The island of Murano is located north-east of Venice and is world-famous for its glassblowing. It is visible from the Fondamenta Nuova, from where one can also take a vaporetto to the island.
Murano island Venice, island of glassblowers
The island was probably already inhabited in Roman times. The name derives from refugees from Altino, a Roman city located a few miles north of Torcello. Many inhabitants of this town fled to Murano between the late 6th and early 7th centuries to escape the Lombard invaders. They named the island Amuranium after one of the city gates of ancient Altino.
It was thanks to a 1292 law issued by the Maggior Consiglio that glass production was moved to Murano. This was done, it was claimed, to avoid the fire hazard due to the glass furnaces. In reality, it was feared that the best glassmakers would move to other cities and thus inhibit Venice‘s economic growth. The city supposedly even hired assassins to convince the fleeing glassblowers that it was healthier to continue their work in Venice itself.
Murano consists of five smaller islands, connected by bridges. It has its own Grand Canal. Names like Rio dei Vetrai, Fondamenta Navagero and Bressagio refer to the activities that were carried out there. (Bressagio, bersaglio being the Italian word for target, was a place where people practiced shooting with arquebuses.)
Most glassblowers had their stores and factories along the Rio dei Vetrai (“Canal of the Glassblowers”). It is along this canal that the most beautiful, mostly 16th century, houses were built. In the past, it was almost impossible to walk along this canal during the glassblowers’ lunch breaks because all the workers came there to enjoy the fresh air.
Glass souvenirs are sold in almost every store on the island. In the better stores you can ask for a demonstration and then you will be taken to the workshop. This is in theory free, but a tip is expected and you can’t really refuse if you are kindly asked if you would like to have a quick look at the store. Then you can choose between the “artistic store” and the “souvenir store”. In the artistic store, where very beautiful and imaginative objects are on display, you probably don’t even dare ask the price. If you fail to buy something here, you will be taken to the souvenir store, with the more kitschy items.
Murano tourist attractions
Colonna del Bando
The Colonna del Bando is located near the Ponte del Mezo on the Rio dei Vetrai. This column is crowned by the Venetian lion, with its foreleg on an open book. Here the decrees of the Doge and other dignitaries used tob proclaimed. These were not only about glassblowing, but also about fishing and what one could or could not dump into the sea.
Palazzo Da Mula
The Palazzo Da Mula is the oldest and most impressive building along the Rio dei Vetrai. It is characterized by a Gothic façade with rose windows and a balcony that rises above the quay. There used to be many houses of rich and powerful Venetian families on the island, as they liked to spend their vacations there.
San Donà Basilica
The Santi Maria and Donato Basilica is called San Donà by the islanders themselves. This church was built in the 7th century, but its current appearance is the result of a renovation in the 11th century.
San Pietro Martire Church
The San Pietro Martire Church is the other church on the island still used for its original function. This 14th century church is graced by paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Paolo Veronese and Jacopo Tintoretto, among others. Other highlights are the apse, the niches decorated with double columns and the mosaics from the 9th century.
Museo del Vetro (Glassblowing Museum)
The Museo del Vetro covers the history of glassblowing in Murano over the centuries. There are even some perfectly preserved objects from Roman times on display. However, it is not usually possible to see glassblowers themselves at work there.
Public transportation Murano
There are seven vaporetto stops in Murano: Colonna, Faro, Navagero, Museo, Da Mula, Venier and Serenella. You can take lines 5, 41 and 42. From the airport there is a direct Alilaguna connection.