Originally published 5 January 2017
A chilly, bright day in Murano Italy
We headed out this morning for our trip to one of the out islands around Venice, called Murano. Murano is famous world wide for it's glass and glass making, and items made there are protected by Italian law. In order to be considered genuine Murano glass, it must be made on the island.
It's still cold, and although we were promised 47 degrees today, they lied. The boat was packed going to Murano and the cabins were full. We were stuck up on deck and did our best to stay behind the wheel house where it broke the wind off of us. It did afford us a much better view of Venice that the seats in the cabin, so I guess it does have a silver lining. It was also not hazy today like it was yesterday.
Today's trip took us on a different type of vaporetto out to the islands. It's not as big as the ones in town and narrower. It also took us on a path we haven't traveled before and around a part of the island we haven't seen.
We saw parts of town that actual residents live and shop in. We went by the hospital, which I took photos of. In the states, an ambulance will pull up to the emergency room and unload a patient. Here, the ambulance boats come into a special dock and unload emergency patients. In the event of evacuation, there is a helipad on the roof.
After the hospital, we turn out in the lagoon and away from the main island of Venice. We pass Cemetery Island, or Cimitaro. A special island was built in the bay/lagoon for the burial of the dead. You can get off and wander the graveyard if you want. Normally it's the kind of thing we would normally do, but to be honest....it was just too cold.
The vaporetto to the out islands is smaller and narrower, in order to navigate rougher waters
We arrived at Murano and as we got off the Vaporetto, we ran into shop after shop selling Murano glass. We have read many warnings that a lot of the glass is not real Murano glass, but knockoffs brought in from China. It's really bad for the glassmakers here as it is directly impacting their livelihood. Technically, it is against Italian law to represent imported glass as Murano, but it happens often.
It's pretty easy to tell which it is, mainly because of price. You'll see a genuine Murano glass sculpture of something like a swan, and it's 120 euros. Then a few shops down you'll see something similar and it doesn't exactly say it's Murano glass, if you ask the shop, they may not be totally truthful. The fact that the second piece is 12 euros does raise suspicion.
We stop for Cicchetti at a little place called Bar Da Ice, and enjoy what were the best cicchetti we've had since we arrived. As I discussed previously, you go in, pick one of this and one of that from the selection behind the counter. You have them with a drink for a nice snack or a quick lunch. We love cicchetti bars!
We walk on through Murano and make a sad discovery. Nearly all of the glass factories are closed down for a lengthy Christmas holiday! You can shop and such, but watching actual glassmaking was off the table. We were told of one furnace that was open. We arrived at 12:05 and were told that they were on lunch. In stereotypical Italian fashion, they were due to return from lunch at 2:30. Or so.
We wander the town and stick our heads in and out of shops, checking things out. Some we look at and the items aren't marked Murano glass, so you know for sure it's a knockoff. We even run across a window of one of the glass factories that has a poster saying not to buy knockoff glass as it will "kill Murano".
Tosi the glass maker in his Murano shop
We continue to wander. Laurie wants a real piece of glass work to take back, but we're skeptical of so many of the places we went in. We looked in the window of one small shop and we liked the work, so we stuck our head in. We ended up spending a fair amount of time here.
Inside we met Tosi (I THINK that's his name). It was his shop and he not only ran the shop, he made every piece in it. He specialized mostly in smaller pieces easy for the tourists to buy and carry. Laurie ended up buying several.
Tosi was very friendly, and although he spoke only Italian and we speak little if any Italian, we made out fine. Laurie speaks pretty good (at least by my standards) spanish. She and Tosi talked and he told her that spanish wasn't that different from Italian and if you knew one you could understand a fair amount of the other. He and Laurie chatted in broken language for a fair while.
We knew it was real Murano glass as you could look behind the counter. The counter also served as his work bench and he had a kiln, torches, tools, and bits of glass where he had been working. He told us that after 40 years in business, he was closing for good in March. He said it had become too difficult to make a living making things with your hands anymore.
Our language skills were not good enough, but I wanted to tell him that we've seen the same thing happen in the states. People who make amazing things with their hands, having to leave the business because people didn't have the respect for hand made things that they used to.
We bid him farewell and head on our way. We feel sad that he's not going to be doing it anymore, but at the same time happy that we were able to meet him and get one of his genuine piece of Murano glass. When we arrived on the island, we had no idea how we could be sure that we would be getting a genuine item. When we left, we had no doubt. Our meeting Tosi was the highpoint of our trip to Murano.
The Venice the locals live in
We head back towards the mainland on the vaporetto. When we get to the very first stop in Venice, we get off. It was far short of where we got on, but it was a part of the city we had not seen. We wandered off between the buildings into an unknown part of the city.
This part of the city turned out to be real Venice. Few if any tourist, and stores for the locals, selling everyday things. Pharmacies, small appliance stores, grocery stores, hair salons.....this is where Venice's residents live, socialize, and go out.
We see stores that sell wine in bulk, not a tourist thing. It's table wine, direct from the vineyards and it's in big casks. You bring your own jug in and they fill it up for you to take back to your apartment. We walk down streets passing very few people, and those we do pass are folks heading home to their families. It is such a wonderful change from the throngs in the rest of Venice.
We stop at another cicchetti bar and have a few snacks. We talk to a young couple from California who are touring Europe as well. We chat for just a while then head back out in the cold. We have the owner come out of the business chasing us. It seems that I forgot to pay. I apologized profusely and he said it was no big deal that it happens all the time. I paid the man and we headed out again.
We drop our glass items by the apartment, warm up for a while, and head back out. We find of all things, a carnival. It's also in a residential section of Venice and is obviously not for the tourists. I know they won't turn the tourists down, but it's for the folks that live here.
Most of the carnival rides in the states are truck based, but these had to be brought in by boat, mainly because there are no roads. Brightly lit, playing that weird carnival music that all the rides play, and ridden by small Italian children having a fun time.
The selections at the Chicchetti bar
We head on from there and walk up another street, mostly populated by locals. We wind up having dinner in this area and dinner was quite good. While it sounds like we eat constantly, we really don't. We had a light breakfast at the apartment, cicchetti for lunch, cicchetti late afternoon, then dinner around 7 or so. The cicchetti aren't really a meal, but more of a snack. While we've eaten them often, there is not much to them.
It's cool out with the locals. They're different than us...but being around them you find out that they and their lives are not that different at all.
We call it a night. We have to pack tonight as our ride out of town is tomorrow night at 9 pm. I don't know if we'll have internet or not, but if we do, I'll post tomorrow's adventures then.
Venice Slide Show Day Four
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