Glassware artists on Murano, Italy, clearly know their craft
By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 29, 2015
There are a lot more people around the world who have heard of Venetian glass than those who have heard of the islands that make up Murano.
But you couldn’t have one without the other.
Most of Venice’s most famous souvenirs for the past 700 years or so have been produced on Murano.
It’s no different today. And though not all of the tourist hordes that invade Venice daily visit Murano, the dozens of shops selling glassware there suggest their numbers are large. Most visitors come via a vaporetto (water boat).
For visitors fascinated by glass blowing and the products such artisans produce, Murano is a must-see.
Those leaving the Colonna water bus stop are immediately faced with a choice: Go right to the dozens of shops along the sidewalks lining the main canal and start to empty your bank account. Or, go left and watch the glassblowers at work.
You have two options if you take this route: get a free demonstration at one factory or pay to watch at another. You might be tempted to go the free route, especially after forking over 7 euros to cross to Murano, but for 3 more euros you can get a better view at Guarnieri Vetreria Artistica, which has been producing an array of products for more than 70 years.
Lwapgan Suranga was the lone artisan at work during a recent visit. He’s been at the craft for 14 years, so he’s essentially a junior glass blower by Guarnieri standards. Others have spent at least three decades there applying their skills.
Suranga creates a glass horse and then a vase in one quick demonstration. For another show, he produces a second vase and a glass fish. He elicits some giggles and gives a few customers a fright when he makes a glass bubble explode with a loud bang.
Though Suranga makes his job look relatively easy, chandeliers lining the ceiling are evidence that some works take a lot of time — and more skill than most people will ever possess.
Some of the products make their way into the neighboring store. Others are displayed at the cluster of shops along the island’s main drag — a canal lined by sidewalks on both sides. These shops sell items produced by other factories or by their own craftsmen.
Prices range from a few euros for a fairly realistic piece of glass “candy” to thousands of euros for chandeliers and sculptures.
DIRECTIONS: Murano can be reached via a vaporetto (water bus) from numerous locations around Venice, including St. Mark’s Square and the train station. Not all lines stop at Murano. Check schedules. The shortest trip is from the Fondamente Nove stop. Start following the signs around the halfway mark while walking from the station to St. Mark’s.
TIMES: Some of the factories and shops on Murano are open year-round, though owners sometimes close for a few weeks to take vacations.
COSTS: It costs 7 euros to take a vaporetto for up to an hour in the same direction in Venice. If you’re making at least three trips, it makes more sense to buy a 24-hour ticket for 20 euros. A short demonstration at Guarnieri Vetreria Artistica costs 3 euros per person.
FOOD: There are several worthy restaurants in the western part of the Dorsoduro neighborhood of Venice. Risoteca Oniga on the Campo San Barnaba (square) is one of them. Try the salads in summer and the pasta dishes anytime. Two more along Calle Lunga San Barnaba, southwest of the square, include La Bitta and Pane e Vino Vignotto. The area can be easily reached via the Ca’ Rezzonico vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal.