Island #6 – Isola di Murano

Island #6 – Isola di Murano (or Muran in Veneziano) is the last Venetian island for a while. At first sight Murano seems to be like a smaller version of ‘Venice’ but hang around for a while and you will notice that the vibe is decidedly different – calmer, more chilled, less frenetic.  There are still people around but less scurrying, less action on the canals and the pace of life seems a bit more tranquil.  The buildings are lower and there is a sense of more space and light.

Murano is actually a collection of 7 islands joined together by bridges, each with its own individual name and identity.  With a year-round population of 4,500, Murano is one of the most populated areas of the Venetian lagoon. It doesn’t feel as though there are over 4,000 people living here though and even in winter, the majority of people around were tourists and those operating businesses catering for tourists.

Murano is all about the glass.  It has apparently been the main centre for glass making since the operation was moved from the main part of  Venice in 1291 due to the amount of disastrous fires that were continually being caused.  Today, there are several glass furnaces here on Murano and many offer free tours and exhibitions of glass-blowing which are well worth seeing.  Glass is everywhere! From expensive showrooms selling elaborate glass sculptures and the world-famous chandeliers to mass-produced souvenirs probably manufactured far away from Murano, you cannot move for glass!  There are even glass sculptures in public places – lest you forget that this is the world centre for glass making.

What I did

I have been to Murano many times before so I didn’t do the glass factories this time around.  I was so glad that it had finally stopped raining that I was happy to wander around without my umbrella and wellies!  I took the vaporetto 4.1 from San Zaccharia which takes you on an interesting route around the south eastern part of Venice’s Castello sestriere. By going this way, you get to see the Arsenal and the old shipyards, the island of La Certosa and the hospital which you wouldn’t usually see from the land side. If you put google maps on your phone it will tell you your current location and help you to know which parts of the different islands you are looking at.

If you are not a fan of boats and water, you might prefer to take the shorter route from Fondamente Nove on the north side of Venice, in Canareggio sestriere.  The vaporetto sits very low in the water (see below) and the water on a day like this was a very uninviting dark green! The vaporetto makes one stop at San Michele Cimetero on the way over. This is Venice’s cemetery island.  I haven’t counted it as i didn’t get off there but took some photos from the boat.

There are several stops on the island of Murano but it’s a small island so it doesn’t really matter where you get off. I stayed on until Navagero (the third stop after Colonna and Faro) and walked along the fondamenta (pavement) until the bridge opposite the Church of Santi Maria e Donato where I crossed over and headed to a fantastic little bar called Bar da Ice that I remembered from my last time here.  No smiles for tourists here but it’s a great place to have a coffee or a tiny glass of wine (as the locals are doing). They do a wide range of different toasted sandwiches, panini and polenta and you can sit on bar stools and watch the locals going about their business. It’s also got a nice, clean loo! No pictures because I was too embarrassed to take any! Must master the art of the secret photo!

From here I walked into the centre along the Riva Longa, passing the glass museum.  I crossed over at the main bridge towards the Church of San Pietro Martire, its red brick clock tower is visible from most central parts of Murano.  This takes you down a very pictoresque little canal past the ‘Cometa di Vetro’ the ‘Comet of Glass’ – a large and unmissable blue, glass sculpture in the little piazza directly below the clock tower. This is a busy little street full of shops selling postcards, glass paraphernalia and souvenirs and is also home to some very nice, cheap bars/restaurants with tables out on the pavement. I stopped for a couple of cicchetti (Venetian tapas) and a glass of pinot grigio blush on tap and sat outside on the pavement.

After my little sit down, I wondered through the back streets towards the Faro (lighthouse) and waited there for the vaporetto back to Venice.  A lovely little island day out!

Next island:  It’s goodbye to Venice for now. I am hoping to come back later in the year when the weather is better and visit some more islands – it’s getting addictive!  There is one more post to come about Venice which is about gondolas then I’m off to the Canaries.

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