Italy: Venice, Burano, Murano & the Doge meme palace

Burnao Venice Italy

I am a man of simple ambition. Some of of my life goals have been to have a Tequila in Mexico, which I’ve now done on several occasions, including in the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco, home of Tequila. Another goal was to visit the Doge’s palace in Venice wearing my Doge meme t-shirt. A trip to Venice with my teenage daughter afforded me the opportunity to do just that.

After picking my daughter up from Munich we took the train to Venice. The train from Munich to Venice makes its way through southern Germany and then  Austria. I’d initially bought some $27 airfares to fly us there, which would have been quicker, and much cheaper, but my daughter wanted a train trip and my friend Kurt said it’s one of nicest journeys around.

train Munich to venice

I paid for first class tickets. I shouldn’t have bothered, as we spent most of the journey hanging out in the dinning car. Which meant we weren’t stuck in our little cabin facing some strangers the whole journey and could instead eat goulash, drink beer (for me) and look out the window at some breathtaking scenery. The goulash was very acceptable indeed, quite exceptional for train food in fact, and the beer not too exorbitantly priced. And the views were really extraordinary.

train from Munich to Venice

Should I do the trip again I’d save the money on the first class tickets and spend the difference spending more time in the dinning car eating more goulash and drinking more beer.


We hadn’t left Munich until 11.30 I think. The trip takes around 6 1/2  hours, and we arrived in Venice around 6.30. We were staying on the island of Burano rather than in Venice itself. It’s one of the several islands in the Venetian lagoon and about an hour twenty minutes on one of the ferries. By the time we’d found the right ferry wharf, and connecting ferries – which I think we did in record time! – and actually crossed over to Burano and found our Airbnb it was around 9.30/ 10 PM.

We had very few food options at that time. Our host, who’d we’d only been texting with and never actually met, said as it was the low season, many places were closed. There was still one or two places open on Via Baldassarre Galuppi, just around he corner from us.  After a quick survey we jumped on the first restaurant we saw and ended up with a fine seafood pasta. The place was owned by some Thais. We were just in luck as they’d started closing about half an hour later. In hindsight I would have tried to book an earlier train or eat in Venice on the way over, just so we didn’t risk starving.

As it happened we were exhausted tired but relieved to have finally arrived, laughing, my daughter with a huge squid ink smile and me with some pasta and a nice glass of wine.

Burano squid ink pasta

The next day we rose to one of the most beautiful views on earth, right on one of Burano’s canals, so close you could easily stumble in if you exited the front door a little drunk. I’m hesitant to express what an amazing feeling it is to stay in a place like this lest the poor little island be swamped by tourists, but I’d still have to risk saying it was one of the most amazing places I’d ever stayed. The colours, the smell of the swampy sea, the slight chill to the early morning air, and patches of fog.

Burano venice italy

We first set about exploring Burano, weaving through back streets until we come across a little cafe serving espresso for a Euro or 1.50. You’re not likely to find a shortage of espressos anywhere in Italy I’m sure. We walked for an hour or so, taking in the buildings and the early morning quiet. I think I had the art filter on some of these photos, and my daughter may have added extra filters for her Instagram posts, but the vibrancy of colour is not too far off.


Burano blue building Italy

We headed to a tower we’d spotted in the distance which looked a little wonky.

“That looks a little wonky”, I said to my daughter as I adjusted my head to make sure I just wasn’t looking at it at a funny angle.

It turns out it is indeed wonky and Burano’s own version of the leaning tower of Pisa –  the leaning bell tower of Burano I’ll call it. As with espressos you seem to come across a lot of leaning towers in Italy. But still I have to adjust my head to confirm: “Yes, it’s leaning, not just some optical illusion.”

Burano's leaning bell tower Burano Italy

We do what feels to be a loop back through to Via Baldassarre Galuppi, down some narrow alleyways and across at least one cute canal bridge I feel, and grab a few things to throw in the backpack for the day from the Airbnb before going down to the wharf to wait for the Vaporetti ferry (number 12 I think) to go over to Venice. It’s pretty economical at around 42 Euros per person for a 3-day ticket. Though I think we opted for the single day options in the end which was slightly cheaper.

