The fame of Murano’s name for glass making makes it a must-visit for many people visiting Venice. In fact for me, it was my love of glass that made me come on this holiday in the first place, as my story at the end will explain.
After getting off the ferry I walked along Rio dei Vetrai taking in the sights. My map here.
Eventually Rio dei Vetrai meets the Canale Lungo, the main canal running through Murano.
And running off Canale Lungo is Canale San Donato where you can find the Museo di Vetro (Museum of Glass) although sadly this was closed due to Covid when I went.
Nearby is Chiesa di Santa Maria e San Donato which has a lovely facade (click on the photos for the best view). Again closure due to Covid meant I couldn’t get to see the twelfth-century Byzantine mosaic floor inside.
In 1291, due to the fire risk that their industry represented, all the glassmakers in Venice were required to move to Murano. Over time Murano became increasingly famous as these artisans introduced new innovations and eventually the island became the main producer of glass in Europe. Today the canals are lined with glass galleries diplaying their wares, some of which are beautiful…
…while others cater for more isoteric tastes.
I’ve been obsessed with glass ever since I was little, to the point that I even considered glass blowing as a career. When that proved too problematic, I started collecting glass pieces as a hobby instead. Back in 2004 I picked up a beautiful glass Murano ashtray for next to nothing at the San Telmo antiques market in Buenos Aires (my post here) and it remained one of my most cherished possessions for many years until it went missing one day.
When I was in Buenos Aires last, in 2018, I went in to the Guevara Gallery in San Telmo to source a replacement, but they were selling Murano ashtrays for silly money, around US$800 each! When I pulled them on this they said, ‘Ah but they are Murano’. It was at that point that I decided I had to go to Murano myself to find out their true value.
Fast forward to Venice in November 2020 and I stumble upon a shop window in town displaying a beautiful antique ‘as new’ Murano ashtray with a 110€ price tag (too much for me). Knowing they would be cheaper on Murano itself, I took a photo, Googled the name of the maker and got the address of their gallery on the island.
So then I show up at the gallery, Oball Due at 55 Fondamenta Andrea Navagero, and show the photo to the old guy whose place it is. He says, ‘Ah, we stopped selling those twenty years ago’. Then his wife says, ‘Hold on, think there might be one or two’, so she goes out to the back and finds the three ashtrays pictures covered in dirt which she washes off and packs up for me.
The old guy was over the moon and kept me in the shop for a good half an hour telling me stories about the good old days. They used to sell thousands of them from the 70s till the 00s and they originally cost just a few euros. He let me have the two perfect ones for 100€ and threw in the third one for free because it was slightly chipped. I learned that chips can be polished out but for the effort involved you might as well just make a new ashtray.
So that was my sucessful hunting trip to Murano! It was a lovely experience meeting the old guy and his wife and we parted bosom buddies. I’m going back as soon as I can to see the museum and do a bit more antique hunting…