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Glass Discussion & Research. No ID requests here please. => Murano & Italy Glass => Topic started by: Bernard C on August 27, 2004, 10:17:37 PM

Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on August 27, 2004, 10:17:37 PM
Well, Janet and I are off to Murano again in a few weeks.

Last September we went for a short break to Murano and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.   We learned more about glass in four days than we could have learned in four years at home.   And the fabulous museum kept us laughing - as I kept saying "That looks like Whitefriars", then realising that I was looking at the original that Harry Powell drew in his notebook!   I also got an impression that Walsh's management were familiar with the museum collection, and hope to look for any evidence this time.

Tourist guides and others had made us wary of glass being sold on the island, but our experience tended towards the opposite view.  Of course, if you buy from street vendors or cheap souvenir shops then you are likely to end up with rubbish, but that is the case everywhere.   On the other hand it looked as if the factory shops were all selling genuine Murano glass made by them all, as though the sales and marketing is handled by a mutual co-operative.   We certainly saw different standard chandelier components being made in different glassworks.

Does anyone know of a detailed glassworks map of the island?   And/or a full list of glassworks with details of when they are open to the public.   What glassworks are unmissable and essential viewing?   Do any operate hand presses, say for some chandelier components or the basic fan of the genuine Murano lampwork peacock (if it is all lampwork I am told it is not Murano nowadays)?

We know that we have to take our own teabags, mugs, a low wattage kettle plus adaptor, and a carton milk cooler;  all the other essentials are readily available on the island.

What else do we need to know?   What should we read before we go?   What else should we include?   Is Torcello worth the effort or is it just a tourist trap?   Can anyone recommend a good lunchtime eating place on Burano?

I would welcome any ideas and suggestions.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: David E on September 11, 2004, 10:36:37 AM
Hi Bernard,

Must admit I keep thinking about taking off to Murano myself so you'll have to share your experiences in more detail on your return: airline, hotels, eateries, etc.

Anyway, did a little digging and came across the following:

Unfortunately, neither appear to give detail on any of the glass works. Only other thing to suggest is a guide book on Venice.

Title: Airline. &c
Post by: Bernard C on September 11, 2004, 12:33:36 PM

Thanks for your interest.   The airline is Britain's favourite - EasyJet.   Who else is there?   If you get on their emailing list you will find out about all their special offers for early booking.   Last time - from Bristol, this time East Midlands.

I've got a couple of guides to Venice, which tend to treat Murano as part of a day's trip around the lagoon from Venice, so no real detail.   Our little guest house is opposite Vetreria ai Dogi, a small glassworks on Viale Bressagio, near the Faro ferry stop.   At the end of the street is Fondam Vetrai, with the three big and expensive art glass factories.   What we need are details of all the smaller glassworks.

The best map we've found so far is the fold-out map from the Insight Venice guide.

I will add more on our return.

Bernard C. 8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: KevinH on September 13, 2004, 09:02:26 PM
Hi Bernard,

The Paperweight Collectors Circle (formerly the Cambridge Paperweight Circle) had a trip to Venice / Murano in 2003. And a club member had also reported on a trip taken in 1994.

It seems that there is no particular guide that gives details of glassworks! But the club member who visited in '94 said that the locations of major glassworks in Murano (such as Ferro & Lazzarini, A.L.T. [which may be closed now?] and L.I.P.) are marked on some maps.

If you have the foresight to buy a map of Murano before boarding a water taxi from Venice, you can avoid the problem of some taxis going East and some going West and therefore having to walk the island regardless!

The general view is, however, that there is no easy way to locate which of the 100+ glassworks on Murano is worth visiting.

I do not know the exact location, but there is a small museum close to St Marks Square which had (in 2003) a display of murrhine and millefiori canes. This may be of interest to general glass lovers as well as to paperweight folk. The items were made by Mario Dei Rossi in 1990-2001 but were influenced by the work of Franchini and Moretti.

If you get tempted to buy a paperweight as a souvenir, be aware that many of the tourist shops in Venice & Murano sell Chinese weights amongst their own products - and it's not always easy to know which is which since many of the Chinese ones have "Murano" labels. I wonder if this also applies to general glassware?
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on September 14, 2004, 07:55:41 AM
Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your thoughts.   However, I think you have us the wrong way around.   We are staying on Murano, not Venice.   We did the day trip to Venice last time - St. Marks Square, a plate of pasta by the Grand Canal a few yards from the Rialto Bridge, etc.

