Have just returned from a fantastic three weeks in Italy and Paris, France. Of course, as I noted in previous posts before I left, Venice was on the travel agenda for a six day stay.
As an aside, during one of our Venice days, we took a day trip via train (two hours) to Bologna, which was well worth it. Bologna is an undiscovered gem. Everyone was thrilled that some "sono Americanos" were visiting. If you've got the chance and the time, definitely take a look at Bologna. The covered archways are everywhere. The taller of the two Old-town towers is a 598-steps, 3-Euro, spiral staircase walk to a breathtaking view of the city and the Italian countryside. The food is phenomenal. Highly recommend the spinach tortoloni with ricotta and prosciutto at Il Ristoro delle Fate at 24/f Via Zamboni across from the University of Bologna. Also visit the food shop Specialita in Vetrina at Shopping Center 8c, which is at 8c via Ugo Bassi. Everything is within walking distance of the train station and the amazing Bologna Duomo and main campo.
For food in Venice, find and make reservations (or arrive at 6:30 p.m. when it opens - they give you until 8:00 to eat if you just pop in early enough) at Trattoria Ca D'Oro alla Vedova, which is in an alleyway off the Strada Nova. The restaurant's alleyway is directly opposite the alleyway for the Ca D'Oro vaporetto (boat bus) stop. The food is flawless and the atmosphere is like a fantastic party. Most of the tables are oversize, so you'll usually share a table with others. Great fun.
Venice is an amazing city and it was my second visit there. Of course, this is a paperweight chat board, so I'll note that last year (2004) I bought two medium size 3Fiori weights for about 46-euros each. One of the weights was bought at a shop on Murano and the other at a shop near the Rialto in Venice.
This time around, my goal was to score some superior large weights, and was I ever lucky. For starters, there are quality Murano paperweights everywhere in Venice. Many are signed 3Fiori and they are the real deal. There are also less exciting Muranos and too many Chinese pieces of junk. I was very surprised to find some shops on Murano selling Chinese garbage. The real Venetians sneer at these with the expression "No Taiwan." One woman in a tourist trap of a store on the main shopping street on Murano sold mostly Chinese glass items - with a few scattered Murano things thrown in. I felt like rocking her boat - you know us Americans - so I asked her who made a certain oversize weight she had. You've all seen the type - bright dark blue glass flower with a bug hovering over it. She said, "Murano," and I said, "no, Cinese." Meaning Chinese. She insisted it was Murano and I said that it was worthless Chinese glass. She got upset and said, "Ciao." She said "ciao" a couple of times. We left the shop and I gave her a disapproving tsk tsk look and wagged my finger at her. She was not a happy camper.
The moral? When you go to Venice and Murano, don't be afraid to disagree with the shopkeeper and don't be fooled by Chinese junk.
The good news is that there are quality Murano paperweights everywhere in Venice and on Murano and most of them are the style and type we never EVER see in the States or, as I gather, in France and the U.K. The good stuff is there for your buying and browsing pleasure.
I entered one shop and saw a large, gorgeous pastel-colored millefiori weight for 50 euros. There was no way I wasn't going to buy it. Turned out the man who made the weight was the father of the woman who ran the store. And he was THERE. It was their family's shop. That's the Buccello Renza pastel weight in the two pictures, one of Buccello holding his weight and one of the weight alone. You'll also notice a couple of miniature Buccello Renza weights in the photo - from another shop - of the cluster of paperweights. I should have bought one of them, but I had the big one from Renza himself and had tapped-out my paperweight budget for the trip.
In another shop, there were two small tables filled with Murano weights. It was an antique shop. I saw a stunning large, faceted, truly beautiful millefiori and latticino paperweight. The price was 105 euros. I eagerly looked at it and the shopkeeper came down to 80 euros. It was the only one like it in the place. Turns out it was made by Luciano Nichetto and he and wife and son run the shop. Luciano proudly posed with his paperweight - the one I bought. If you look to Luciano's right in the bottom of the photo, you'll see one of the small tables crammed with glorious Murano weights.
My third treasure was a very large millefiori weight with silhouette canes. It was in a gift shop on the main Murano canal-side street and it was 90 euros. I bought it, very pleased by it's quality. All three of the weights I purchased rival the classic French for their beauty and quality.
Italy is a terrific place and I highly recommend that Murano collectors head for Venice. There are affordable hotel rooms everywhere - we paid 110 euros a night and that included a bathroom in the room and a continental breakfast. Off-season, the rates are even cheaper. Then head into as many shops as you can on Murano and even Venice itself. Murano paperweights are easily spotted and in many cases, very fairly priced.
Labeling the pictures is tough to do with the picture hosting, or I haven't figured it out, so I'm just going to explain here. Some of the photos are of glassmakers at furnaces on Murano. Some are of glass factories. There's an overview of Murano being approached on the vaporetto (boat bus). One photo is of a shop window of a store that sells Murano in St. Mark's Square in Venice itself. Another that looks like a store next to a canal is just that, a store next to a canal on Murano. The image of the cluster of Murano weights is from a Murano shop. Buccello Renza is holding his pastel millefiori that I bought and there's a close-up of that weight in a separate photo. Luciano Nichetto is holding his faceted latticino and millefiori weight and there's also a close-up of that one. Another image shows the millefiori (with silhouette canes) weight that I also bought. There's also an image of the Trattoria Ca D'Oro alla Vedova. There's one of the view from my hotel room window. And who can resist a shot of the Grand Canal, even on a cloudy day?