Fondamente Nove vaporetto ferry Venice to burano murano

Venice isn’t huge so we were fine landing on the little wharf along the Fondamente Nove and then walking across to the more heavily touristed part of the island along the Grand Canal, and closer to the mainland. There are several sides to an island of course, according to Google maps this looks like it’s the north side. Directly across is the Island of San Michele. Don’t ask me what’s there, seems to be some cemetery. I’ll have to explore a bit more next time. I really loved commuting by boat and island hopping.

The island of san Michelle Venice

It’s only a 20 minute or so walk across the island. And we slowly make our way doing just that, but as you get closer and closer to the Grand Canal you go from the quiet and quaint beauty of the sometimes deserted and isolated back canals, towards a tsunami of tourists, that starts with a trickle of  5 or 10 people and then doubles every corner you turn, and 5 steps you take, closer to the Grand Canal. Like some Fibonacci sequence where every step doubles the number of people, and by the time you arrive there there’s some astronomical number of people, at least more than 317811 it seems, pouring themselves into the tiny paths posing for photos, taking photos, rushing about for the 4 hours they have off of their huge freakin cruise ship that they’ve parked like big floating cities next to the little medieval city. And this is supposedly the lowish season (early October).

I barely took a photo of the area, it would have just been full of fellow tourists, not so much photo bombing, more like a good old fashioned WW2 carpet bombing where you just drop some much shit it just destroys the place. I took a time lapse movie of the area and that was even scarier, just tourist after tourist, like streams of traffic in New York honking and manoeuvring around each other close to the water’s edge, which is similarly bristling with boat based activity churning up them up of the canal. It is hell.

All of a sudden you wish yourself back on the quiet gentle side away from he maddening crowds. For whatever reason, perhaps the sheer lack or adventurous spirit on the part of most of the tourists visiting the island who only want to see the ‘highlights’ that everyone else is going to, you’re never more than a 5 minute walk away from a back alley where you don’t have to scrunch your body to shape of a pencil to go 2 steps. You probably want to have that break as well otherwise you may find yourself wanting to push tourists into the canal by accident.

And then we do just that, turn the corner rather than push tourists into the canals, and walk away a bit and find ourselves of the most romantic canals we’ve ever seen – not that Australia is famous for such things – and you can’t blame the hordes for overrunning the place as its allure is absolutely irresistible. And hell, you’re one of them tourists as well don’t forget.

venice canal italyVenice canal italy

And the more we walk the more wondrous scenes we see and we realise we never really needed to take a photo of the grand canal so spoilt by us all because there’s wonder all around the island. Around every bend, over every bridge, down every alley.

flag venice italy venice canal italy

Still, ban all the f*cking cruise ships guys! They’re f*cking up the place big time. If you want to visit such a magical place you need to make some f*cking effort and get out of your stupid boat and stay there one f*cking night at least. Otherwise, it’s no fun it Venice!

fun in Venice Italy

That rant our of my system, we head to the Jewish quarter mostly because my daughter has a fascination with Judaism at the time, which extends to her ordering kosher food on our plane trips to make sure she doesn’t have to eat pork – which she doesn’t really like anyway. We come on a Jewish holiday or celebration, I’m not sure which one, we seemed to be there a bit early for Yom Kippur which is the only special occasion I could spot around that time of year. Anyway we can’t get inside the famous synagogue I’d seen on TV that look super plain on the outside but is super cool on the inside. So we spend just a few minutes there and head back into the throng of humanity. It’s another quieter part of the island and it has a nice little square, the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo.

