Murano (48)

Murano, a few minutes away by vaporetto, is one of the most popular visits for tourists given its great tradition linked to the crystal and glass industry. In this miniature Venice, formed of tiny islets also joined by bridges, you will have the chance to watch demonstrations by the craftsmen who still practice the traditional technique of glass blowing. Be warned though! It will be practically impossible to return empty-handed, because the beauty of the pieces on offer is on a par with the persuasive powers of its sellers.

The deeply rooted tradition of glasswork dates back to the 13th century, when craftsmen from the city moved to this neighbouring point on the lake. In fact, in Venice the glaziers had already begun their trade three centuries earlier, and had organised themselves into corporations.

The importance this group enjoyed was so great that you could say, after having started selling their production abroad in the 14th century, that during the following two centuries Murano headed glasswork production throughout Europe, in terms of both quality and quantity.

Venetian glasswork was known around the world for its extreme delicacy, and the craftsmen employed to create it worked hard in experimenting, earning them the prestige of having invented new materials, such as enamelled glass, and of dominating with great skill the creation of complex objects, such as the chandeliers that hung from the ceilings of the most luxurious palaces.

Hard evidence of the work of these artists can be found in the Museo Vetrario, which is in the Palazzo Giustinian. Here you will not only find antiques, but will also get an idea of the evolution of the techniques and tastes over time, reaching contemporary pieces and even those manufactured by industrial methods. Among the most beautiful examples of glasswork art is the Barovier wedding goblet, dark blue and decorated with the effigy of the couple who had it made.

The founding of this Glasswork Museum is, along with the determination of some old families linked to the industry, such as the Barovier, Toso, Seguso or Salvati families, what saved this sector in the 19th century, since competition from other European production centres, such as Bohemia, had severely damaged its sustainability.

If you want to complete your trip, you can go to one of the palaces in the area, such as the Palazzo da Mula or the Palazzo Trevisan, although the visit to the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato is particularly recommendable, a real jewel to behold for its beauty as well as for being one of the oldest of the whole lagoon. They say it was founded in the 7th century by the first immigrants from the mainland and was dedicated to Mary, but around 1125 took the name of San Donato (Saint Donatus) on transporting the body of the saint here from Cefalonia.

It is a very interesting example of the union between western Romanesque and the Byzantine world. Its oriental influences can be particularly appreciated in the apse, where you will be able to see an interesting play of shapes and colours. The interior floor dates from 1141 and is characterised by its geometric forms, exotic birds and other, as yet, undeciphered figures with polychrome glasswork windows manufactured on the island. Without doubt, it is one of those architectural pieces that provide us with a glimpse of what life must have been like in the Venice of yesteryear, with this unique mixture of orient and occident.

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