The Venetian Lagoon is a treasure chest, full of natural and cultural treasures as well as fantastic food and wine. In just over half an hour by vaporetto from Fondamenta Nuove, enjoying the landscape along the way, you get to Burano and Mazzorbo.
The former, which is an island of fishermen, has preserved its original appearances. Celebrated because of its brightly-coloured houses, it is considered the home of lace making. There are still many craftswomen there handing down this form of art, that has been admired in Europe since the 18th century, through the generations.
A walk along the small canals of Burano is the best way to understand that this is a place on a human scale. Along the Fondamenta della Pescheria it is easy to smell the fragrant aroma of bussolai, the traditional soft biscuits with a slight touch of lemon, together with that of fried fritelle made with raisins.
But any section on food has to start with the seafood osterie. Here, far from mass tourism, cooking has never changed and it is the taste and freshness of the seafood that is its winning feature. At the Gatto Nero da Ruggero, the Trattoria da Romano or in the small Al Fureghin restaurant, which is practically a bacaro.
True to the traditions of the fishermen, you can enjoy local produce such as moeche, very young crabs that are eaten fried
The island of Mazzorbo, linked to Burano by the wooden bridge that the inhabitants call Ponte Longo, is another beauty. On it, nearly hidden, rises the church of Santa Caterina, one of the oldest in the Venetian Lagoon.
Simplicity and tradition also reign at the tables of the Trattoria alla Maddalena, along the Fondamenta Santa Caterina.
This is the place to enjoy – true to the traditions of the fishermen – local produce such as moeche, very young crabs that are eaten fried.
Also worth a visit is the Vigna Murata di Venissa, a magical and unique walled vineyard where the ancient Dorona varietal has been coaxed back to life. This white grape which has existed since the 15th century, is used to produce the unusual Venissa wine, whose bottles are decorated with a very thin strip of gold, following the oldest Venetian tradition.
There are two choices for those who would enjoy food with their wine: the award-winning Ristorante Venissa with chef Francesco Brutto and the traditional Osteria Contemporanea, which is great value for money.
Venice's past is marked by independence, including in grape production. There once was a brolo, or walled vineyard, in Saint Mark's Square, and even today the monks grow grapes at the Carmelitani Scalzi Monastery.
This is Venice with a difference, one that is more personal and less crowded, where you can stroll along the canals and lose yourself gazing at the soft horizon where land and water melt together. But it is also a place to unhurriedly enjoy a cuisine that is still simple and genuine, with taste and tradition.
You really should not miss the peace and night-time atmosphere by staying over on the island, perhaps at Casa Burano, a hotel that has taken over several colourful fishermen's houses. Because when the tourists go back to Venice, and only the locals remain, it really seems as if you have stepped back in time.
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