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Marion wrote: I am a sea lover. Seems to be an interesting cruise. david martin Abrahams would love to travel on it.

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Cruising with Gondolas
Bareboat Chartering in the Venice Lagoons

Murano, the Island of Glass with a touch of Class
Mooring spaces on the island of Murano are at best limited, if only because the locals drive and use their boats as we do cars, so we chose to stay on at our marina in Venice and catch a Vaporetto for the short distance across the lagoon.  A day ticket valid for 24 hours costs €12 and can be used on almost all Vaporetto routes.  It is best to arrive on the island independently and hang back when disembarking, high pressure salesmen sponsored by the glass vendors can be difficult to shake off once they pounce on an unsuspecting visitor.  Offers of lunch and private transport back to Venice are often only forthcoming once you have paid an inflated price for glass that first saw the light of day far away.  Having said that glass is made by artisans here on the island, in a trade that grew here when the glassblowers were exiled to Murano in the 12th century, after a particularly severe fire destroyed Venice.  Tours of Glass Houses and glassblowing demonstrations can be arranged and those you pay for will be less pressurised.

Monday is always a quiet day in Italy and it is often the best day to visit this island.  Once the obligatory furnace and glassblowing tour has been completed a stroll alongside the canal side looking into the shops or a visit to the Museo del Vetro (€5.50 Open 1000-1700 each day, closed Wednesdays) is a splendid way to spend a few hours.  A city museum pass if purchased for €18 allows visits to some twelve other museums operated by the municipality including the lace museum in Burano and the Ducal Palace in St Marks Square and is well worth it if museums are your thing.  Church spotters will also enjoy the colonnaded exterior of the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato.  Alongside the canals many restaurants cater for lunch although not so many open for dinner given that most visitors to the island leave before early evening.  We had a great meal at Antica Tattoria Valmaranea (+39 041 739 313) at Navagero 31.

At first glance motoring around the lagoons looks a nightmare of impossible navigation from a distance but it does make sense as you get closer.  The water is dotted with triffid-like markers buoys, called briccola, made of three huge bare tree trunks hammered into the bottom and banded together.  These and the four poled Meda mark the safe routes across the water; some have lights whilst others have red or green marks to help, others display all three at once!.   Our voyage through the twists and turns that lead towards Burano took us three and half hours but we confess we stopped at a pleasant canal side mooring dock on the southern end of the island of San Erasmo to consume a splendid lunch of Serrano ham and local cheeses washed down with a delightful local wine which our catering crew had so cleverly purchased from a delicatessen before leaving Venice.

Burano is the most colourful of the lagoon islands; its tall and dramatically tilted church tower make it easy to spot as you approach through the dredged canals.  Fishing and lace making are the mainstays of the island and it is the later that brings in the day-trippers that fill the canal side pathways during the day.  In the early evening they depart for their hotels, leaving the island a haven of tranquility and us boat folk grateful to be travelling like snails with our homes.  Genuine lace from the island is hard to find, little wonder since most pieces take many weeks of constant labour to produce.  To watch and learn quite how difficult it really is to do visit the school of lace making and the museum that is attached to it.  We found one expert needle lacemaker, Daniela Battaiu, working outdoors in a quiet corner, a sheltered spot protected from the fierce afternoon sun.  Around the corner a fisherman was inspecting his nets ready to make his own type of lace-like repairs where necessary. If the island becomes too crowed during the day head off to Mazzorbro an island of gardens and beautiful orchids which is connected to Burano by a long wooden bridge and is seldom visited by tourists.  It offers a pleasant walking excursion that is well rewarded by a splendid view across the lagoon towards Venice.

Our next destination lay just the other side of the canal, five minutes away if not for bridges and shallow waters.  Still with only a thirty minute passage ahead we had plenty of time to buy the delicious jam filled croissants from Panifico Constantini in town and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before departing.

Torcello was established in the 5th and 6th century and flourished to where 20,000 lived on the island, today only 60 inhabitants live here permanently the island having declined in popularity as that of Venice grew.  Silt in the canals and malaria hastened the event to the point that today only one canal remains.  A visit to the Byzantine cathedral of Santa Marie Assunta and the church of Santa Fosca is highly recommended and the extra cost of an audio guide is well worth paying for as it leads one around the Roman sarcophagus of St Heliodorus, the huge Doomsday mosaics of the Last Supper and outside to sit on the marble seat said to have been the throne of Attila the Hun.  The view from the top of the campanille across the lagoon to Venice is spectacular though it is definitely a mistake to be up there at 12 noon when they ring the bells, trust me!  Full of culture it is time to fill the corporeal body and what could be better than a visit to the Locanda Cipriani rated on of the top restaurants in the areas, sadly the prices are high too.

From here the canal winds its way through marshlands that are amongst the most ecologically rich bodies of water in the Mediterranean.  The wetlands are the habitat of many species of birds and wildfowl.  The journey takes two hours.

This modern town has a large marina surrounded by apartment blocks, berthing here is easy and convenient if you want a quick stop whilst waiting for the locks that lead from the canal to the River Sile open.  The lock is closed for one and half hours each day for lunch.  From here the two and half hour journey to the base at Casier is against a weak current and the town of Casale sur Sile makes an interesting stop for lunch.  Leaving Casale the riverbanks are dotted with spectacular villas boasting waterside frontage as it passes through countryside reminiscent of that found in the UK.  Further still and the banks are littered with the rotting hulls of several Burci, shallow draught transport barges that were used extensively on this river propelled by sail, oar or towed upstream by horse or oxen relying upon the current for their return journey downstream.

Two hours of motoring after leaving the lock we reached the Connoisseur base at Casier, also home to the company’s sister fleet of the Crown Blue line, it lies hidden from the river up a spur that, unless you are expecting it, is somewhat difficult to spot.  The staff here are happy to help you disembark and will if asked organise taxis to the nearby town of Treviso which also has an airport serviced by budget airlines serving the UK.     

More Information
Travel Connoisseur bases are conveniently located within a reasonable distance from an airport.  Venice Marco Polo is served by airlines operating out of the USA. Taxis from the airport to Porto Levante take about 90 minutes and cost €90.  From Casier our taxi to the Venice airport took 40 minutes and cost € 50.

Charter Costs
Our trip took place in May when the cost of this boat was priced at €2365 for a week.  It rises to €3700 per week at the height of the season.  The only boat based extras is the cost of the fuel and this is charged at €7.90 per hour of engine time used and deducted from the fuel deposit paid at the start of the charter.  In 7 days we clocked up 26 hours of use.  A one-way supplement of €100 is charged and both base car parking and hire of bicycles must be allowed for if required.  Marina charges along the route vary greatly.  There are a few free mooring in some areas but it is only possible to stop in designated places.

About Michael and Frances Howorth
Frances & Michael Howorth have been travelling together for the last 25 years, initially working aboard cruise liners and then as crew aboard luxury private and charter yachts. Latterly their trips have been confined to joint photojournalistic assignments aboard ships and yachts. Their voyages of discovery have taken them to Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, India, and a plethora of islands in between with such diversity as to include Tristan de Cunha, St Helena, and the Maldive Islands.

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