Category Archives: Travel Tips

Venice, Murano, and the surrounding areas are some of the most popular spots for visitors to Italy. Rich with history, art, architecture, and traditions, it is no wonder that this part of Italy is so attractive and fascinating to tourists. However, many tourists just rush through the highlights of Venice in a day or two, failing to appreciate the unique Venetian heritage, history, and culture, and missing the real Venice and its treasures altogether. Venice is so much more than beautiful palaces and canals: it is amazing history still seen in its sculptures, churches, and museums; it is the back lanes where people chat, drink coffee on the corners, and kids play soccer; it is the everyday reality of living on the water; and it is wonderful traditional crafts such as Murano glass-blowing and mask-making, and artisans who have practiced them since childhood. We at GlassOfVenice help you peek into the world of real Venice beyond the touristy highlights, and appreciate its attractions, cuisine, art, and crafts.

The Best Gifts To Bring Home From Venice

Venice is renowned for its beauty, history, and art. No wonder that many visitors want to bring home a memory of this magical city, along with original souvenirs for family and friends. Gifts are a wonderful way to show loved ones that you care, even when you are far away from home, and they’re also an excellent way to express the beauty of a place to someone who has never visited it.

Fortunately, Venice offers many gift choices to travelers looking for unique and beautiful gifts to take home. Our recommendations center around traditional artisan goods that have been crafted in Venice for centuries using original techniques and that embody the true spirit and beauty of Venice.

Venetian Carnival Masks

Venetian Carnival Masks

Carnivals are a longstanding tradition in many cities and towns throughout Italy, but Venetian Carnival is the most famous and revered of them all. For ten days each February or early March, Venice transforms into a heaven of revelry and partying, the extraordinary ‘Carnevale’. During this time millions of tourists descend upon the city, clamouring for a chance to experience lavish decadence of another era. The masks are seen everywhere – on the streets, in cafes, at parades, in gondolas, at the balls, and range from basic to extremely elaborate. 

Venetian masks are often colorful, with intricate detail and rich decoration of beads, plumes, fabrics, or even small paintings. Authentic Venetian masks are made by hand from papier-mâché, designed in baroque style and often hail from Italian Commedia Del Arte, impersonating its various characters, such as Colombina, Arlecchino or Pulcinella.

When buying a mask in Venice, find the type of design that you like, then seek out a real Venetian mask atelier, where oftentimes the artisans will work in the back while the finished masks will be sold out front. These places are usually not found in big tourist spots, but mostly tucked away on white canals, back lanes, or small piazzas. Never fall for low prices and places with rows of similar cheap-looking masks. Those are most likely fakes made in China. The real Venetian masks are relatively heavy, perfectly crafted, and not cheap.

Where to Buy Venetian Masks?

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Staying In Venice: A Brief Guide To Venetian Neighborhoods

Although a relatively small city, Venice, Italy is home to a number of vibrant neighborhoods, each of them with its own character and history. Administratively the historical center of Venice is split into six areas called “sestiere” (which means a “sixth” in Venetian dialect), a tradition that has held up since the 12th century. The present sestieri map dates back to 1711. Besides the six sestieri, Venice actually includes Giudecca, the Lido, Murano, Burano, and a few other islands in the Venetian Lagoon. While staying in Venice’s historic center is expensive, we highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get an authentic experience in Venice and values a chance to get to know the city and its people beyond the museums, the tacky souvenire vendors, and the crowds.

Map of Venice with Landmarks

It is indeed a hard choice of accommodation between the different areas of Venice, each home to its own set of traditions and cultural features. It’s possible, however, to make an educated decision based on various factors that we will help you uncover in this article.

To start off, it is worth noting that while some neighborhoods are more central than others, all have their attractions and advantages, and the entire city can be traversed from East to West in about an hour and a half on foot. The number of residents in Venice’s historical center keeps declining every year and is currently below 60,000. Today for better or worse the city is largely home to businesses and is a hub of tourism activity thanks in part to the huge cruiseships that dock in its port. There are lots of hotels, hostels, B&B’s and rental apartments in all areas of Venice, and those visiting Venice will be pleased to know that the city is largely welcoming and has no “bad” or dangerous areas.

