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Murano, Burano and Torcello

The most luminous cluster of islands in Venice shine forth from north of the lagoon, just above the frenetic rhythm of the centre: several traditional crafts are here proudly conserved.

Murano, Burano and Torcello

The nearest island is Murano, tim-honoured home to the glass manufacturing industry. Murano is a species of Venice in miniature, whose origins and development began around the end of the 13th century, when a decree ordered the artisans to distance themselves from the centre due to the fear of fire. They did so, accumulated a great deal of wealth and became independent. Its history, given that it contains within itself the secrets of its métier, is also in a certain sense its present, and, allowing for the necessity of careful selection, one may acquire praiseworthy objects d'arte. The island also boasts the Glass Museum, housing enchanting antique pieces such as the Barovier wedding cup of the 15th century.

Further north we encounter Burano and Torcello. Founded between the 5th and 6th centuries, Torcello represents one of the first settlements of the lagoon. Its treasure is the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, an imposing edifice restored around the 11th century. Opposite the entrance sits the marble throne which, according to legend, belonged to Attila the Hun.

Like its quasi-namesake Murano, Burano is a leader in the field of handicrafts, owing to its inimitable lace, its delicateness giving it the name punto in aria ('point in the air'). In the 16th century it was already the most sought after in Europe. On the island, among the rows of brightly painted houses, a lace-making school is still active, complete with adjoining Burano Lace Museum.

To round off the tour a visit to the island of San Francesco del Deserto is highly recommended. This island, to which access is by private boat from Burano, was said to be founded by Saint Francis on his reutrn from the Orient. Given to the Franciscan order in the 13th century it is home to a monastery and enchanting gardens.

Both the outward and return journey takes us past San Michele, not far from Murano, the cemetery island of Venice, famous as the last resting place for many illustrious foreigners, among them Ezra Pound, Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Diaghilev.