I decided to take a break for a week and travel around Italy sometime in the October of 2013. While I would have loved to travel to a few Northern parts Italy, Sicily and Naples, I realised I would have had to take about a couple of months to travel to all these wonderful places if I travelled there as I usually travel. So, my travel schedules came up to Florence and after some after-thought, included Venice. Venice is a couple of hour train journey from Florence and was an easy connection to explore.
My travel style is very exploratory…I don’t particularly seek out the touristy stuff, take pictures or selfies there and claim to have travelled to the region and tick it off my bucket list. I visit a place, walk around the local villages, talk to the locals where possible…asking questions about the place, the local lifestyle or anything random at first. That is how you make new friends and once you have a local’s attention, you can be assured they will be the best people to guide you on everything that should be explored about that region. People take pride when foreigners ask them about their region. You can feel it in their voices. Plus – you do need a local to guide you on the best food places. If you don’t have one, just learn to keep your eyes open and instincts on at all times. For me, it’s the smaller, out of the way places where the soul of the place lies and where you discover secrets about it.
I travelled to Florence and Venice during my Italian sojourn. I had earlier posted about my wine excursion in Greve in Chianti near Florence. This time round, my attention is on Murano near Venice.
Murano is a small island about half an hour by boat from Venice. Of course, it’s a given that anywhere near Venice, you need access to a ferry/ boat to get anywhere around there.
So, hopping onto the ferryboat or more like a water-taxi as they call, we made our way to this island. A bit of rain, a bit of the choppy sea and loads of fresh sea air, the feeling was absolutely lovely. There was a slight chill in the air too with the temperatures not exactly being extremely warm. It was October and winters start setting in from this time onwards. But we loved every moment of it. The feel of the sea breeze on your face, the drops of sea water splashing on the face when the ferry faced some choppy waters – were all enough to get us charged up for the excursion. Not to forget, the squeaky sea-gulls all around.
Murano is all about Glass and Glass-Art. Of course, it is another fact that you will practically find more tourists here than the locals. But I guess that’s commercialisation for you.
The moment you step foot on the island, a sign signals you the way to a museum where glass blowing is demonstrated.
Walking further up, you find yourself in a narrow street, which is separated from a similar street by a small canal. The streets are lined with shops selling anything related to glass. Glass chandeliers, glass vases, glass jewellery, glass figurines, and glass bottles. Some were the higher end shops that focussed on custom products – with a certification that the products were Murano originals. Many smaller ones, also housing Murano originals but lesser expensive and more appealing to tourist options were seen.
The main highlights, however of this island are the amazingly creative glass sculptures and installations placed around the island at short distances. Walking down the narrow by lanes, we came across many such sculptures – some with flowers, some with birds, some abstract and more. Everything made of glass.
Walking around the shops, I found some interesting products and something that possibly would be unimaginable in glass. Like the beaded glass strands that were interwoven to make a lovely necklace that could double up as a scarf too. Or the amazingly colourful and eye-tricking Glass balloons. These were actually balloon shaped glass with a plastic thread through which, when were to be hung from ceilings. Viewing these from a distance, they thread appeared invisible thus giving the effect of floating glass balloons.
I did get myself a couple of these cute balloons and a necklace…After all, who knows when will I get a chance to visit Murano again. It’s ok to splurge on these local products. After all, these are a part of the local culture that you take back as memories with you back home.
It’s also a very good idea to sit by one of the local restaurants in the settings that are by the canal and have a local Italian meal. Food is a very crucial part of any journey for me. It tells you what the locals are all about. We found a nice little place on the street by the canal that served traditional Italian food. Pizza of course, is Italy in all its glory but there is more to Italian food than Pizza. Seafood inspired dishes were the local specialities there.
While I would have been interested in sampling the local delicacies, being a vegetarian, it wasn’t exactly something I could do. Hence, my speciality option – the lasagna. Layers of fresh pasts sheets generously ladled with Béchamel sauce, vegetables and fresh herbs, it was a perfect Italian lunch. Of course, I should mention here that be very hungry when you approach this option. It isn’t as light as it looks and a nap is definitely called for once you eat this. But we had other plans.
So, a walk was decided again after lunch following which, a tour of the famous Burano islands chalked out. Ideally, a morning to afternoon – maybe three to four hours are good enough to spend in Murano. Travellers usually pack in a Burano island tour too when visiting Murano – which we opted for too as they are both in close vicinity to each other and both can be happily managed in a few hours.
More about Burano, which is a equally beautiful island in my next post.