Glass for Princes in Murano

A mile north off Venice is the cluster of islands called Murano. We crossed in a vaporetto (water taxi) from Venice to Murano on a day that was joyously sunny. The kinds that come wrapped up in a bow only once during a few miserably cold and foggy winter days spent in Venice. When we got off the boat at Murano, the first sight that greeted me was that of a bearded local dragging a sizeable carton on wheels . He looked like a fisherman, the lines of the years marked out on his weather-beaten face.

A rustic, atmospheric introduction but what lay after was anything but unassuming. Workshops, boutiques and factories cropped up in a row, flanking the grand canal. Stepping inside them, my senses were dazzled by the rich colours of delicately designed glassware — and, may I add sheepishly, the prices.

There we were at the heart of it all – Murano thrives on the art crafted by the glass blowers of the island. They have been at it for centuries. Somewhere towards the end of the 13th century, the Doge ordered the glassmakers to move their factories to Murano. Now there is a bit of dilemma about why he did so. But it sways between two schools of thought – one that the Venetian authorities did not relish the thought of their wooden buildings exploding with the danger of fire at large, and secondly this that they did not want the craftsmen to divulge their secrets to outsiders.

The glassmakers achieved exalted status soon. They could carry swords, evade prosecution by the Venetian state, and by the late 1300s, their daughters could even be wedded into blue-blooded families. The only glitch was that the glassmakers could not leave the Republic. If a glassmaker had plans of setting up shop on lands beyond his own, it would mean two things for the fellow – he would either lose his hands (sounded to me like Shah Jahan’s edict for the workers behind the Taj Mahal had travelled far – the Mughal emperor was supposed to have had their hands lopped off so that they could not replicate the glory of his tribute to his empress), or, he would be killed by the secret police.

We had to watch one of the glassmakers at work. It is quite a touristy thing to do, yes I know, but sometimes I feel that you have got to be a tourist to the hilt. We marched into one of the factories and paid up about 8 euros each to watch a third-generation glassblower go about his job with incredible ease. Within the time that we spent gaping at him twirling a long pole, the tip of it encased in a glowing cone of fiery melted glass, he had moulded a handful of pretty pieces of coloured glass including one of a horse rearing up.

Veneto-Byzantine summer palazzos and cathedrals apart, I was taken in by the iridiscent blue sculpture at Campo Santo Stefano. It was a veritable starburst in glass. I gaped more – by which time Adi was fairly tired of sulking and being ignored while I kept staring at glass. To not have your sulk acknowledged is worse than your partner shopping on the sly. My husband shall confirm both. He does the first, I do the second. At that point of time he had made the transition to Mr. Grumps. He had not been fed gelato on time.

Off we went on a gelato hunt which concluded the visit to the island on a fairly satisfied note. Not to mention the few colourful pieces of suspended, ceiling lamps that we bought before boarding the boat to Burano.

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Baked and bearded Murano locals
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Grand Canal
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Boutiques that line the canal
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Glass blowing – at the very heart of Murano is this art.
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Inside a glassmaker’s workshop
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The focal point of this shot being the horse. 
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Emerald hues of the Grand Canal and cathedral walls looming alongside.
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Blue glass sculpture at Campo Santo Stefano, the 19th century clock-tower.

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Post mint chocolate chip gelato, all is usually well.
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Murano’s lighthouse made of Istrian stone.

How to Get There: Look out for Vaporetto 41 and 42 from Piazza San Marco in Venice. You can also stop at the cemetery island of San Michele, that lies between Venice and Murano.

Where to Buy Glass: Go with your instinct. We stopped at a shop that was quiet but the owner refused to haggle (which was a bummer) but the relief was that we did not come out with products made in China.

Where to Eat:

La Perla Ai Bisatei. An Italian eatery where I stopped for cappuccino and a spinach puff pastry that delighted my tastebuds with its flakiness. The food is supposed to be good here and the prices reasonable.

Osteria al Duomo (www.osteriaalduomo.com) is a family-run affair and known for the freshness of the locally-sourced food it serves up.

79 thoughts on “Glass for Princes in Murano

  1. So pleased that the sun shone on you in Murano! And that you didn’t get ripped off (it’s such a shame that that is an occupational hazard there but I suppose it’s basic survival and economics at some level … being an idealist it just makes me sad) . So. Divine pictures and yes, you are an A-list couple and I am happy to see hubby managed to avoid gelato in the photo this time 😉

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    1. Ha ha ha I know. I think I have given him serious thoughts about being grumpy and tucking into gelato 😉 Getting ripped off is a travel hazard usually unless you do your research beforehand and I guess reality does bite. Thank you for the wonderful words, Osyth xx

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      1. Oh bless him … I’m sure he’s a pussycat (and ice-cream eating pussycat, but a pussycat!). I enjoy your posts very much so no need for thanks 🙂 xx

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  2. Once again you images are beautiful and your words as well. I love your inclusion of the historical theories; why they may have moved to the island and the Taj Mahal bit. You keep making sure he gets his gelato so you can keep secretly shopping while he’s deciding on a flavor.

