For anyone visiting Venice, a trip to the city’s largest islands is practically a must.
The closest of these is Murano, which, as you approach it on the vaporetto water bus, stands against the setting of the northern lagoon, with its white lighthouse silhouetted against the sky. This is the island renowned for the art of glass blowing.
Murano became a centre for this industry towards the end of the 1200s, as the vast number of furnaces in operation at that time in Venice were becoming a real fire hazard for the houses, many of which were still made of wood, and it is also said that it was to safeguard the secrecy of this production technique, which constituted a major economic resource.
Glass making has ancient origins that date back to the Phoenicians, continuing until Roman times, and some artefacts from those periods can be seen in the Museum of Altino, now a small rural town near Venice airport, but once a large, flourishing Roman city, or in the Murano glass museum, which is certainly worth a visit to gain a comprehensive insight into the products created with this material, from the past until the present day.
The large number of shops on the island offers an infinite choice of glass objects to suit all tastes and pockets.
But only by visiting one of the working furnaces can you fully appreciate the magic of this molten mass being transformed, by the innate artistry and craftsmanship of the master glassblower, into a fine decorative object, perhaps a colourful vase, a multi-coloured ornament or the countless pieces that make up a chandelier.
In addition to the more challenging pieces, created using the furnace, there are the small objects created using the “a lume”, or lampworking, technique.
Small objects of various kinds are created using coloured glass rods that are melted and shaped with a small gas blowtorch. Its flame makes the glass easy to manipulate and combines with the skill of the artisan to produce some wonderful objects in a magnificent array of colours, which can be purchased at more affordable prices.
But the island also has a wealth of cultural history to offer, with a visit to its churches, first and foremost the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, with its beautiful mosaic floor and its apse facing the canal. The relics of Saint Donatus were brought here after the conquest of Cephalonia.
And once you have discovered all the secrets and beauty of the island, you can take a break at one of its many trattorias, restoring your energy with some delicious Venetian food.