Venice’s Glass Island: Murano

In the medieval days of Venice, frequent fires caused by glass factories were a constant fear of the Doge, the Venetian leader, and the people. The tight knit buildings were comprised mainly of wood. If one caught fire, it would be easy for the fire to spread. There had to be a solution to ease that fear. The glass trade was not about to end; it was crucial to the Venetian economy. The answer….move the glass factories to the nearby island of Murano, across the lagoon.

Getting to Murano

Murano today is still renown for its glass factories. Tourists flock to it in order to watch the glass being manufactured in large show rooms and shop until they drop. On such a small island, it can be overwhelming to be among so many people. Is there a way you can minimize the crowding? Yes! Get up early and get a head start!

On my own adventure to Murano in February, I found that the majority of tourists to the island did not appear until late in the morning, close to 10 or 11 am. The best way to get to Murano is by vaporetto, or water bus. It’s operated by the ACTV and has several lines that you can catch to Murano. The important thing to do is to buy your ticket ahead of time. The tickets can add up quickly and often, the day pass can be your best value.

Most of the major tourist locations stops like San Marco, sell the tickets you can purchase with an agent. If you are planning to buy a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass, this is the only place you can buy it. Some small stops do not sell tickets. You don’t want to take a chance and boat a vaporetto without a ticket. You can receive a hefty fine! I had my own ticket checked times during my stay in Venice on 3 different routes!

The ACTV routes that go to Murano are going to be 3, 4.1, 4.2, 12 and 13. You can find the most up to date schedule here. If you are heading to Murano, I would consider catching the boat on the 4.1 or 4.2 line. It may be a little slower, but it will not be as crowded as the other lines. I found that Fondamente Nove, the last major stop before Murano, was the most crowded.

There were not any seats left after the boat was boarded here! The entire journey will take about 30 minutes. Murano has 4 stops on the island: Murnao Colonna, Murano Navagero, Murano Faro, and Murano Museo. Depending on your plan of attack, Faro or Colonna will probably be your best starting points. Murano Faro is the stop you will want to remember for later on if you are planning to visit Burano or Torcello later in the day.

If you aren’t sure what stop to get off at, the good news is that they are all within a 5 minute walk of one another. Get off at any stop and explore! You will find lots of housing, shops, restaurant and churches to see.

Things to Do in Murano

The Glass Museum of Murano is the only major museum on the island. People either love it or hate it. I liked it since I was interested by the history of glass and wanted to see a variety of samples that Venice has been well known for over the centuries. It is small compared to say the Correr Museum, but the displays and information is extremely thought out and put together. The cost to enter is 10 Euros for adults and 7.50 Euros for kids 6-14. The Museum ticket includes any special exhibits that are on display.

If you are looking for a beautiful historical church, consider visiting the Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato right by the Glass Museum. It dates back to the 7th century and is named after Murano’s two patron saints. There are many examples of mosaic art for you to enjoy inside. They do require modest dress. In summer, no bare shoulders and shorts are allowed in.

To see the rest of the island, I would recommend walking around the island and seeing what you walk past. The Grand Canal of Murano is lined with many interesting shops to see. You will probably take a couple photos of just the bridges and beautiful water shots. You will want to ensure that you have some cash if you are making a lower cost purchase at any shops. A lot of the merchants don’t accept credit cards for anything less than 20 Euros. I found that they may even give you a better price if you decide to pay cash.

The shops may have a glass display room for you to watch how they make glass. Be warned that wile the display is free, they will try very hard to sell you something from their shop. If you make a purchase, ensure you are alright carrying around the glass, that it is well wrapped and that you see the Murano glass seal on the item. A lot of the Murano glass in Venice’s more tourist heavy shops was made in China, not Murano.

If you are looking for dine, there are a lot of restaurants to choose from. I don’t have a single recommendation. They all smelled and appeared to be fairly busy by 1 pm. I didn’t dine in Murano myself as I thought the prices were a little high, but I did enjoy finding two local bakeries just off Murano’s Grand Canal and enjoyed some snacks form them. Again, they only accepted cash.

When You Finish Your Time in Murano

The island itself measure 1 square mile. You may be done with everything after a few hours. I ended up spending about 4 hours in total there. You have a few options when you are done…head toward San Marco, Burano or Torcello. If you are going back to Venice, the Cemetery of San Michele is directly across from the island. There are some notably famous people buried there if you are looking for another stop.

If you are going to Burano or Torcello, the boat can be especially crowded in the afternoon. Get there at least 20 minutes before it departs! I was there 30 minutes early and still didn’t get a seat. The ride to Burnao and Torcello takes about 30-45 minutes. I liked doing Torcello first as it is much easier to get to Burano from Torcello than Burano. Hope this gets you interested in seeing Murano. Until next time, happy travels!