WHAT TO DO IN MURANO

what to do in Murano

What to do in Murano: our guide with useful advice and suggestions

THE HISTORY OF MURANO

Murano is the largest island in Venice lagoon. The origin of the name can be attributed to the refugees from Altino who took refuge on the island in the 5th century to escape the invasion of the Huns. One of the gates of their city of origin was called, in fact, “Morianos” or “Ammurianum”.

With the passage of time Murano became an important port for trade in Adriatic Sea and an active commercial centre, there were mills, salt pans and hunting and fishing was practiced. The island always enjoyed excellent relations with Venice which granted it, until the fall of the Republic, a certain autonomy in administration and the right to mint its own coins: the “oselle”.

Visitare Murano 1

In 1291, to avoid the danger of fires, Serenissima moved numerous furnaces to this island and this is the reason for the nickname “of the fires” by which it is known. Thus it was that Murano specialized in this process which had an enormous development, so much so that in a short time the island became the most important center of glass production.

In the past, the island was not only famous for glass making. In the eighteenth century Murano was renowned for its nightlife, animated by numerous redoubts: it is said of real rows of gondolas, full of Venetian nobles, sailing on the waters of the lagoon to reach the island. It is no coincidence that right here in Murano Giacomo Casanova consummated his gallant adventure with the mysterious nun M.M.

MURANO GLASS

So far it has not been possible to establish precisely when the glass industry began in Venice. One hypothesis links its origins to the transfer, to the islands of the estuary, of Venetians who had lived in the Roman centers on the Adriatic coast and who had learned the Roman techniques of glass processing there.

A document dating back to 982 attests that a certain Domenico had carried out the activity of “fiolario”, that is, the production of blown hollow glass, in particular bottles, precisely “fiole”. The only evidence of the primitive phase of Venetian glass consists of the remains of a furnace during excavations carried out especially in “Piazza” of Torcello and the fragments found from the underground of Murano and from the waters of the lagoon.

The art of glass received a great boost in the 12th-14th centuries, thanks to contacts with the Levant, in particular with Syria, Egypt and the territories of the Eastern Roman Empire. From the 13th century onwards, glassmakers organized themselves with a statute containing the rules for carrying out the activity.

Cosa vedere a Murano lavorazione del vetroTo find out more about the history of the Murano glass industry, you can visit the Glass Museum, housed in a building with typical Floral Gothic shapes. It was born in 1861 on the initiative of Antonio Colleoni, the then mayor of Murano and the abbot Vincenzo Zanetti, an expert in glass art. Thanks to numerous donations of ancient and contemporary glass from the Murano furnaces, the museum began to enrich its collections. To support their activity, Abbot Zanetti founded a school in 1862 where glassmakers studied drawings and glass from the past. Over time, purchases and donations continued to increase the collections, so much so that today the museum houses a great variety of objects: vases, chandeliers, glasses and much more.

WHAT TO SEE IN MURANO

SANTA MARIA E DONATO CHURCH

The church, built in the 7th century, was initially dedicated to Mary, but in 1125 the body of San Donato, a warrior saint who had killed a dragon, was brought here from the island of Kefalonia. Thus the religious building was also dedicated to this saint. We still find it today depicted in one of the two ancient pillars dating back to the 1st-2nd century AD located on the sides of the entrance. The remains of San Donato are kept inside a slender urn in the main altar. Near those of the saint there are other bones brought from Kefalonia. They were said to belong to the dragon but in reality they belong to a whale.

In front of the entrance door, above the arches of the columns, stands the so-called “Bottazzo di Sant’Albano”. It is said that this small bottle, originally kept in the church of Burano together with the relics of the saint, was miraculously filled with the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist. But when, in 1543, the small barrel was brought here by the Murano people, the miracle was never repeated.

Inside, the church is divided into three naves thanks to Greek marble columns, whose capitals are all slightly different from each other. The floor is entirely covered with a Byzantine mosaic decorated with beautiful geometric figures and various animals. Each has a symbolic meaning: the eagle represents power, the fox represents cunning, the peacock represents immortality.