Have no fears - we will not be buying millefiori paperweights!    These are still a total mystery to me, and probably will remain so.   I have tried my hardest to find them interesting, as I ought to be able to understand them.   I'm a lost cause in that particular field!

Which reminds me - at the Cambridge Glass Fair on Sunday I was shown a clear glass hedgehog? paperweight, less than two inches long, with a Nazeing label.

This time on Murano we will be exploring the back alleys around the south, east and north-east of the island, looking for small fornaci where we can see glassmakers showing off their amazing skills, and see their tools, moulds and other equipment.   Last time I was entranced by the Dogi brothers making millefiori tumblers and, on another occasion, frilled lampshades (with applied pincerwork and coloured rims).   A problem we found with the big glassworks is that you tend to find yourself shunted towards the glossy showrooms.

We also have to investigate the Palazzo da Mula, where they sometimes have glass exhibitions, and, only a few yards from the Faro jetty, the Stazione Sperimentaio del Vetro, which sounds interesting and which we completely missed last time.

Thanks again to everyone for their ideas ... more would be welcomed.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Our time on Murano.
Post by: Bernard C on September 26, 2004, 04:47:44 PM
My views on how to get it right on Murano.

1. Travel & Timing

As I said before, the best value air travel from the UK is EasyJet from Luton, East Midlands or Bristol.   Register with EasyJet online, watch out for their special offers, and book online.   Obviously keep clear of Italian and British public and school holidays.   I suspect that most of Murano shuts down on Sundays, so probably best to avoid Sundays if you are going for less than seven days.   As with all airlines in-flight catering is expensive, so kit yourself out with refreshments in throw away containers.   Remember to put all sharp objects in your main suitcase  - they will be confiscated from you and your hand baggage.   You will need a 1 euro coin for the baggage trolley at Marco Polo airport.   Tickets for the waterbus to Murano are available at the Tourist Information office in Arrivals, where you should also be able to obtain a reasonable street map of the islands and a waterbus timetable (get a new one as routes, times and operators change from year to year).    If you are staying on Murano then it is probably not worth investing in any form of season ticket to the waterbuses.

2. Local customs

Always remember that the locals are mostly devout Roman Catholics, and you should respect their customs.   If you wish to visit any of the many historic churches, the rule is that your shoulders, knees and everything in between is covered.   Casual shirts/blouses and slacks are fine; bare gaps are not.   I saw many tourists disobeying this simple rule, probably quite innocently.   It is a pity that they had not been adequately briefed on this.

Photography is not permitted in any of the churches, glassworks or the glass museum, so take a small notebook and sketch anything you find interesting.   It is always best to ask permission before taking any photographs on private premises, and that includes restaurants and shops.   You do not need to ask permission to take photographs at restaurant tables set out on the street in front of a restaurant, but it is good manners to ask and will be appreciated.

3. The weather

The weather is quite variable, and generally a few degrees warmer than the UK.   As you would expect it can be very humid.   We find lightweight casual clothing most suitable; even denims we find too heavy.   Our guest house provides umbrellas; I prefer this approach to wearing anything waterproof, which tends to make you perspire uncomfortably.

4. The language

Most of the specialist galleries and factory shops have a member of staff who speaks some English.    Do not expect English speakers in any of the ordinary local shops or the waterbus ticket offices.   A little common sense and a smile will get you through any language difficulties.

5. Toilets

Hotel and other tourist toilets are what you expect, although the way they keep them immaculate puts us British to shame.   The 50 cents you pay for well-signposted public WCs is worth every penny.   Toilets aimed at the locals are intriguing and rather puzzling to the novice.

6. Food

Don't expect Italians to understand English tea, after all, why should they?   If you are addicted to tea, then you will have to take the materials yourself, as I detailed above, and buy cartons of pasteurised milk on the island.   Coffee is the other way around.   Italian coffee is both a new experience and a great pleasure.   Bottled mineral water is available everywhere.

Accommodation breakfast comprises rolls and butter with jam or marmalade, fruit juice and coffee (or d-i-y tea).   The main meal of the day is the evening meal.   Best to arrive at your chosen restaurant between 7 and 8.   And if you want to be sure of a canal-side table for a romantic meal under the moonlight then book in advance.   House wines are excellent, after all Italy produces more wine than France, so it has to be good.   Venice restaurants excel at pasta, sea food and cheese, as you would expect, so it is sensible to keep to what they do best.   You may have to ask for the equipment to crack open langoustine claws.   Side salads are lovely and fresh.   Include tomato salad as Italian tomatoes are big, meaty and packed with flavour.   Sweets are delicious.   Be wary of liqueur coffee - they tend to give you half a tumbler of brandy with a thimbleful of coffee - it can leave you a bit wobbly.  Same warning applies to sg...... (lemon ice with vodka etc.).   If you get hungry during the day then a plate of pasta at one of the many restaurants will keep you going.   Fruit is readily available.

