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Walking Through the Island of Murano, Home to Murano Glass

Immerse yourself in the enchanting island of Murano, Veneto, where centuries-old craftsmanship and breathtaking artistry come alive in the form of exquisite Murano glass. The best part? It's a short ferry ride from Venice.
A wide view of a canal lined on either side with gondolas and, just beyond them, buildings. It is sunset.
A view of one of Murano's beautiful gondola-lined canals. Photo by Emily Fata.

There is an island in Italy’s region of Veneto where centuries-old craftsmanship meets breathtaking artistry, and nearly every street sounds with the clinking of glass being crafted. This is Murano, situated on the Venetian Lagoon, where the vibrant colours of handmade masterpieces catch your eye at every turn and—for the most part—can be carefully taken home at a reasonable price point.


On this island, the air hums with creativity, and history is shaped by fire and skill. Whether you're a seasoned traveller or an artist looking for creative new experiences, Murano offers an unforgettable journey through tradition, beauty, and innovation.


Trust me when I say that this isn’t your average tourist trap. This is a must-see place when making your way to Venice and is easily accessible via Venice’s public ferries.



Murano Glass as a Legacy Forged in Fire


Gondolas are docked along a canal. In the background is the island's bell tower.
Gondolas along the canal. Photo by Emily Fata.

Murano's reputation as a world-renowned centre for glassmaking stretches back over a millennium. This isn't just any glass—it's a testament to the skill and dedication of artisans who have honed their craft through generations. While other cities in Italy might try to pass off glass pieces as coming from Murano, tourists should always be wary; you can really only be absolutely certain when it’s purchased here (or comes from an official, certified seller).


The history of glassmaking in Murano is as rich and intricate as the pieces it produces. The art form's origins on the island date back to 1291, when the Venetian Republic, fearing the risk of fire from the furnaces, ordered glassmakers to move their operations to a separate, nearby island: Murano. This strategic move not only safeguarded Venice's predominantly wooden buildings, but also created an enclave of unrivalled glassmaking expertise.


Over the centuries, Murano's glassmakers developed groundbreaking techniques such as crystalline glass, enamelled glass, and multicoloured glass (called millefiori), solidifying their reputation as the finest in the world. The island became a hub of innovation, with its secrets closely guarded to maintain its competitive edge. Today, Murano's glass artisans blend tradition with modernity, crafting pieces that reflect their storied past and contemporary artistic expression.


A Treasure Trove of Studios and Showrooms


Colourful intertwined swirls of glass hanging in a row on a wall.
A colourful glass 'curtain.' Photo by Emily Fata.

Walking through Murano feels like stepping into a living museum, where each corner reveals a new wonder. The island is dotted with numerous studios and showrooms, each showcasing its resident artists' unique styles and techniques. Because we arrived later in the evening, many shops were closing for the day, and I was hard-pressed to find somewhere open and with a decent variety of items to choose from.


Thankfully, I was able to find a few little boutiques that were open an hour or so later than the rest, who kindly helped me find whatever I was looking for. For some souvenirs, I picked up little animals forged of delicate, colourful glass, while others got the initial of their name in the millefiori design as a necklace pendant. There are also plenty of other options to choose from—options I was nervous about packing carefully enough for three more plane trips where they were bound to crack or shatter—so I left items like vases or small sculptures on their respective shelves.


A close up of the top of a church façade. There is a stone angel and a cross. In the back are blue skies.
The top of a local church. Photo by Emily Fata.

The renowned Museo del Vetro (the Glass Museum) also houses an extensive collection of historic glass pieces; though, none that you can take home from their pedestals. Here, you can trace the evolution of Murano glass from ancient Roman times to contemporary works of art. The museum's exhibits are a testament to the island's enduring legacy and role in the global history of glassmaking. Plus, if you post your pictures, it’s a great way to seem cultured on Instagram. Consider this a Wanderous Affair travel hack…you’re welcome.


Experiencing Venice Glass Week


When I visited Murano last September, it was the tail end of Venice Glass Week and the island was buzzing with locals and tourists alike. One of the highlights was La Bocca del Fuoco (the Mouth of Fire), an event that opened the doors of many glassmaking studios to the public. Some sort of run was happening simultaneously (I think it was not directly related?), with people of all ages making their way along the canals in matching shirts. We followed along, realizing quickly that their ‘run’ was punctuated by a bunch of glass studios that were open to everyone.


