If you’re overwhelmed by the crowds and claustrophobia of Venice in August, escape to the three islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello in the Venice lagoon and experience each of the islands’ own unique charm. Murano is famous for its glassmaking, Burano for its lace and Torcello for its once glorious past and now its tranquillity.

It is only a short hop on the Alilaguna riverboat to Murano, 1.5 kms north of Venice, but the journey there is both refreshing and exhilarating. Visit the famous glass factory of Fornace and watch centuries’ old skills transform molten glass into intricate pieces of art. Wander effortlessly along the harbour front or visit the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, which is famous for its mosaics. Stroll past the glass museum at the Palazzo Giustinian or just sit and relax by the waterfront watching the brightly painted boats glide out into the lagoon.

The next stop is the small fishing village of Burano, some 6 kms away, home to only 2800 people and famous for its lace and its small houses painted in a myriad of colours that form a backdrop to the blueness of the surrounding waters. Step inside one of the lace-making houses and see the delicate needlework create beautifully ornate fabrics renowned throughout Italy.

Finally Torcello, which is so different from the other islands and so steeped in history. Once the dominant city in the region in the 13th century with a population of 20,000 and its own bishop, it succumbed to the ravages of malaria as the swamp engulfed it. Only 20 persons live there now.

Visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and view its outstanding Byzantine mosaics or stroll through the Palazzo del’Archivo filled with Roman figurines, symbols of a bygone past. It is, however, the serenity of this place that is overwhelming. Ernest Hemingway stayed here in 1948 writing much of his novel, Across the River and Into the Trees. Catch your breath, relax and savour the stillness and tranquillity here before returning to the maelstrom of Venice across the lagoon.

This article originally appeared on Viator.com.