The glass world of Murano, Venice

posted in: Destinations, Europe, Italy, Travel, Venice | 40

The glass world of Murano, Venice is a must see when one heads to Italy and is planning to visit Venice. These works are world famous and so is the island of Murano. Murano is a set of seven very small islands, linked by bridges, just like the rest of Venice. It lies some 1.5 km north of Venice. Everyday, ferries from almost all corners of Venice keep making to and fro tips to Murano.

Glass world of Murano
On the island of Murano

When we went to Venice, we took this one day hop on hop off trip from Venice. And as a part of this trip, we also went to see Murano. However, we got introduced to the glass world of Murano long before visiting the island itself. As soon as we stepped out of the train station in Venice after completing our 2 hours journey from Florence, and started on the main street towards our hotel, we saw several shops with lots of intricate glass works displaying in the windows. Most of these are manufactured and shipped from Murano. These include very small miniatures of animals and birds, less than an inch in size, yet with all the details of the features to large vases, dinnerwares and decorative items.

I was already intrigued by the intricacy of the work at display. And then only I had made up my mind to go visit Murano. However, when I found it was already a part of the hop on hop off trip, I was delighted and looked ahead to the next day when we were going to take this trip to Murano.

The Glass world of Murano

Although the island of Murano is very near to Venice and very much like the later. Yet it has a vibe of it’s own. Picture perfect wooden and concrete bridges, beautiful flowers, old buildings and canals are all integral part of the beautiful glass world of Murano. As we stepped out of our hop on hop off boat in Murano, immediately in the front lay a glass factory. One can take a guided tour of the factory and learn how the glass is actually moulded to create wonderful pieces of art and decoration, big and small. And as one heads on the street towards the mail town, along the wall of the factory, soon one arrives at the heart of Murano – the very symbol of the place.

Campo Santo Stefano

Glass world of Murano
The starburst sculpture of Murano

Almost 500 meters to the left of the glass factory and you arrive at the square of Campo Santo Stefano. It is best known for it’s huge glass starburst sculpture. This beautiful work of art is created out of glass and can be seen from far and wide. It attracts the eyes immediately due to it’s glossy finish and bright blue colors. I felt like it is a true symbol of the glass world of Murano.

The glass shops of Murano

As you look around, you will see glass shops all over Murano, displaying the intricate glass works. Some are much bigger showrooms that have huge collections of large glass masterpieces (How I wish I could carry one of those back home with me!). While many others are smaller shops with huge collections of very small show pieces that can be easily bought as souvenirs and carried back home with you, no matter from which part of world you are traveling. Most of these glass shops are backed by their own factories. And thus, every backyard in Murano has a glass making story to tell.

Glass world of Murano
Tiny figurines and miniatures made of glass on display in a shop

Muse De Vetro Glass Museum

This building was once upon a time the home to the bishops of Torcello. And then it became the town hall of Murano. Now, it is a museum that houses a huge collection of glass works. Some dating back in history as far as the Egyptian time. If you are truly interested in learning about the history of glass making, and the different forms that the glass work has taken over the centuries, this is one place you will not want to miss. It’s sheer collection leaves one spellbound.

The history of glass making at Murano

Murano was initially settled by the Romans. It was initially a major fishing port and also a leading producer of salt. And it even minted it’s own coins. However, in 1291, all the glassmakers of Venice were ordered to move to Murano. As glassmaking did impose some risk of fire on the city of Venice. Initially, after settling in Murano, the glassmakers started making beads and mirrors. And soon they started exporting to rest of the islands of Venice and beyond. Their popularity grew fast. And soon Murano became the leading producer of glass across Europe. So much so that they held monopoly in glass making for centuries. And they even enjoyed a lot of privileges like they were immune from prosecution by the Venetian state. So much for the talent of glass making! Hence, was born the glass world of Murano.

Glass world of Murano
Glass kitchenware made in Murano

Although Venice protected the secrets behind it’s glass making very strictly. Yet slowly some glassmakers migrated to nearby cities and started glassmaking from there. Thus slowly bringing a decline in Venetian monopoly. However, the artwork of Murano still remains one of a kind. And even today, the kind of accuracy and perfectness that is displayed in the glasswork of Murano is difficult to find elsewhere.

Other attractions in the Glass world of Murano

Apart from the glass work and glass factories that are prominent everywhere and the glass museum, Murano has several other attractions to look forward to. History is prominently present in it’s old buildings and beautiful churches. Some of the most sought after places in Murano are:

  • The Church of Santa Maria e San Donato : It is a religious edifice of Murano. It’s Byzantine Mosaic pavements are very famous. And so are the four large rib bones that are contained in the Church behind the main altar. These are believed to be the bones of a dragon. It is believed that Saint Donatus of Arezzo slay the dragons. The saint’s relics are also contained in the same church.
  • San Pietro Martire Church. This one is a Roman Catholic church in Murano. Burnt down by a fire in 1474 and then rebuilt in 1511, it has a beautiful facade, made with sheer brickwork. And the church is characterized by renaissance time arcades and columns.
  • Palazzo da Mula. It is one of the oldest standing buildings in Venice. It’s an inspiration to several works of art, particularly oil paintings. There is something about the building that catches the fascination of artists from far and wide.
Glass world of Murano
A beautiful glass vase on display in Murano

Tips on visiting the Glass world of Murano

  • Regular boats ferry between the main island of Venice and Murano. You can take one of those in the morning. And once you are done with your exploration of Murano, you can again catch one back to Venice from the same spot where you got off the boat.
  • Several organized tours are also conducted from Venice to Murano for half a day or full day. You can take one of these and get a guide with you in case you are interested to dig deeper into the history of Murano.
  • However, you should be cautious of tourist scams where you might be promised a trip to Murano for a hefty sum. Inquire about the actual boat ticket prices and about authentic tours from your hotel or where ever you are staying.
  • We took a boat hop on hop off trip of Venice which covered the island of Murano. This way, the amount of time we wanted to spend here was up to us.
  • There are plenty of refreshment shops in and around the main square where you see the blue glass starburst sculpture. You can have some snacks or a gelato from here.
  • Drinking water is readily available on the island. There are some fountains and taps on the main square as well. We filled our bottles here.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes as you will have a lot of walking around to be done.
  • Compare prices across shops if you are planning to buy something. Those near the main square are bit pricier than the interior ones.
  • Murano is relatively less crowded than the main islands of Venice. So, it feels a bit colder as well. Prepare accordingly.

