Venice: Murano, Burano, San Giorgio Maggiore:

Today, I bought an all-day vaporetto (canal boat) pass and did some island hopping. (No actual hopping involved.) The islands I, rhetorically speaking, hopped to were Murano, Burano, and San Giorgio Maggiore.

Sticklers will, no doubt, point out that the main part of Venice is all island. So I should have included it in my hopping list. But, the heck with sticklers. Consider it included if you must.


A Murano canal.
A Murano canal.

Murano is famous for glass. But it’s also a lovely set of bridge-linked islands carved up by their few canals.

The buildings in Murano are, to say the least, smaller and simpler than those in Venice. But its urban islands exude their own subtle charm. Glass shops lining the main drag serve tourists.

I’m not aware of any grand structures in Murano. Although, it has at least a couple of understated churches. I didn’t go into the churches for three reasons. One, the tour book and app l consulted didn’t mention anything about them. Two, Italy overflows with grand churches. I’ve been in a number of them, so I didn’t feel the need to go into any unmentioned churches. And, three, today is Sunday. There appeared to be services happening. I didn’t know if they’d appreciate an atheist Jew poking his head in.

Glass Museum

Some Murano glass
Some Murano glass

Murano has a glass museum. I went in there. When I entered, I didn’t mention anything to the person at the museum ticket office about me being an atheist Jew. And he probably wasn’t interested one way or the other.

The museum displays a variety of artistic, functional, and artistic and functional glass creations, old and new. Placards scattered throughout the museum describe the history and process of glassmaking. Short videos also scattered throughout show glassmakers doing their work.

I think glassmaking is magic. With just their hands, mouths, and simple tools and forms, glassmakers produce beautiful pieces. Sometimes their works appear impossibly intricate.

It is probably only because of our current pandemic times, but watching the glassblowing videos, I couldn’t help thinking, “I damn well hope they sterilize those hollow rods before they stick them in their mouths.”

Some more Murano glass


A Murano canal with colourful buildings
A Murano canal with colourful buildings

Burano, another island in the Venetian lagoon, is more colourful than Murano. I mean that literally. Murano’s buildings wear mostly muted orangey-brown and grey colours. Burano’s buildings, on the other hand, sport coats of many colours.

That is not to say that Burano buildings are rainbow-coloured. Each building generally displays a single hue, except for the door and window frames, which tend to be white. It’s just that the colours come from a much broader, often vibrant palette.

Burano's leaning tower
Burano’s leaning tower

There is at least one church in Burano. A tower sits beside it. The tower leans. Burano’s leaning tower isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the famous one in Pisa. But, when it comes to the degree of its lean, Burano’s tower does not have to take a back seat to very many towers in the world that have not (yet) toppled.

Burano’s claim to fame is lace. But the streets in Burano aren’t as densely packed with lace shops as Murano’s are with glass shops. And most of the lace shops don’t sell just lace. What’s more, most of their inventories include clothing that don’t seem to have any lace.

Although, to be fair, I didn’t go into any of the shops. I based that statement on casual glances at the displays in windows and on racks out front of some shops. If I inspected the clothes I might have found some lace hidden inside. But I’m not inclined to examine clothing that closely.

Lace Museum

Another Murano canal with more colourful buildings
Another Murano canal with more colourful buildings

Burano has a lace museum. The glass museum in Murano offered a combination ticket that included both museums at a price lower than if I bought each ticket separately. I took that offer. So, having already paid for it, I had no choice but to visit the lace museum. That’s a universal law, right?

The first room in the museum is a small informal theatre with hard-bench seating. The theatre runs a short film describing the history and techniques of lacemaking. The audio narrative is in Italian, with English subtitles.

I don’t know if this is true every day and at all times of the, but the crowds were thicker in Burano than in Murano.

By “thicker” I did not mean to cast aspersions on the intelligence of the people in the crowds. I meant that the crowds were denser. Wait. That didn’t help, did it? I meant there were more people per square metre. There. That fixed it. Misunderstandings like that are how wars start. That and megalomaniacs doing megalomaniacal things. But that’s a tad off topic. Never mind.

San Giorgio Maggiore

San Giorgio Maggiore's church
San Giorgio Maggiore’s church

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore lies a short distance across the lagoon from St. Mark’s Square. A church dominates the island. The church’s bell tower (campinale) is open to the public for a fee.

Like the bell tower beside St. Mark’s, they retrofitted an elevator into the centre of the tower. On the ride up, I saw through the elevator’s glass door the remnants of a staircase. It appeared to be in rough, possibly unusable shape.

Usable or not, it didn’t matter. The level on which the elevator let me off didn’t have an entrance to the staircase. The elevator was the only way down. Consequently, I had the same “what if the elevator breaks down while I’m up here and an emergency occurs” fear as I did at the St. Mark’s tower. (By “emergency” I mean something worse than being stuck at the top of the tower for an indeterminate time with nothing to do. But that too.)

Entry to the church itself is free. In my opinion the architecture of the church is okay, but not spectacular.

A bunch of paintings hang on the walls. Most of them are by some long-dead guy named Tintoretto. (I say “some long-dead guy named Tintoretto” primarily to razz one person. You know who you are.)


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