Sunday, October 16, 2011

Murano - where glass is art

Peering out of our shutters I see a clear blue sky. A beautiful morning in Venice.

This was definitely a two cappuccino morning. Still adjusting to Venice time.

We decided to go to the island of Murano today. Since the thirteenth century, Murano has been known for its glass works factories and design studios. Walking under the arcade that surrounds St. Mark's Square, I was approached by someone, with somewhat of an official looking badge, it was laminated, asking if we were interested in a free trip to Murano. Now, I'm no rookie traveler, and know nothing is free, but, I bit (guide books even warned not to take the free trips). He was willing to take us in a water taxi to Murano, with a free tour of one of the glass factories. Much to my Mom's chagrin, I agreed to the deal, only because the water taxi was three times faster than the local vaporetto (local water bus service). I knew we would be given a big sales pitch and expected to purchase, but, we were still in control of how much we spent — right?  Off we went to the water taxi dock, my Mom just looked at me in a way, that only a Mom can, knowing she hated the whole speedy water taxi experience, and that nothing is free.

Looking out the back of our water taxi.

Twenty minutes up to Murano, and we were greeted by Mario. Mario was your classic, tall, dark and handsome tour guide in his blue blazer, white shirt and dark trousers. So far, so good. Mario guided my Mom and I into the work area of the factory where we were given a demonstration & explanation of the how they made the glass. This factory was family apprenticed. The apprenticeship program took 8-10 years, and was passed down through the generations, with jobs assigned as to who had a better skill at what. We were shown how a piece of a chandelier goblet was made. Knowing that he would have to make several, exactly the same so that they would all fit together into the final product. He then showed us the making of a glass cat, from initial hot blob of glass & silica to final shaped cat, ready for cooling in cork for 3 days, before it went into the sale room. It really was quite fascinating to see just how fast and skilled he was. Next part of our free tour was up to the "high end" sales room which was filled with massive chandeliers and pieces of art. I was never a huge fan of the glass art before, but was converted, when I saw some of the stunning pieces in this room. I always had an appreciation as to what went in to making them, but now, truly was in awe. No sales there for Mario. Back downstairs to the "tourist room". I had fully intended to purchase a special piece of Murano glass anyway, so did not feel that this "free" tour forced my hand. I bought a stunning sugar and creamer set in multi-coloured Murano glass with a hint of gold layering, along with a 10% discount from Mario. Before bidding adieu, Mario suggested a restaurant, Trattoria al gatto nero or The black cat, in Burano, if we were still heading north on our travels. All in all, this free tour, was well worth it in my books.

Approaching the glass works factory by water taxi.
A regulation sized dock greeted us — my Mom was happy.

The making of the Murano cat.

It took all of 3 minutes from start to finish.

We took our time and strolled the canals of Murano, popping in and out of stores full of Murano glass in all shapes, sizes & budgets— jewellery, loose beads, chandeliers, vases, goblets & statues. Had a lovely gnochi with crab lunch on a dock cantilevered over the canal (Ristorante Ai Pianta Leoni). The sun was shining, I had my Murano souvenir, all was well in the world. Murano is a beautiful little island, with a mix of architecture and glass artwork on display. Walking along the canal, you would encounter a large glass statue, backed up by multifaceted ancient architecture.

Crossing one of two bridges on Murano.

My Mom, with somewhat of a glass headdress look
and tower coming out of her head.
I couldn't resist the crazy composition.
She is a good sport.

Took the vaporetto back to St. Mark's square where I parted with my Mom, as I was in search of an internet cafe. I was told it was under the Bell Tower. Then straight along to the end. Remember, I said nothing was straight here. Turn left at the church. Which one? I encountered many. After several questions, in several stores, I found my way to this dingy little internet cafe, that made the one in Kathmandu look downright cutting edge. Before leaving Toronto, we had booked a cooking/wine pairing class that I needed to check details on.

Tonight we went to a Vivaldi concert, in the birth city of Vivaldi. The orchestra Virtuois di Venezia-San Marco Chamber Orchestra performed in the prestigious Ateneo de San Basso in San Marco square. They were performing the Four Seasons, in a room with the same dimensions, that Vivaldi had composed in. It was an intimate venue, with maybe 200 people. Absolutely wonderful. The music just sang.

Strolled back under the arcade and went in to Caffe Lavena for very over priced coffee and dessert on our way home. Hey, we were paying for the ambiance, and to listen to more Vivaldi playing by the house band outside. I had a Torta de Ricotta that was to die for.

My favorite time of the day in St. Mark's Square.

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