Spending a day in Murano is ultimately an engaging getaway from Venice and its streets bustling with tourists. During the late afternoon, when colors start to soften, one may admire the city in the distance, and get a renewed sense of its eternal charm. Furthermore, Murano offers a quiet escapade into the world of traditional glass-making and is, after all, a good opportunity to discover a unique art piece to bring back home.
In the late 13th century, the Republic of Venice ordered all glass factories to move out of the city for fear of fire. However, Venetian glass makers didn’t venture far and settled on an island located about one mile away. And since then, Murano has been celebrated for the quality of its glass. Always refining their technique, glass makers invented and developed crystal, enameled glass (smalto), stone-like glass, multi-colored glass (millefiori), “milk glass” (lattimo) and used inclusions in their pieces.
Murano Glass Museum
Located in Palazzo Giustiniani, the Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro) presents its splendid collections ranging from ancient Egyptian and Roman glass to masterpieces of Murano glass, dating from the 15th to the 21st century. Antique aquamarine blue and translucent olive green goblets and pitchers bring us back to the origins. Delicate creations then follow, one after another ; some were useful, others purely decorative. Artists achieved astounding colors and shapes, for example this incredible 18th century table setting, representing a garden.
Shops are plentiful on Murano, and each one exhibiting a wide range of objects. Below are only a few ideas.
Simone Cenedese sells both classic and contemporary chandeliers, along with tasteful vases and sculptures. The shop is quite dark, thus enhancing the subtle colors of the lampshades. Delightful hues of blues, reds, oranges and greens silently shimmer around the shop, thanks to the delicate lighting.
You can admire the Comet Glass Star, a large statue also created by the Simone Cenedese workshop in 2007. Located on Campo Santo Stefano, the sapphire blue comet contrast vibrantly against the ochre of the chiesa di San Pietro Martire. The effect is even more striking at night when the Comet is lit up.
For truly unique jewelry, visit FerroVetro di Monica Cavaletto, a small gallery proposing elegant jewels and lamps. The shop owner designs all the jewelry displayed here. What she does not make herself is produced by local workshops in Murano. She doesn’t rush or pressure prospective buyers. Instead, she carefully explains how each ring, bracelet or necklace was made, which technique was employed, or how different pieces use different techniques and materials. Like many other artists on Murano, she wants to share her passion and pride for her work and her creations.
The small workshop Vetreria Guarnieri offers spectacular demonstrations of glass blowing and glass cutting techniques. Go for the show: the young child sleeping inside you will delight in watching glass evolve from a red ball just coming out of the oven to fanciful shapes. And your adult self will learn a few things about art, science and technique. This is a real workshop, hence the floor littered with glass shards. The harsh concrete on the ground contrasts with the enormous, yet graceful chandeliers of every color dangling from the ceiling. The simple act of raising the eyes transports tourists from a workshop into a fairy castle. In this magical environment, a glass master effortlessly sculpts glass and produces objects in front of astonished travelers. Although everything looks easy, there are only a hundred glass masters on Murano and apprenticeship lasts many years.
Words of Caution
Unfortunately, many items are counterfeited Murano glass. Even on Murano, be sure to ask for the certificate or a Vetro Artistico Murano trademark for recent objects. There were no certificates before 1980, and the trademark was created in 1994. Masters sign their expensive items: look for a signature. In short, do not trust “Made in Italy” or “Made in Venice” labels.
Do not use free water-taxis, that only take tourists to specific factories, where they may be harassed into overpriced purchases.
And finally, visit several stores, ask questions and compare prices in order to be better informed.
Restaurants in Murano
Versus Meridianem, Fondamenta Daniele Manin 1: enjoy seafood, pizza, amazing desserts and a notable wine list. This restaurant is located on the waterfront. While the sun plays and reflects on the lagoon, small waves lick the foot of San Michele island, and Venice stands peacefully in the background. A perfect opportunity of lazily enjoy the surrounding beauty, while sampling tasty Italian dishes.
Try Trattoria Ai Frati, for appetizing seafood, pasta and delicious tiramisu. Closed Thursdays. This is an inexpensive lunch option in Murano, in the middle of the island.
Hotels We Love
In Venice, the Cipriani Hotel offers luxurious accommodations, only a boat ride away from Piazza S. Marco. In addition to the beautiful rooms, spa, and restaurant, they suggest unusual excursions in and around Venice and its lagoon. Enjoying the sunset from the terrace, while sipping spritz is an unforgettable romantic experience.
On the Lido, the Viktoria Palace Hotel has the advantage of being close to the beach. It is also a cheaper alternative. From the Lido, travelers naturally take a boat in order to go to Venice.