A clear glass bead with white and blue polka dots and a green bead with blue polka dots in an open palm.
Two Murano glass beads.

As we casually walked alongside the throngs of racers and entered the different buildings (where, of course, the runners came to a stop), we watched in awe as artisans shaped molten glass into intricate beads, delicate vases, and even grand chandeliers that sparkled in the fire's reflection. In addition to the experts creating masterpieces from literal sand, glassmaking students were also learning the craft.


Honestly, it's way cooler than watching a YouTube tutorial. Not that I would be ballsy enough ever to attempt that at home, but it did unlock a desire for me to take a glassmaking course in Murano one day. Consider it added to my travel bucket list.


Gondolas line still water, with a row of colourful buildings along the paves walkway.
A view of the Island of Murano. Photo by Emily Fata.

The Spirit of Murano


What sets Murano apart is its community of artisans who are not only masters of their craft, but also passionate about preserving their heritage. Many studios offer workshops where visitors can try their hand at glassmaking. I have to remind myself to quash my perfectionist Virgo tendencies and not expect to become an expert in a day. After all, these guys have been at it for centuries.


This spirit of openness and dedication is what makes Murano truly special. Even during the Glass Walk, artisans were so generous with their knowledge, eager to share stories of their craft and the history of their trade.


Beyond Murano Glass: the Island’s Other Charms


Yes, there’s more to life than glass…shocking, I know.


While Murano's glassmaking prowess is undoubtedly its main draw, the island offers much more to explore. The picturesque canals and charming bridges provide a tranquil backdrop for leisurely strolls. Don't miss the stunning Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato (Basilica of Saints Mary and Donatus), a magnificent example of Venetian-Byzantine architecture. This place is known for its 12th century Byzantine mosaic pavement and it’s also rumoured to contain relics of Saint Donatus of Euroea, including large bones behind the altar. According to legend, these are the bones of a dragon that the saint slayed.


Another hidden gem is the Chiesa di San Pietro Martire (Church of St. Peter the Martyr of Verona), home to remarkable artworks by artists like Giovanni Bellini. Having been built in 1348 along with a convent of Dominican friars, the church was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and still stands today. It’s no wonder that the blend of artistic and architectural marvels makes Murano a rich tapestry of cultural experiences! 


A view of a two-tiered chandelier from underneath, with blue and light purple glass.
A two-tiered chandelier. Photo by Emily Fata.

As with the rest of the country, Murano also offers dining experiences that beckon travellers to indulge in Venetian culinary delights. While we didn't have the chance to sit down for a meal during our visit, the island's reputation for traditional Venetian cuisine is well-known. Restaurants lining the canals offer a picturesque setting to enjoy fresh catches from the Adriatic Sea and regional specialties like risotto al nero di seppia (squid ink risotto). The ambiance and artisanal charm promise a dining experience that's as memorable as it is authentic.


All in All


There is no doubt in my mind that Murano is more than just an island and more than just Murano glass. This place celebrates human creativity, where history and modernity blend seamlessly, and every piece of art tells a story. If you're planning a trip to Venice, make sure to carve out time to visit Murano.


Wander through its vibrant streets, marvel at the artistry on display, and immerse yourself in a tradition shaped by centuries of passion and innovation. Whether you're watching a master glassmaker at work or simply enjoying a meal by the canal, Murano promises an experience you’ll be so glad you made time for.


 

3 Comments


thoma.natascha
12 hours ago

It was a very interesting and inspiring read. Sadly, we did not make it to Murano during our Venice trip, but it is on the list. I have seen glassmaking in other destinations and was fascinated. I totally understand the temptation of booking a glassmaking experience somewhere.


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Ramil Hinolan
Ramil Hinolan
2 days ago

Murano's colorful history in glassmaking is fascinating. Since it started many centuries ago, I am sure they have perfected the process and produced beautiful handcrafted pieces. I am also excited about riding on the gondolas. We don't have those here in the Philippines. I can imagine the thrill of balancing on the boat while the driver maneuvers the vessel to bring us to our destination safely.


Ramil Hinolan

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Ambica Gulati
Ambica Gulati
Jul 07

Happy to digitally meet a fellow Virgo! Needless to say, Murano glass is so well known and you are so lucky to visit the studios and the island. That chandelier looks so amazing. I would love to see this island and meet the artisans as well. The walk around the island also seems scenic and historic.

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