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Flashback Friday: Marvellous Murano

I love travelling to Italy and have enjoyed travelling there many times over the years. I've travelled solo, with ATB#1 Mady, and twice with large groups of high school band students. For me, a tour of Italy would not be complete without a visit to Venice, and a daytrip over to the lovely island of Murano.

The island is renowned for its beautiful glassworks. Visitors can enjoy a visit to the Museo del Vetro, displays of glass making, and the many little shops. Similar to Venice, Murano is a collection of smaller islands linked by pedestrian bridges. Although it is the most popular day trip from Venice, it is much less crowded and seems to catch a little more breeze, however the vaporettos can get very crowded... Pro-tip: on a hot day, secure an outside seat.

There are many glass-blowing factories on the island. Some offer a more authentic experience than others, with master craftspeople demonstrating complex skills. Others offer a schedule of basic demonstrations designed for quick visits by large tourist groups, followed by a strong push to the gift store and determined hard-sell techniques.

All of the workshops near the vaporetto stops are retail demonstrators, rather than glass blowing artisan factories. To see a more authentic demonstration, visit the Vetreria Murano Arte, located about 5 minutes walk along the embankment. The workshops are also very interesting, but be aware that most are retail establishments rather than demonstration workshops.

Glass Blowing is a fascinating process that evolved over the centuries into a major art form. There are hundreds of workshops and small factories on Murano island, most being family businesses where one or more maestros work with hot glass, assisted by a few helpers.

Glass masters usually begin working in a family furnace as children and work alongside an experienced maestro to learn the skills and secrets. Talented blowers develop their own manner and artistic style, eventually earning the maestro title. It's a fascinating process to watch, enjoyed by everyone. The glass-blowing demonstrations were among the highlights for the teens on the band trips.

There are many grades of quality of Murano glass from true works of arts to cheap tourist glass (which is still very pretty), with prices that range similarly. The further you get from the dock, the greater selection of quality and designs are available. Look for the QR code from the Murano Glass Consortium to confirm it is authentic. Try not to be tempted to buy at the first shop you visit and consider the feasibility of travelling with your purchase for the rest of your trip. Pro tip: No matter how well the shop promises to wrap your purchase, if it has protruding parts, it will very likely break in your suitcase. Even after warnings, my students often arrived home with glass shards in their luggage.

Have you been to Murano? Did you buy some glass? Do you have some tips to share?


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