Murano | Venice | Italy | Glass world of Murano | Glass works of Murano | Starburst Sculptures of Murano | Things to do in Murano

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40 Responses

  1. Murano is indeed a different world from Venice as you hop on to a boat and get there. In many respects we found Murano more colourful than Venice. I love the vibrancy of the place very much.and would love to spend more time exploring the place.

    • So true. I love colors and the burst of colors that also in glass, it was simply amazing to see that in Murano

  2. I remember seeing and marvelling at the vibrant and gorgeous glassware of Murano when I visited Venice. We visited a factory and saw the entire process and I was awed at the way they made all this delicate ware! 🙂 Love those miniature glass statues!

    • Right. Even we were so mesmerized seeing how they blow the glasses and carve them into such intricate pieces

  3. I did not specifically go to the place Murano but saw their glass blowing demo at Venice itself. That itself was quite fascinating and one can quite understand why it is so popular. I suppose the brand name commands the premium .

    • Hmm…true. And they have such skilled hands at doing it. No wonder their pieces turn out to be so amazing

  4. I’m actually on my way to Venice now. Not in a super fast train like you though! The glass world in Murano looks fascinating. I must work out this boat system and visit different islands.

    • You definitely should James. And I guess slow traveling train must be rewarding you with more time to cherish the views

  5. Oh wow, this looks amazing! I hadn’t heard of Murano before but I’ll keep it in mind if I visit Venice

  6. Murano is the Firozabad of Italy. I liked the starburst piece of art, very imaginative. One city’s loss is the entire country’s gain- I am referring to the forced relocation of the glass manufacturers of Murano. Great post.

  7. We included a short trip to Murano while in Venice and I was fascinated by the glass blowing technique. It takes such incredible skill and it can be hypnotic watching them do it. Did you buy a souvenir to take back?

    • No, we didn’t buy a glass souvenir, although I would love to take some back home next time.

  8. I found out about Murano few months ago and i was so shocked that i didn’t know about this place earlier. I was i Venice two times but next time i will visit Murano definitely.

    • Oh..it really surprises me as many of the readers said they didn’t know of Murano. Although it is very famous.

  9. One day when I get to Venice, I will definitely visit the shop selling those miniature figurines. They all look so lovely.

    • They are in-captivating and you will be mesmerized by the neatness with which each miniature is crafted, even a mosquito or a frog

  10. Venice is one of my all time favouritre destinations, so much beautiful to see, experience and do. I love your angle on the glass world of it, those are some beautiful glasses, I would definitely be interested in having such glasses at home when I have guests over. The The starburst sculpture of Murano also looks GORGEOUS! So inspiring!

  11. I had no heard of Murano. I would be absolutely mesmerising to step inside a glass world. The starburst sculpture is interesting. This place needs more promotion. I guess Murano is overshadowed by the more touristy aspects of Venice.

    • Possible Abhinav. When you go to Venice, there are some more lesser known islands like Murano which each have a speciality of their own. It’s really good to explore them

  12. I’d never hear of this place before and I’ll definitely go to Venice one day so I’ll keep it in mind!

  13. So many nice photos of Murano on Instagram and this blog post really makes us wanna go now! The starburst sculpture is so colourful and unique, quite a great piece of art! Didn’t know they were really known for glass there!

    • Oh..they have been known for their glasswork for centuries. Maybe not so much outside Europe but definitely in Europe they are one of the biggest exporters

  14. This is so beautiful. I have last seen such glass art at an artist village near Chennai called Dakshinchitra. A whole city of glass artists must have been quite a demand for venetian glasswork back in the times. The funny part is the immunity from execution. Not sure if that was a sop of the times back then.Maybe your next post should talk about the history of glassworks from what you observed in the musuem. I’d love to know the transition.

    • Sure. The immunity just showed that the glass manufacturers were so important to the community. They were a major contributor to the trade and the revenues. And also held the secret sauce to the beautiful glass manufacturing that made it a monopoly of Venice in the whole world. So, definitely they were deemed quiet influential businessmen

  15. I would be scared to move around in a place with so much gorgeous glasswork! 😀

    • Ha ha… if anything you will be captivated, not scared. But yes, we have to be careful we don’t knock off something

  16. Venice looks such a beautiful place! Thank you for the detailed tips you gave, they will come in very handy!

  17. Alexander Popkov

    These glass figures and installations are lovely. I once saw how they are produced, it is a miracle.

  18. hi ,

    long ago i had visited one of the glass factories and it was a remarkable experience with the master craftsman undertaking a practical demonstration . your article has been written and presented very well , bought back memories

    sumit

  19. The starburst sculpture is amazing! It’s great to see an alternative activity in Venice, I can’t wait to visit!

  20. Can you belive it! I have been twize in Venice but I have never visited Murano! Now more reason to visiting it! Those glass shapes are beautiful!

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