Murano is the next island over from Venice, right on the Vaporetto (water bus) stop. It’s know for its blow glass, and the blow glass factories bring in their share of tourists. At the factory, you are brought in and shown a craftsman working for a few minutes and then quickly usher you into the gift shop.
While it was beautiful, I had heard from the locals that much of what is sold on the island is not authentic blow glass, but made in China. Given that I didn’t know how to tell the two apart and it was fairly pricy, I didn’t buy any. And Venice was the first stop on my trip, so carrying around fragil glass for 10 more days through 3 more cities seemed risky at best. There is blown glass on display literally everywhere. Just walking down a back alley, we stumbled across this Chihuly – which is also not from Murano.
Aside from theses tourist traps that close by 5, going to Murano is like taking a step back in time. It’s clear that Murano is the quiter reseidential suburb of the tourist heavy Venice. There is a simplistic enchantment to this island. It feels like you are looking at a snapshot of life lived in the same way for a hundred years (replace paddle boats with motor boats). You would see someone driving their boat back from work and unloading their groceries. Someone else yelling up through the window as they park their boat. For us land dwellers, there is a real surrealism to this canal way of life. The architecture, the vibrant colors, the foot bridges all add to mystify the island.
One of my favorite memories from Murano, and what truly captures the essence of this island for me, was found walking down a random alleyway that isn’t on any tour book and could have easily been overlooked. As we were walking past, the quaint courtyard initially captured our attention. The colorful buildings that show clear signs of being lived in, the architecture so distinct to this region all add to the charm. As we were soaking in moment, a woman came into one of the window and yelled across to her neighbor and threw over a clothes line. The two ladies were just chatting (or as Italians do it, speak very loudly) as they do their daily chores. It was so wonderful to be witness to that moment, that we spent sometime watching this scene unfold like silent observers. I was transformed back to some other time that was so much more simplistic . It made me think that these people were probably living in the same homes and, more or less, in the same way as the generations before them. It was so interesting to see how life was from an era long gone. There are places where historic reenactments are done to give you a feel for how life was in the past. This wasn’t a staged performance to show us how life once was – this was life unfolding in its natural form. We were just a few lucky tourist that were able to soak in the culture of this amazing island, and through that transform ourselves to a different time.Forever this is the image of Murano that will be etched in my mind. So grateful to be able to stumble across this alleyway and experience the local life unfolding – probably the same way it has for centuries.