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  3. I love all the photos. I always want to go to Venice. The movie Merchant of Venice and all the romantic movies, and famous photos just make me want to see in person. I love watching glass blowing. There used to be one closed by a broadway show theater. I don’t know what happened to it! I love the lovebirds photo!

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    1. So when are you travelling to Venice? It awaits you 🙂 All of those will be satisfied at one go. The broadway theater shutting it down must have been sad because glass blowing is an hypnotic art to watch. Hugs you for the lovely comment xx

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    1. Hi there Balvinder. Welcome back 🙂 Good to see you here and thank you. It is not a bad idea to keep something for later on. I mean if we did everything at one go, what would we look forward to, eh? 🙂

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  4. I have to say that I can relate to your husband’s transition from happy tourist to Mr. Grumps. No matter how beautiful the glass, there are only so many minutes that can go by between pasta and/or gelato stops when in Italy… That said, Murano looks gorgeous. Thanks for the pictures to help jumpstart my scheming for an Italy trip. 🙂

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      1. haha! I only speak from experience, as I am the problem child in my marriage. 😉 I have unfortunately unleashed my hunger wrath on many the unsuspecting friends and family, and now I believe most everyone is prepared with a Snickers bar when they hear the first hint of a rumbling in my stomach and see my eyes turning red…

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  5. This looks and sound really amazing! I’ve been planning a trip to Italy for a long time and you made me to involve this place, too 🙂

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    1. Thank you for dropping by, Michaela. I am so glad it did. I am going to put up the last one in the instalment of the islands soon. Italy is so gorgeous. I do not know frankly which place I would choose. These is the Cinque Terre (just absolutely perfect to hike through and break it up with gelatos ;)) or Bergamo with its medieval walls, Sardinia which is quite remote… you have quite a task at hand 😉

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    1. Just walking around around Venice, the thick fog making its way in and out, the incredibly atmospheric alleys, the old palazzos, the gelato, eating at small trattorias run by nonnas and oh yes the cicchettis. It was just romantic – that beautiful old city.

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      1. “Trattorias run by nonnas” ❤️ this is such a reflection of what you are as a person. A teacher once told me that we are what we seen. Let’s say you see kindness all around, that would probably mean we are kind ourselves. This paragraph made me realize how beautiful your soul is 🙂

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      2. I will not constantly thank you and be boring. But I cannot deny that is a lovely thing to hear. You are kind and your words are but a reflection of yours too. Mine should also say this that I am a glutton and I care more for home cooked food than highly touted Michelin starred places (though life is full of dichotomy – I just visited one the other day by mistake and it was so good) xx

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      3. Maybe I am being too cheesy but I enjoy genuine kindness and common sense, which are not abundant in this blogosphere world we live in. That’s why I was surprised for the better. Keep the home cooked food at the top of the list 🙂

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  6. Ahh Murano…I have been a couple of times and we actually took the children there last summer (note, NEVER do Venice in August!). We stayed on Murano and we loved it. My favourite place was Burano though! Stunning colours. x

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    1. You stayed on Murano, so you can tell me if you enjoyed the experience… Venice in August would have been chock full. We went in December, so there was no way we would get the crowds. It was so cold that every bone in my body had to thaw for hours after we sat somewhere for coffee and wine (which was at very quick intervals of each other) yet I loved it. I loved Burano too, more than Murano. I think I also liked Torcello a fair bit.

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      1. Yes! You have inspired me to write about some of our family adventures. We went last August and it was hot, crowded, smelly but amazing! I have been in March and it was quite cold. Murano was beautiful but I can imagine that it would be quite deserted in December when the crowds have gone. x

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      2. I keep hearing about the smelly wonders of Venice in summer and may I say that I caught just a whiff of it one day as we were sauntering past the canals in winter. It had me gagging – so I cannot imagine the city smelling so in summer. It must be overwhelming (for the lack of a better word) 😉 I would love to read about your adventures in Venice. I had such a glorious time that I wrote two massive posts on it earlier on. x

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      3. OOOh Ive only just seen this as Ive published my post and mentioned you my lovely! I could reblog yours and you could reblog mine? I’m quite new to the whole blogging thing so let me know your thoughts. x

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