jewish quarter venice

My daughter’s wish list out of the way, the only other main objective I have for my trip to Venice, apart from visiting the place Roger Moore’s Jame’s bond drove a gondola from the canal and into St Mark’s Square, is to visit the Doge’s palace.  The Doge was the head honcho of Venice, his palace is located on St Mark’s Square which meant I could effectively and efficiently meet both my objectives at roughly the same time. I won’t give you a history lesson here as I don’t remember much about the real history of the Doge’s palace, but there’s lots of rooms there and a special room where some sort of council used to meet, very much like the throne room in Kings Landing in Game of Thrones, and they used to meet and discuss things there, important city-state types of things, and the Doge was kind of the leader, or Prime Minster if you like, of the place and seemed to also have had a kind of religious function like a mini pope of bishop, who also tortured people in the torturey parts of the palace, which are spread out over several floors and across secret bridges (well you can see the bridges, people know they are there, but people didn’t necessarily know what went on in there unless they were captured by the Doge) and behind secret doors, which of course we know about because we went through them, and the torturey places were of course connected to the prison cell bits, behind the nice rooms with the tapestries and pictures and statues and things in them, and the Doge also kept a fair arsenal of weaponry and armour presumably to fight other city-states or defends themselves from Ghengis Khan’s marauding horse backed armies, which, if true*, and I really don’t know as I didn’t research this but feel I’ve seen that fact somewhere, was one of the reasons they built Venice in a swamp because of its defensibility, but the important bit here is that the Doge’s Palace is super cool and I finally got a chance to get a photo in my Doge Game of Thrones t-shirt that I bought off the internet, inside the Doge’s palace!

doge game of thrones meme at doge palace venice

All other photos I had of the cool weapons and the rooms and the like have been lost, just like the rising sea levels of Venice lagoon threaten to one to lose Venice itself.

And that was what I remember of day one of my daughter and my walk around Venice, which, naturally, ended with wine, back on our little island hideaway on Burano.

wine in Burano venice italy

And my daughter pretending to drink wine.

drinking wine in Burano venice italy

On the way back to Burano we notice that while we were out the island had been taken over by day-tripping tourists, who must have been staying in Venice I presume, and who were now all heading back to Venice.

And good riddance to them I say, leave us in peace with our scampi, other seafood pizza delights and red wine.

The evening brought a few mosquitos about in our several story high Airbnb. They used to carry malaria, an annoying and deadly thing in swampy salty marshes which the Germans put to good use in Italy when the allies invaded some place south of Rome, perhaps Salerno, when they flood the area to encourage the blood-sucking little bastards to impeded the allies advance into Italy. I like history. But not so much mosquitos.

Luckily there was some bug spray available which I sprayed liberally around my little loft area.

The next day we ventured again into Venice stopping first at the island of Murano, which is on the way there, and famous for glass.

murano venice italy canal

Murano is kind of like Burano, not just in the sense that most of the letters of their name are shared, but also in the canal sense. It differs from Burano in that its building are not as brightly coloured. There are, however, plenty of glass shops about and glass blowing and it all looks very nice.

For me it was both geographically and metaphorically between Venice and Burano. I guess if you really like glass, this is going to be the place to visit. As someone who was travelling the world with only a carry-on sized suitcase which was packed to the brim, I really didn’t have much room in my life for glass at the time. Mind you it is very nice glass, and I agonised over buying a beautiful little flamingo that I though I may be able to squeeze into some nook or cranny of my bag without it smashing into pieces as we toured a few other spots of Italy and then Bangkok on the way back to Australia.

murano italy glass venice

In the end I convinced myself the flamingo wouldn’t fit and that I didn’t need to spend the money and all those sensible things that you do and then never really regret when you get home because it runs out it was probably just rubbish but that you were thinking was really nice because you’re all relaxed and on holidays. So I left the flamingo and we had a look around, walked, took a few photos and then went yeah and hopped back on the ferry to Venice.

But as soon as I hopped on board I regretted not buying that flamingo, I thought about it all the way to Venice. It was like I’d left my daughter there and needed to get back. I quickly checked that I had my daughter with me in case I had actually left her on the wharf or something as I was thinking of the flamingo.

But she was there, so I had no excuse to rush back to my flamingo, and you know I didn’t really need to. So we kept going to Venice.

As we’d pretty much seen all we could think of seeing on the island we just kind of wandered around aimlessly keeping our eyes out for anything interesting.