Santa Croce: The Gateway To Venice

Santa Croce Ponte delle Scalzi Venice

Santa Croce takes its name from the church that once stood here but was unfortunately demolished by Napoleon. With the bus terminal at Piazzale Roma, the multi-story parking garages, the so called “people mover” and the ship dock at Stazione Marittima, Santa Croce has established itself as a commuting area of the city and the transportation hub for tourists. This neighborhood of Venice has the most connections to mainland Italy, and is therefore buzzing with activity all day long.

The only bridge that connects Venice to the mainland, Ponte della Libertà, was built on Mussolini’s order in 1933. It connects Santa Croce area of Venice with Mestre for car traffic, which, unlike in the rest of Venice, is partially allowed in this neighborhood, albeit only in a very small part of it – and with strict limitations. However, for those interested in exploring other neighboring towns in addition to Venice by car, while being a a 40-minute walk away from Piazza San Marco, Santa Croce is an excellent choice. Despite its transport links, Santa Croce maintains its identity as authentic Venetian neighborhood with its fair share of bars and restaurants, art galleries, and attractions such as Ca’ Pesaro, a former palazzo hosting International Gallery of Modern Art, and Fondaco dei Turchi, a magnificent palazzo dating from 1225 that was subsequently owned by Dukes of Ferrara before being given to Ottoman merchants for use as a community center and a warehouse, which currently houses the Venetian museum of Natural History.
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Highlights Of The Murano Glass Museum

The Murano Glass Museum is a major tourist attraction on Venetian island of Murano, and one that uniquely represents the rich history of glassmaking present on the small Venetian island. Many tourists wish to visit the museum, and rightly so, as the large venue houses historical artifacts and beautiful displays that are unique to Murano.

There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions open to tourists, and those who purchase tickets are granted admission to the majority of the museum, including any special or seasonal shows. The museum was renovated recently, and the building itself is almost as beautiful as the treasures kept within it. Below, we detail some of the highlights of the Murano Glass Museum, that stand out amongst all of the stunning exhibitions.

Murano Glass Museum Permanent Exposition

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A Quick Guide To Venetian Cuisine: Know What To Eat In Venice

Venice is a small yet mighty island, detached from mainland Italy, and widely regarded by Italians as an entity of its own. Venetians have their own dialect, their own traditions and their own unique recipes that differ significantly from other regions in Northern Italy.

The main difference between Venetian cuisine and foods from other Italian regions is ingredients. As Venice is an island, with a history of isolation and conflict, the city was often deprived of certain ingredients that mainland Italy had easy access to. For this reason, Venice began their traditions by perusing local ingredients, readily available to humble families. These included fish, seafood, rice, and vegetables.

However, as Venice grew increasingly more wealthy, the city began to incorporate more luxurious ingredients into their recipes. Suddenly, humble and meager meals began to feature exotic ingredients. Venice began to import foods from other regions of the country, as well as other countries entirely, as part of a concerted effort to display their wealth in all available outlets, including through their food. As a result, Venetian cuisine is now regarded as a set of recipes unique to the region, that feature wonderful combinations of flavors and textures.
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Top 5 Things To See And Do On Murano Island

While Venice is a beautiful and wonderfully diverse city, it’s also rather small. After a number of days spent wondering through the stunning corridors that crisscross the the city and admiring art, you may feel inclined to visit one of the smaller islands that surround Venice, such as Murano, Burano, or Torcello.

Of course we can’t be impartial when it comes to choosing a Venetian island to visit, and we wholeheartedly recommend Murano – the home of the most beautiful glassware in the world and the place to experience true Venetian lifestyle of the bygone era. Murano is a tiny island in the Venetian lagoon, just north of Venice proper. Renowned for its glassmaking tradition, the island boasts a population of 5,000 people, many of whom are direct descendants of famous glassmaking families.

