredible pieces. We walked through a few of them, marveling at what you can create from glass. There’s so many different styles on display, so many different colors and techniques.
We also visited the Venice Glass Museum, which covers the history of glassmaking in general, and in Venice specifically. They’ve got a solid collection of pieces from various time periods that show how glassmaking styles have changed and evolved over the centuries.
I’m always awestruck when I wander through places that are older than the country I call home. The first time I left the U.S. was when I deployed to Kosovo. We stopped in Germany for a few weeks of training and got a day in Nuremberg and a day in Munich. It was incredible. I remember wandering through castles that had stood long before a European foot had touched what would become American soil and just being overwhelmed with the history of the world.
I guess I’m equal parts awed by the antiquity of these beautiful places life has led me and by the youthfulness of the United States. It doesn’t matter how many times I wander through a 1,000-year-old town, it’s still magnificently impressive.
After wandering through galleries, drinking a few glasses of prosecco and eating a few snacks, we got back on a boat and headed to Burano.
About a 40-minute ride from Venice, Burano is known for two things: lace-making and the island’s brightly colored houses. Legend has it the houses were painted so splendidly so returning fisherman could find their homes in the foggy darkness. Apparently there are only certain colors approved for each lot, so the painting of one of these houses requires government approval.
We spent an hour or so sitting at an outdoor cafe, eating a late lunch and people watching. Tourists get very serious about taking their pictures in front of these highly instagram-able houses. At some of the prettiest homes, lines would form with primping girls waiting for their turn to stage a photoshoot. It was sort of hilarious.
First, you see a girl applying make-up after finishing lunch. Then she head’s over to the house, handing a camera or phone to her friend, husband or parent. Then she gets ready, pulling out accessories – hats, bags, scarves – and then the photo shoot starts, with her directing whoever she’s passed the camera to, stopping every fifth photo or so to make sure her art direction is heard.
We watched this happen at least five times in front of a beautiful bright red house. Eventually, the homeowner came out and started yelling at people. They were leaning on his house, moving the curtain that blocked his doorway and he was having none of it. He was ok with people taking pictures, so long as they didn’t mess up his shit, which is totally understandable. As colorful and beautiful and magical as the place is, it’s still a place were people live. I think the photo girls forgot that part, that’s it’s a real place, inhabited by real people who live in the picture-perfect homes.
Both islands are pretty tourist-filled today, but it seemed like Burano was a little more chill.
We spent maybe five hours exploring the islands, which makes visiting Burano & Murano a fantastic day or half-day trip from Venice. Both islands are similar to Venice, but they also have a distinct feel to them that was nice to experience. They’ve also got their own history – Murano’s is rooted in glassmaking, while Burano is where you can still find little old ladies sitting on stoops hand-weaving beautiful and intricate lacework.