There was some sort of arthouse movie showing in a theatre on the less busy part of the island so we popped in to watch that for a bit. The girls who ushered us in were nice and polite, the whole place seemed nice, and we sat with the small cultured audience sitting on chairs waiting for the film to start. It was some Scottish financed thing with Scottish accents and all. It was some sort of story based on Pinocchio, or at least someone with a very big nose like Pinocchio, but kind of dressed a bit like Ali G. We’re in Italy so yeah Pinocchio dressed like Ali G is appropriate. It turns out though that this Pinocchio was obsessed with gold and his nose was all golden, and it wasn’t a nose but a golden penis, and this went on for a while, and poor old golden Pinocchio Ali G was obsessed with gold and in the process used his nose for various sexual activities, that I will leave to you imagination, but which the filmmakers didn’t leave to our imagination, so you can imagine a little awkward to be seeing with my teenage daughter. And of course his nose grew and grew with the more gold he got. We watched a bit and then sleeked out the back to the polite smiles of the ushers.

So that’s what the young people call art nowadays I thought. Had I’d been 20 years younger and childless I would have just thought I was being really cultured and sophisticated.

We zig-zagged further across the island, skirting the Grand Canal taking in various fascinating renaissance buildings away from the main thoroughfares. We came to an area where there were various art installations in what seemed to be little houses that was sponsored by some embassies. There were nice arty things hanging from ceilings, shiny art things about and art things that made you question the usual norms and your perception of art, you know the typical modern art things, but this time not involving Pinocchio and his golden nose penis.

We then next door we found a more traditional renaissance art gallery, with stuffy but pretty and interesting renaissance art and we wandered about looking at that for a bit until we’d well and truly had enough of art in all its form and time periods, and then we just wandered some more, and probably had an Italian donut, or at least I wish I had, and maybe another espresso and some cakes and the like. I don’t really remember.

You know when you’ve seen so many things in just a few days sometimes you don’t really want to remember stuff, you just want to experience it and chill and just maybe remember the highlights in years time, like I’m doing now where honestly the stand out for the day were just golden ‘I’m a real boy’ golden puppet dicks, rooms full of various art genres and that glass flamingo I left in Murano.

Yes, the glass flamingo, I knew now I needed it, or did I, I was tired, I didn’t have room for a finely crafted Murano glass flamingo that I’m literally never going to get anywhere else in the world.

We took a ferry along the grand canal, just because we hadn’t done that yet, and hopped off  and had an early dinner of pizza and gelato or some such things. And that was all nice I’m sure, I enjoyed the ferries and had even surrendered to the crowds. And then took another ferry across to where we took our Burano ferry from and left Venice again, thinking I hadn’t washed my clothes for a week now.

venice washing line italy

It was early evening as we headed past Murano, but the little glass flamingo still called me. I could hear it going ca-cow, ca-cah, or whatever flamingo sounds make. As we got closer to Murano I knew the glass shops would be closed by now, so as we pulled into the wharf to pick up a few people I just watched melancholy over the bow and then as we slowly pulled away I just lamented as to what may have been.

“I wish I’d gotten that flamingo” I said to my daughter.

“You should have gotten it”, she said.

“I know”.

We returned to our Airbnb, sent our messages, did our social media postings, watched shows on our devices and then headed to bed. We had to be up super early the next day to catch a flight to Naples.

We caught the first ferry from Burano, leaving what I hope doesn’t sound like a Pinocchio-like cliche when I say magical place. But really, it is a really magical place, even more beautiful in the pre-dawn light. And again as we passed Murano and again I lamented my decision not to buy the flamingo, which I know will taunt me till the day I die.

And we got off at our usual wharf and walked along to another wharf and take another ferry to get us across to the other side of  the island where we probably took a bus to the airport, neither I nor my daughter can remember as we were still half asleep. I do remember it is a very nice airport though, and waited for our plane to Naples, which has a really shitty airport and worse system for getting out of the airport I’ve ever come across.

And that was Venice. I know I’ll return because I have hope that one day I’ll be in a little glass shop on Murano and that I’ll see a little flamingo and this time I will have no doubt that I absolutely must have it…

early morning venice*I later find out Venice was probably not built to protect against Ghengis Khan who lived and conquered in the 1200s, whereas Venice was built much earlier but that maybe it was not too far off the truth as it was built in the swamp as protection against some other ‘barbarian’ tribes possibly the Ostrogoths, who probably also rode horsies like the Mongolians did.