The island is rich with culture and tradition, and was once used as a refuge for Venetian glass-makers, who were forced by governmental officials to leave the city of Venice in the 1291 and establish their furnaces on Murano. For lovers of art, history, fine craftsmanship, or simply for breathtaking views- Murano is definitely a location to consider. here we give you the scoop on the top 5 things to do on Murano island. And, what’s great, you can actually do all of this in one day and still have time left for a nice dinner either right here on Murano or in Venice, a short vaporetto ride away.

Murano Canal

1. Take a Walk Around Town

The island of Murano consists of 7 individual islands linked together by beautiful bridges. While this sounds overwhelming, the whole island actually measures a mere 1 mile, which is easily walkable in 20 minutes.

Much like the city of Venice, Murano has a ‘Canale Grande’ (Grand Canal) that runs down the centre, and separates rows of mirrored buildings. The main and arguably most impressive building on the island is the municipal building, called ‘Palazzo Da Mula’. This dates back to the 13th century, and features a characteristically gothic facade, popular in Venetian architecture. The canals, coupled with the island’s three remaining churches, in addition to the beautiful buildings- are reasons enough to take a walking tour of Murano.
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5 Little-Known Attractions To See In Venice

5 Little-Known Attractions In Venice Not To Miss

5 Little-Known Attractions To See In Venice
When it comes to organizing a trip to Venice, the itineraries are full of famous attractions that appear on every travel advice web-site and every must-see list you will ever come across. Among those are The Doge’s palace, and Basilica San Marco, Accademia Gallery and Ca’ Rezzonico, The Campanile and The Astronomical Clock. Hunting for those top attractions, you will stand in lines for hours and run into crowds of tourists who are all hungry to see the same things you came to see. This may leave you aggravated, distressed, and wondering what you may have done better to have more authentic venetian experience. You need not worry – we will let you in on the hidden secrets, the activities that many miss, the attractions that are still relatively quiet, not overrun with tourists, and promise a wonderful authentic experience.

1. Get To Know Venice’s Craftsmanship: Gondola Building Workshop

Gondola Workshop Venice

Get to know one of the few remaining gondola yards in Venice. Just a few steps down the canal near the Accademia Bridge, one can find Venice’s only remaining original gondola-building and maintainance yard, the Squero San Trovaso workshop. Nowadays it works mainly as a maintenance and repair point, but during the 1600’s it was Venice’s busiest production point for the ten thousand gondolas that once traveled along its canals and into the Lagoon. The squero is not open to the public but if you visit during the working hours you can see the work from the outside, and it is a fascinating experience. Each gondola is made out of eight different types of wood, exactly as it was hundreds of years ago, and includes lots of exclusively carved elements. Because gondolas are still crafted in a traditional way, it takes over a month to build one, and it usually can be in service for about 15 years, after which it must be refinished and can last another ten years. There are woodcarving workshops that create various wooden parts for gondolas and are very interesting to visit to see this ancient craft in action. The workshop of Paolo Brandolisio a few steps behind Piazza San Marco is a great one to visit. There are several guided tours for visitors, like the two hour Oltrex tour starting from Riva degli Schiavoni, or the one day experience Venice for Children, that encompasses a whole seminar on gondola making and a tour on vaporetto through the Arsenale and the Naval Museum. After getting to know this craft better, one will never see a gondola the same way again, for they are unique custom made vessels with centuries of history and craftsmanship, and not one is identical to another.

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What To See And Do In Venice On A Rainy Day – Exclusive Travel Tips

VVenice Travel Tips For A Rainy Dayenice is so incredibly romantic under the rain. Yet it is also true that it can be more difficult to wander through its streets when bad weather ruins your plans. Rains are frequent in the Fall and Winter,  weather can turn quite cold from time to time, and aqua alta, or flood, can always happen, but the good thing is there are many attractions one can visit when the weather in Venice gets wet. Plus, there is nothing better than a good cup of Italian hot chocolate, or “cioccolata calda” to make bad weather much more bearable.

