So what to do once you´re at Murano? Well take your wallet and your credidt card, but most of all take your sense of humor. The kitschiness of some of the glassware is hysterical and you have to wonder who buys the green hippoes and pink flamingoes on show in some of the galleries. We ended up buying a book layer and some other small stuff.
But most of all try to feel the beauty of the island itself as well. Murano is a self-enclosed world with the nice pastel buildings, canals and bridges of its larger neighbour. But at the same time wonderfully quiet and relaxing. Here we shopped for glassware, wondered the galleries and avoided the crowds in what is probably Venices' most exquisite island. So we enjoyed the sense that real life goes on here. Along the main canal were gelateria's, snack bars and backeries. Women came out of the church and men bought vegetables from a sellars boat moored on the canal.
After all that glassware the ride to Burano was very refreshing. We were overtaken by buzzling speedboats whose water splashed aboard our vessel. How fabulous it must be to live in Venice and take the speedboat out for lunch!
Sleepy Murano is the largest of islands in the lagoon. It lies about 1,5 km across from Venice and was inhabitated since Roman times. The word Murano nowadays suggests glass factories and glass blowing. In fact the development of this island in the Middle Ages is strictly connected with glass. Murano was a commercial port as far back as the 7th century and by the 10th century it had grown into a prosperous trading center with its own coins, police force and commercial aristocracy. Then, in 1291, the Venetian Republic ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano, because the glassworks represented a fire danger in Venice, whose buildings were mostly wooden at that time.
For us visiting Murano was a bit of a disappointment. The area around the Ponte Vibarini was under construction and that definately didn't make it any prettier. Besides that we wanted to visit the Museo Vetrario which is devoted to the art and history of glasswork. But we were not able to see the exquisite pieces on display, because we learned that the museum was closed on Wednesday!
Despite the fact that the Museo Vetrario was closed and the canals were under construction there still were some nice sites we wanted to visit. Murano with a similar shape to Venice, is a nine island system, connected by wooden and masonry bridges, crossing the Canal Grande (Grand Canal). And because we had time on our hands we spended more time of our visit at the island's architectural highlight, the Veneto-Byzantine Basilica di Santi Maria e Donato, with a colonnaded apse facing the canal to welcome people arriving from the sea. This is quite a distinguished fact that the back part is facing the Canal Grande, while the main part is oriented to the Orient side. The church was in origin dedicated to the Madonna and in a second moment to San Donato. It´s a Hexogonal plant facade, and a typical revennate basilica. The line of blind arches on the groundfloor is repeated on the gallery above. Between these two levels runs a series of triangles decorated with flowers and animals.
Maybe this ancient church is deceptively simple in outward appearance, but it is richly decorated inside. Inside you'll find a 12th century mosaic pavement presenting high quality ornament motive and symbolic animal figures and also the Madonna Orante image. We also learned that the foundation and its cellars go back to the 7th century and this makes it the oldest building of the entire lagoon.
Most visitors to Murano spend the whole time there wandering from one glass shop to the other. I recommend buying your souvenirs quickly - or in Venice proper, where the choice is not any narrower - which will allow you to discover leisurely an interesting working-class island with much atmosphere of its own.
Back in 1973, you could get in for free. Nowadays, a tout may extract a couple of euros from you, but it's still quite a show. The techniques are surprising: the way the handle of a pitcher gets pulled out like taffy is a true coup de théatre. Add the glow and the roar of the furnace, and you have an experience that combines the delicate and the infernal.
I went round the factories in Murano and saw the making of glass. What amazed me was their final product. They are one of the most beautiful glasses I had ever seen. The way they blew it had created masterpieces of their own. Actually once you stepped foot on Murano, there will be many anticing you to their showrooms. Take a look around and go in as many to see their artworks.
You can observe the master at work in the shops. Some glass makers set-up little shops and displayed both their products and skills. It is interesting to see how they used coloured glass and melted them into toys and jewellery. I like the ornaments of cartoon characters most.