The apse is richly decorated with niches, columns, parapets and capitals in Istrian stone adorned with triangles, animals, flowers and crosses. Madonna, with a blue cloak, stands out against a large golden background.

Cosa vedere a Murano chiesa santa maria e donatoPALAZZO GIUSTINIAN

This palace, in 1680, became the residence of the bishop, who previously lived in Torcello. Since 1861 it has hosted the Glass Museum, created to house all the testimonies of this ancient art, from Roman times to the present day.

PALAZZO DA MULA

Palazzo da Mula was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. It is decorated with a Gothic four-light window, some panels with depictions of animals and, above in a niche, the image of Mary. In the past this building was holiday home of the noble Da Mula family who lived in Venice. Between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, the island of Murano was, in fact, a renowned holiday destination, a place where Venetian nobles built their “second homes” with enchanting vegetable gardens, vineyards, orchards and gardens. During the 19th century numerous buildings were demolished and the mainland was preferred as a holiday resort.

FONDAMENTA DEI VETRAI

Walking along the Manin foundation, you can observe the houses of Obizzi and Sodeci with the portico overlooking the water. They are typical glassworks-houses, characteristic medieval homes, with two overlapping and clearly distinct parts: the owner of the glassworks lived in the upper one, while the lower part was occupied by the furnace, the shop and the warehouses.

Visitare Murano fondamenta ManinWHAT TO DO IN MURANO

You cannot visit Murano without discovering the history of glass art, which has made this island famous throughout the world. In addition to visiting Glass Museum, we recommend entering one of the numerous glass shops and factories that you come across while walking along the two main canals and, why not, having the production process explained by the master glassmakers. This is a tradition that is handed down from father to son, so there are many tricks and secrets to be revealed.

In addition to glass, another art awaits you in Murano, the culinary one. A specialty not to be missed is moeche a la Muranese. It is precisely in the Murano lagoon that the best moeche, or moulting crabs, are found. So why not take advantage of the opportunity to try this truly delicious dish?

Cosa vedere a Murano case colorateWHAT TO VISIT NEAR MURANO

SANT’ERASMO ISLAND

Sant’Erasmo Island has always had an agricultural vocation, so much so that it is known as the “Garden of Venice”. Among the excellent products produced on this island we find the violet artichoke of Sant’Erasmo and salt marsh honey, both protected by Slow Food. Among the expanses of fields, vegetable gardens, orchards and vineyards, Massimiliana Tower stands out imposingly, a fortress built by the Austrians between 1843 and 1844. An oasis of peace to visit on foot or by bicycle.

LIO PICCOLO

To immerse yourself in the daily life of lagoon life and discover unique landscapes, suspended between the water and the sky, we suggest visiting the picturesque rural village of Lio Piccolo, not far from the beaches of Cavallino Treporti and Jesolo.
This location, inhabited since the Roman imperial era and subsequently abandoned due to worsening environmental conditions, received a great boost in the 18th century when the noble Boldù family settled here, who built the current Santa Maria della Neve Church and he restored the seventeenth-century building overlooking the square, Palazzo Boldù. Towards the middle of the last century, another phase of decline began for this village.

Entering the streets that wind through the waters, you can observe traditional lagoon activities linked to fishing and some agricultural crops such as castraùre, the first shoot of the purple artichoke, and jujubes.

LIO MAGGIORE

Another place not to be missed is Lio Maggiore. Here too it is possible to immerse yourself in a real cross-section of life in the lagoon and learn about the activities linked to fishing and fish farming. Near Lio Maggiore, there are the remains of Torre Caligo, an ancient fortress built by the Venetians to control the confluence of the canal of the same name into the Sile-Piave Vecchia.

If you want to know more read our article: Best day trips from Venice

Always remember to bring sustainability in your suitcase, respect the environment and the community that hosts you!

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