So why did I put this little part of Venice in its own category? Because it deserves it.
There are a number of little islands that surround Venice that visitors can get to via shuttle boat. Now having been in Italy a while Tyler and I are italian transportation veterans; when everyone says the shuttles run every 10 minutes that means ‘go check the schedule’. We went down the night before and saw that Sunday the schedule indeed alters, as it should. We also saw with shock and dismay the cost of getting a shuttle pass for the amount of time we needed. I won’t lie, I was dubious, we almost didn’t go! Travel guides don’t prepare for the shock!
Next morning we’re on the island all excited to go to Murano. Murano is the glass making island, world-famous for its techniques in glass blowing. Burano is a smaller island famous for its lace making.
For some reason the boat went to Burano first, Tyler and I decided ‘why not?’ and got off at Burano for a look around. Burano stole my heart. It is tiny, there is a little leaning church tower there and a number of tiny shops selling lacewares. The houses are all painted rich colours in line next to each other and no matter where you are on the island you can smell fresh water. The pace is so much slower, you notice right away the people moving unhurried and with ease, they speak slower, and for the most part don’t hound you to buy something just for looking at a window. What a nice break.
We ended up purchasing two original pieces of art from a local artist there. It was evident he loved his craft and his eye was fantastic. I really liked buying directly from the person at the easel, knowing I was funding paint and supplies instead of a middle man and merchants. It would be lovely if we had an extra day to simply have a caffe and some lunch on a blanket and watch the water traffic go by.
Murano was different, again back to that feeling of dollar signs with legs. We were able to watch a number of glass blowing exhibitions. I had to pry Tyler away from our first exhibition, his eyes full of joy and miracles. I remember my Uncle and I watching with the same joy in Sunderland as a man spun hot sand into molten glass and into art. It is a fascinating art.
In this shop I met a very interesting salesmen who immediately greeted me in english, which I find curious. To play a bit I replied back in italian ‘you know I’m english?’. He laughed and when I looked at him I could see the humour in his eyes. He spoke many languages including Mandarin. Now I know one saying in Mandarin, actually now three, but I said to him my one saying and he replied correctly. We continued to talk about languages and it was here I learned that Venetian is a language in itself. It often mistaken for a dialect to other countries but it is actually quite different. This would explain why I couldn’t catch a word the locals were saying at the newspaper stand. My research quickly shows how different the language is, as an example they have the ‘th’ sound doesn’t exist in italian. They also often drop the sounding vowel at the end of a word, eg pieno = pien, italians would never do this, they love their vowels too much to miss them! The accent is charming though, it has a hallow, lyrical quality to it that reminds me of skipping or dancing. Anyway he was a delightful gentlemen and probably the friendliest Venetian I met!
In one smaller, off the path shop we saw a man make a formed horse in about 1 minute. Not lying! He took out a hunk of hot glass, spinning it on a pipe and with a twist here and a turn there he had a horse figurine balanced on its tail and still glowing red hot in the middle. He took a piece of paper out and placed it on the figure and it quickly burned away. Incredible.
This artisan also chatted with us a bit, a little grudgingly at first but he warmed as we asked him about the economy of his work. His english was incredible and he told us all the different places he shipped glass to. In fact he has some large contracts, Bloomingdales, TJ Maxx and Winners in Canada. He spoke glowingly about his student’s work, and how he had many apprentices.
So on our way back Tyler was speaking animatedly about making his own blown glass, building a furnace in our backyard and creating a glass business, while I was thinking ‘water, food, break!’. We ended up in this little place where we paid too much for a sandwich and watched people drink Spritz at 2pm.
We had our first Spritz the night before and searching now for a source I’ve found an italian one describing its contents. Spritz is a typical Venetian apertif/drink and it comes to you as a bright as day. My peers will recall the beautiful colour of C Plus soda, this it the colour of Spritz and while your brain says ‘happy childhood memories’ after your first sip your taste buds immediately response with ‘what the hell was that?’. Spritz is a mix of white wine, Aperol, Campari and soda water, although I didn’t taste any water in mine! To translate it is a mix of three different alcohols. Aperol has a strong flavour, bitter orange and some other things. Campari is strong in flavour and alcohol content. Now I like martinis, like a gin+vermouth+olive martini so when I say ‘that drink is strong’ you can believe it. Spritz elbows up the martini in the ‘have one and you’re done’ mentality except, oh except it doesn’t taste as strong as it is. This falls into the ‘I might have one but I’m gonna keep my eye on you and decline refills from the waiter’ category. It’s also shocking because you native Venetians settle down to a Spritz or two any time of the day. I’ve only ever had one per sitting, and I can imagine there were a few tourists who have woken up with a surprise and a big head the next day!
No I didn’t buy any glass in Murano, all I could think was ‘my luck I’ll break it while it’s in my suitcase’. After talking to that one gentlemen I figure I could probably find a piece I like in Winners or elsewhere, or even online once I’m more settled in my accomodations….when and if that ever happens!
As a sober aside we did go to see the Jewish ghetto. If you have an interest in such places of war I highly recommend you read up on this little area of Venice. It is a powerful experience to say the least if you go into the plazzo with a little history of the place. The jewish culture is still very much part of this community and I would have loved to dine in this famous restaurant if it wasn’t closed for an event. We did however loiter around the outside and listen to their songs for a few minutes. Some entertainment in Venice after all!
Also yes I saw and was on the Rialto Bridge 🙂 It was pretty cool.
Why should you go to Venice?
- the basilica will change your life
- you don’t need a car
- you can’t get lost, too badly
- you can speak english
- the bridges are really cool
- the little islands are a slice of life like it was 100 years ago
- Gelato, seriously best we’ve had in italy
When should you go to Venice?
- In cooler weather, you avoid the major complaint many tourists have about the smell of the water and the hotels will be cheaper!
Saavy tips/What should you prepare for?
- The cost, look around for places that have cheaper tourism menus because food is especially dear, which adds up quickly!
- watch for dishonest merchants, places will inflate their prices and not post them, order clearly and be aware they don’t overcharge
- Leave anything with a pointed heel at home, you’ll either break your ankle or your shoes in the cobble stones.
- venere.com has super amazing deals for hotels
- Pack light, less to carry to your hotel
- Eat gelato, everyday
- Go to the basilica early in the morning, you can get a great shot of the square
- Go out early in the morning in general to see Venice 🙂
- Put some of your budget aside and go to the islands, they’re wonderful!
- If you want to buy a bobble or something you can negotiate the price with the vendors, the vendors anticipate it and mark up their prices accordingly. So smack your hands together and prepare to bargain!
Just click on any of the photos below to enlarge it and scroll through the collection!
Next on our wanderings? One of my favourite places to date, Nice, France.