First of all, it is necessary to pack with rain in mind. When it rains, the streets get crowded by merchants selling knee-high boots and umbrellas, yet it is always best to travel with proper clothes (and enough pairs of shoes to have a dry one on hand). Most moving around in Venice is done by foot, so it is recommended to pack water-resistant clothes that keep you warm and comfortable. A strong umbrella is also a good choice, because it can get quite windy in the Venetian Lagoon during the colder times of the year (you will definitely notice it on board of water bus).

Aqua Alta is what Italians refer to when speaking of high water that floods the Saint Marc’s Square and neighboring alleys. To some visitors it may seem like a true Venetian adventure, but to locals it is a nightmare. If you want to experience this phenomenon and wonder through Saint Marc’s Square, you will find it is impossible to cross it by foot since the water can reach knee level. In these situation the city puts out special wooden runways that rise above the water, allowing people to walk across the piazza and reach the Basilica San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. Most businesses, however, will not be operating as usual since their owners will be busy getting the water out of their shops, trying to avoid the damage caused by it. Continue reading

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Venetian Carnival 2016: Top Tips For Enjoying Your Time In Venice (In Mask Or Not)

Venice is buzzing with expectation and joy as this year’s Carnival draws near. With countless events, concerts and parties, Venice has the perfect scenario for an epic celebration. This year, the city’s Carnival will start in late January, offering immersive experience, festivities, and great food for locals and visitors.

Just like every year, the city chooses a theme for the Carnival, and this year’s theme is “Creatum”. It encompasses the appreciation and knowledge of various trades and crafts practiced in all of Venice’s districts, showcasing them to locals and foreigners. To honor these crafts, the city is organizing an exhibition of historic archives at the Archivio dello Stato di Venezia (Venetian State Archive) opening from January 30th to February 9th. The stage will also support the Carnival’s theme, presenting the play I Rusteghi directed by Giuseppe Emiliani on February 3rd at the Carlo Goldoni Theater. Culinary talents join the feast and present Il Campo dei Sapori e delle Tradizioni (The Square of Tastes and Traditions) from February 4th to the 9th at Campo San Geremia. This will be an explosion of flavors and traditions all mixed together in a small pavilion near the train station (Ferrovia), offering the region’s most typical and representative dishes, a story being told through flavors of unique artisan delicacies.
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Christmas Celebrations And Winter Holiday Traditions in Venice, Italy

Just when you were starting to think that Venice couldn’t possibly become more magical, Christmas transforms this city into a perfect winter wonderland. While cities around the world deck their streets with lights and ornaments, Venice disappears into foggy wintry sights worthy of any painting by Canaletto. For those seeking peace and tranquility during the holidays, Venice may turn out to be the perfect venue full of concerts, hot chocolate, mysterious fog and, occasionally, snow.

The month of December brings serenity and quiet to the city, due to lack of tourist crowds strolling down the streets. This is the time of year when Venice is taken over by fog and mist, turning the island into a hauntingly beautiful scene. Although Venice does not go over the top with Christmas decorations, one can still find fantasy lights and garlands adorning its main streets and gondolas. Locals take advantage of this chilly time to gather together and enjoy a cup of cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) inside cozy bars. Contrary to the typical hot chocolate we all know, cioccolata calda in this region is rich and thick and will surely keep the cold at bay.

The weather is mostly humid and cold, with occasional snow and acqua alta Iflooding) in Saint Marc’s Square. It is advisable to be well prepared when it comes to choosing appropriate clothing; the wind and rain that sometimes take over the city do not make it easy for visitors to walk around. However, there is still a chance of getting lucky with sunny days every now and then. When this happens, Venetians will be more than ready to bundle up and go out for some Christmas shopping around the city.