7. Shopping

In general, prices are about 5% higher at the airport than in Venice and Murano.   You can buy most provisions from the two-storey Coop supermarket halfway between the bridge over the Grand Canal and the Glass Museum.   There is an excellent little bakery at one end of the middle bridge over the Rio del Vetrai.  There is a useful general store a few yards away from the other end of this bridge, and a hardware shop stocking most essentials like replacement batteries a little further along.   Fruit and veg from a boat at the junction of the Rio del Vetrai and the Grand Canal.   All these smaller outlets close around midday.

8. Touts

I used to think that touts were a real pain, but, in fact they can be quite useful.   In general the quality of what they are promoting, whether it be a restaurant, glass warehouse or whatever, proves to be in inverse proportion to their loudness and aggressiveness.   So our favourite restaurant, the Ristorante Dalla Mora at 75 Fondamenta Manin, just next to the Rio del Vetrai, has no touts (and locals eat there - another indicator of a good eaterie).   Our favourite glassworks, Formia (Vivarini), at 138 Fondamenta Vetrai, a few yards away from the restaurant on the other side of the Rio del Vetrai, has no touts - in fact they are so laid back it can be difficult to find someone there who is willing to sell you anything!

9. Burano and Torcello

Basically tourist traps.   And the lace museum is apparently closed for renovation, so check to see when it reopens.   Burano is interesting as long as you keep away from the main tourist area in the centre.   Food is more expensive here than on Murano.   A gentle walk around the perimeter of Burano is a pleasure.   We found what must be the world's smallest SPAR supermarket tucked away in the back streets, and the fish market looks interesting if you arrive early enough.   We never found the biscuit factory!   I saw here a wonderful tourist scam.   A little old lady in her cottage doorway picking machine made lace butterflies off the paper backing and trimming off the excess threads.   Brilliant!   I bet she makes a fortune.

10. Pigeons

Please abide by the many notices and take care not to feed the pigeons, even by accident.   Throw your crumbs into the canal, where they will be recycled into fish, and ensure that all other litter is properly disposed of.


Some loose ends:

The Stazione Sperimentaio del Vetro is a modern glass research centre and unlikely to be relevant to us or be interested in our activities.   We ran out of time before checking the Palazzo da Mula, so that remains a mystery.

We found no old glass for sale on the island except for a collection of 1950s and '60s one-off sommerso pieces by Seguso with price tags to make your cheque book tremble - around the 3,000 to 4,000 euros mark!   These were in the Albarelli & Nielsen gallery at 143 Fondamenta Vetrai.

We saw new two-piece wooden moulds being delivered by boat, so they must have been made off-island.   These were identical in construction to the old oil-lamp chimney moulds that our guest house proprietor uses as plant pot stands.   I suspect that some glassworks make their own, as we saw expensive looking logs maturing at the back of some.   At Formia we saw one of these moulds set up above a water bath with a complicated foot-operated opening and cooling system in place.   Also at Formia we saw sommerso glass being made.   Nearby we saw what I think was a type of air-trap casing* in operation, where another glassblower blew a large bubble of glass about 11" or 12" in diameter, and the main glassblower then pushed his partly completed vase or whatever into the bubble.   At another glassworks we saw a 16-rib dip mould being used.   At another we saw nude female figurines being made (they do it from memory - unfortunately).   At yet another clowns.   ... and so on.

* — Update, April 8, 2005.   Probably not air-trap, but simple flashing or casing in a different colour.   See topic Bluerina revisited on the main Glass forum at,1247.0.html

The Glass Museum is closed on Wednesdays.

Some glassworks are only open by appointment - so if there is one you particularly want to see then make the arrangements before you leave home for Italy.    Remember that they are bound by stringent health and safety regulations just like any other hazardous industry, so never cross or crowd a delineating tape into a non-public area.   If you can't see what is going on come back when it is quieter.

Attitude is important.   If you expect nothing you will have a great time.   If you expect to see all aspects of glassmaking you will be badly disappointed.

We had a great time and are already planning next year's trip.

