On Sunday, we planned a visit to Murano, an island to the north of Venice that is known for its glass production.
We woke up early, and walked north to the Fondamente Nuovo in order to catch the number 42 Vaporetto. This walk turned out to be the best experience we had in Venice. It was too early for most tourists, and we had our route mostly to ourselves. The bridges were deserted and the canals were quiet. The people we did see appeared to belong; they weren't tourists like us. We walked through areas that felt more like neighborhoods, and less like tourist destinations. Here, we thought, was the Venice that people fell in love with. This was not crowded, showy St. Mark's square, but rather a picturesque window into "real life," framed by peaceful canals, and curtained with laundry airing on lines above us.
Our day continued pleasantly as we bought our tickets and boarded the vaporetto. The first stop on the way to Murano was the cemetery island of San Zaccharia, where everyone disembarking carried bouquets of flowers. We arrived at Murano, and walked for a bit to get our bearings. Unlike Venice proper, where rising property costs and water levels have contributed to the rising average age of residents, Murano seemed vibrant and young. Parents chatting while pushing strollers or working in their yards, a young boy fishing in the canal, neighbors shouting greetings to friends and shopkeepers.
Having determined that yes, we liked Murano, we set off for the important task of finding a piece of glasswork as a souvenir of our trip. Passing a side street, we saw a family with a video camera, and correctly guessed that they had found a glass making demonstration. We enjoyed watching from the doorway, but we were glad that we weren’t the couple that seemed trapped inside by the salesman. We walked through a couple of the large factory stores, and saw some beautiful pieces. In one store, we tried to ask a salesman about how delicate the glass was, because we had heard that Murano glass was extremely strong. He walked off in a huff. We were confused for a while, then realized he must have thought we were trying to purchase broken pieces? How funny. Sorry sir, if we offended you, it was completely unintended!
Eventually we found a small shop called neropaco, where we bought the glass display piece that is now on our bookshelves. We originally walked in because of a sign in the window that said “We do not sell Chinese glass in this shop, and those that do are killing Murano.” Andrea was very helpful, encouraged our attempts at Italian, and even answered our earlier question – he told us that if it fell, the glass would more likely damage the floor instead of the reverse! We had him ship our purchase home for us, where it arrived a few days after we did.
We lunched on Murano, at the Busa alle Torre, in the Campo San Stefano. Our meal was delicious, our waiter was friendly, and the restaurant’s owner was a large, gruff, bearded fellow. Our impression was that he was quite a character, and sat at his table all day, shouting at the waitstaff, chatting with friends who walked through the square, and drinking prosecco. When our coffee arrived, we found that the sugar packets were personalized to include a caricature of him, laughing on one side, scowling on the other: our impression, it appears, had been correct!
Sipping our coffee, the bells in the tower across the canal began to ding-dong, and we realized we had been sitting there for an hour and a half. Ah, il dolce far niente! These are the moments we hope for every time we travel.