Murano: Venice's Hidden Gem

Written by Vanessa February 6, 2012

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Italy, chances are that one of your travel destinations will be Venice – and for good reason.  The city is a beautiful maze of alleyways and canals, decorated with statues, shops, and, of course, so many boats.  St. Mark’s Square, which holds such landmarks as the Doges Palace and St. Mark’s Cathedral, is also a gorgeous must-see in the city.  As wonderful as Venice is, however, there is another, less-traveled destination to check out that is just a water taxi ride away: the island of Murano.

A small island about one mile from the coast of the Venice mainland, Murano is home to some of Italy’s finest blown-glass masterpieces.  Concerned about the risk of fires from their kilns, all of the glassmakers of Venice were forced to move to Murano in 1291.  Today, hundreds of glassmakers still work and live on the island, along with a few companies that produce some of the most celebrated glass in the world.

Glass chandeliers in Murano.

Glass chandeliers in Murano.

I had the pleasure of taking a water taxi to the island last weekend (which was a fun experience in itself – sort of like a gondola ride, but slightly less romantic) and was able to experience this glass paradise in person.  Walking along the cobblestone sidewalks next to boat-lined canals, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of shops selling all types of glass.  From jewelry to dishes to figurines, you can find virtually any glass souvenir you could ever want, all handmade on Murano.  The only thing is, there are so many stores selling their wares that you would be wise to shop around before making a purchase – though more shopping is never a bad thing.

The streets of Murano.

The streets of Murano.

I also had the opportunity to see this Murano glass being created in person.  For just 3 euro, I was able to watch a demonstration by a craftsman in which he created two vases, a beautiful glass fish and a horse figurine – all in a span of about 15 minutes.  With an apprenticeship that lasts around 15-20 years, though, I suppose that level of skill is to be expected.  After these pieces were made, the man woke us from our awed stupor by smashing a glass ball on the ground directly in front of us – literally ending the presentation with a bang.

A glass blowing demonstration in Murano.

Glass blowing in action.

Aside from shopping and glass-blowing demonstrations, Murano also boasts a number of quaint restaurants and coffee shops, as well as the esteemed Murano Glass Museum.  The small size of the island, along with the fact that it isn’t nearly as tourist-infested as its mainland counterpart, creates a tranquil atmosphere that will leave you feeling relaxed and content as you stroll down its sidewalks.  As much as I loved Venice, Murano was one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip – a true hidden gem.