I hope these notes prove useful.   Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: RAY on September 27, 2004, 09:26:04 AM
put some photos up when you have time Bernard :)
Title: Photographs
Post by: Bernard C on September 27, 2004, 10:03:44 AM

We didn't take any photographs, this time or last year.   I don't really trust myself with a camera on Murano - I would be sorely tempted to contravene the no photographs convention.

Still photos would hardly capture the amazing skill of the glassmakers.   At Formia there were about ten glassmakers making sommerso vases.   At first you see these men apparently operating in a random and leisurely way.   It is only after you have been watching them for half an hour or an hour that you begin to realise that it all like a well-rehearsed theatre presentation.   The whole scenario starts to merge into one operation with split-second timing.   I doubt whether even a movie camera could capture the real essence of this.

You have to see it and experience it for yourself.   It is awesome and quite stunning.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on March 30, 2005, 12:39:50 PM
Hi everyone.

Our third visit to Murano is now booked — late autumn 2005.   Same guest house, same room!   Adventurous, aren't we!

Any suggestions for glassworks and anything else we must not miss?

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Leni on March 30, 2005, 02:25:32 PM
Quote from: "Bernard C"
Our third visit to Murano is now booked — late autumn 2005.   Same guest house, same room!   Adventurous, aren't we!

 :shock: Lucky, lucky you!  Would love to join you, Bernard   :(  

I adore Venice and Murano!  Trying to persuade husband we should go again   :roll:  :(  (You never know, if I succeed we might even see you there!   :wink: )

However, I am surprised at your comments re a photography ban.   :? I took extensive video footage at one of the glassworks we visited (unfortunately can't remember which it was) and have many, many photo's and also much video footage taken in the Glass Museum!  I didn't see any signs not to, and nobody approached me and told me to stop!   :shock:

Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on April 02, 2005, 08:39:12 AM

I don't know where I picked up my views on photography on Murano from.  Certainly the museum does have a ban on photography, and I did see a similar notice in one of the many churches.

Whatever, I still think it does no harm to ask before taking photographs on any private premises.

I will be taking my camera this autumn.   I hope that I will be as successful as you.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Anonymous on April 02, 2005, 09:29:41 AM
Typical of pigeons, someone says boo! and they all fly away.

Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Leni on April 02, 2005, 10:30:41 AM
Quote from: "Anonymous"
Typical of pigeons, someone says boo! and they all fly away.


Quite right too, unless they are made of glass  :lol:  

Bernard, I don't know if I just failed to see a notice in the Glass Museum saying no photography  :oops:  or if (unlikely, I'd have thought) a ban was introduced in the year you first went, which was the year after we last went!  :shock:

However, I'd be very grateful if you would check when you're next there and let us know the situation, just in case we do get to go again!  (Working on husband  :wink: )  

Or if there is anyone else reading this who has been to Murano, are they able to provide info on this subject  :?

Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Frank on April 02, 2005, 11:37:35 AM
I am often puzzled why these bans are used, if they are scared of copying that could happen as soon as they sell one. If it is to prevent technique secrets leaking out then should not allow the public in in the first place, a visiting glassmaker would learn more by watching than from photographs.

It is understandable for museum's who supplement their income by selling pictures of their pieces.
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Anne on April 02, 2005, 12:27:24 PM
Just as a thought, Frank, as they're indoors maybe it's simply because the flash can cause problems for those working? We've all been momentarily dazzled by a camera flashing in our eyes at some time. If you're dealing with hot glass there's a safety issue in there - imagine being so dazzled whilst handling hot glass and the problems that could occur?
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on April 03, 2005, 02:20:37 AM
Re the ban on photography in museums, I think I have found another explanation.

We are off to Luxor for a couple of weeks in early summer, before it gets too hot.   Reading the guidebooks, we were initially surprised by the high cost of camera and video permits for the museums, temples, and tombs.

On reflection, however, the Egyptian system of permits has the advantage of making these sites more accessible to those on moderate budgets.   I have no doubt that the scale of camera and video permit charges is very carefully calculated to maximise tourist revenue.   And why not?   We will have to be very careful about spending.   Without such permits, entrance fees would have to be set higher, and could have made the whole holiday uneconomic for us.

I am sure that in the museum world the economics of camera and video permits is established and well known.   I would not be at all surprised if the museum on Murano has a similar system.

The permit system has the double advantage of maximising revenue while enabling those on modest budgets to enjoy their holidays and still have access to all the important venues.   I wish simple economics would always produce such an excellent result.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on September 06, 2005, 08:18:49 AM
Well, doesn't a year pass quickly!   We are off to Murano again in October, this time with camera.

One little task I have set for myself is to take photocopies of the early pages of Piña's Italian Glass — Century 20, so that I can write up some captions to the Murano outdoor photographs suitable for a survival guide.   Like "Two-storey Co-op supermarket just a few yards further on in the direction of the arrow, entrance through an archway - sells real pasteurised milk and English digestive biscuits."

I would be grateful for any suggestions as to glassworks to visit, and any that only open to visitors by pre-arranged appointment.

We would particularly love to visit a mould- and/or tool-making workshop; this would almost certainly have to be by appointment.   Could anyone suggest any visitor-friendly glassworks that would be worth approaching.

Any other ideas would be welcomed.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: murano visit
Post by: chuggy on September 06, 2005, 09:36:48 PM
I would recomend a visit to the Archimede Seguso works but a word of caution these have to be arranged in advance and will usually only be arranged if strong reference is made to Archimede Seguso and not just the Seguso name in general because of the other producers such as Seguso Vetri d'Arte, Livio Seguso etc.
Fabulous though and really a must visit.
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Anne on September 06, 2005, 11:53:13 PM
Bernard, I just found this and thought of you... perhaps it's useful?  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Leni on September 07, 2005, 05:23:06 PM
Anne, that's a fantastic guide! :D  I've bookmarked it, as I *will* be going back to Murano one day soon!  I*will*! I *will*!  :x   :shock:  :oops: :roll:  

Thank you!  :D

Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Anne on September 07, 2005, 06:00:44 PM
Delighted it's useful Leni.  I'll add it to GlassLinks in the next batch of additions later as well.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Bernard C on October 11, 2005, 04:38:19 AM
Thanks everyone.   Janet and I will be in Murano this afternoon.   I've been practising with my camera, so should be able to add some useful pictures on my return.

Bernard C.  8)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Della on July 08, 2006, 07:23:48 PM
Hi everyone.  :lol:

I just thought that I would add my experience of Murano, to that of Bernards.

We were lucky enough to be given a private tour of a small glass factory, where the glass master is Andrea Tagliapietra (his glass master was Ermanno Nason). His son is working alongside him, and a very good glass artist he is too. They both permitted us to take photos of them at work and they were so fast in what they do, that some of the photos are blurred, nonetheless, I have some wonderful memories and a few lovely photos.
We wandered around Murano and stumbled upon another glass making facility, we just stood at their 'back door' and watched them at work. Amazing!
We also went to Formia, as Bernard suggested, but most of the workers had days off, so there were only 4 people at work, 1 of which was the glass master. (Italy were playing Germany the very same evening  :wink: ) It was still an amazing sight, again, they pemitted photos/videos to be made, but use of flash equipment was not allowed.

We actually stayed on Venice, and very expensive it is too. If you intend to visit/stay in Venice, then allow between E1-2 pp cover charge in most restaurants (just to have a drink too!) plus 12% service charge on top of anything you order. You should also expect to pay between E3.50-4.50 for a can of coke, if consumed in a restaurant/cafe, look at any menus before you decide. You can purchase drinks to be consumed whilst walking, from booths, these are also very expensive.
There are actually very few benches/seats provided for the public, so steps etc. have to surfice, unless you want to pay the cover charge.
The best and most inexpensive place we found for a snack, was on Murano. No cover charge either!

I also found MANY paperwights which were Chinese made, with Murano stickers on them, in the shops in Venice. Jan kindly took photos and I will post them when he has uploaded them from his camera.
When I asked the shopkeepers why this was, they all virtually came up with the same answer. Tourists want glass from Murano at cheap prices, we just give them what they want.

We had a great time, but came home quite a few euros down, especially as I couldn't resist buying a couple of Tagliapietra sculptures.

( ( ( (
 :shock: Click to enlarge :shock:  (1st photo is from the new collection and is called 'Calcedonio' glass (mimicking layers of rock). 2nd & 3rd photos are of one knot, different lighting)
Title: Visiting Murano
Post by: Anne on July 09, 2006, 02:14:27 AM
Hi Della, welcome back. :) It sounds like you had a super time. I love your sculptures - I want one too! (David E will be green as well, I'm sure.)  

Looking forward to seeing your other photos as well - especially the Chinese Murano weights. I'm sure these will prove an interesting topic for discussion given previous comments about them.