One of Venice’s most charming experiences during this season is visiting the joyful Christmas markets, or mercatini di Natale, as locals call them. Springing up between Rialto and Saint Marc’s Square and starting from mid-December, the Christmas markets are a cheerful exhibition of Venice’s most exquisite arts and crafts. Some of these markets offer fine handcrafted articles like purses, wallets, stationary, jewelry, and ornaments. Others offer exquisite Venetian products that range from gorgeous Murano Glass to elegant Burano lace, to hand-embroidered fabrics, to timeless antiques. Typical food and beverages are also part of this show, sometimes accompanied by live music too. It is also common to find a wide selection of Nativity scenes and objects (presepi), most of them handmade, especially near the Rialto Bridge by the church of San Giovanni Grisostomo. And in spite of it being Christmastime, the Venice Carnival is never far from people’s minds, as we see colorful hand-made masks being sold at every market. Naturally, the whole city is also adorned with countless Murano glass decorations, and it is a great idea to visit the island of Murano for the Glass Christmas Celebration (Natale di Vetro), where visitors will be charmed by unique Christmas-themed objects made of Murano Glass.

While hot chocolate may sound alluring when hopping from one bar to the other, the Christmas markets offer a wide selection of traditional and tasty foods and drinks. Roast chestnuts, chocolates, candied fruit and mulled wine are just some of the yummy treats one can find shopping along the lanes. The famous panettone, or pandoro (Christmas cake) is found in almost every Venetian home and restaurant around Christmas.

The winter season also brings music and concerts, and so the churches and opera houses are full of crowds eager to spend the evening listening to classical music masterpieces. It is easy to find the programs by reading the posters spread throughout the city, or by visiting the year’s program online. The church of La Pietà, on Riva degli Schiavone, usually holds some of the best concerts by Vivaldi, who was once that church’s composer. Some locations like Ca’ Rezzonico, Palazzo Moncenigo or the Scuola San Rocco hold concerts performing traditional Italian Christmas songs; while at world-famous La Fenice opera theater the winter program ranges from Mozart to Verdi offering priceless enriching performances. Prices and schedules always vary from place to place, some being free, some charging nominal admission, some requiring previous booking.

While walking around the city with almost no tourist crowds to obstruct the views and waiting lines, it is also advisable to keep in mind that most tourist attractions are closed on certain days around the holidays. Museums like the Doge’s Palace, the Galleria dell’Accademia, Museo Correr and Ca’ Rezzonico close on both December 26th and January 1st. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, however, is possibly the only museum in Venice to stay open on the New Year’s Day. Schedules for the vaporetto (water bus) may also vary and should be taken into consideration for moving around the city.

Hanukkah is also celebrated in Venice, in the part of sestiere Cannaregio known as the Ghetto – the site of the first Jewish ghetto in the world, where Judaism and Jewish traditions are kept alive and one can see beautifully illuminated menorahs, unique Murano Glass judaica, and delicious kosher food prepared for this special celebration.

All these joyful celebrations and performances lead Venetians to the very much awaited Christmas Eve dinner (la vigilia). During this evening, Christmas tables all over Venice overflow with traditional Venetian Christmas eve dishes mainly focused on fish and seafood: Venetian risotto, ravioli in capon broth, eel, mixed fried fish and an assortment of seafood with vegetables and polenta. When it comes to visitors, they should book the restaurant quite early, since many of them tend to run out of seats or simply close that day. Nonetheless, many great Venetian restaurants like La Zucca, Osteria Enoteca Ai Artisti, Alle Testiere, and Trattoria La Furatola, are always open for this special evening. After the Christmas Eve dinner, many Venetians take a stroll down the streets and canals and head to Saint Mark’s Basilica to attend midnight Mass, starting at 11.30. The midnight Christmas mass at San Marco is a unique experience for both Venetians and foreigners. This night, the Byzantine basilica is lit with hundreds of candles and incense, the famous golden mosaics set aglow, and the entire experience echoes the celebrations of the centuries past. Families and visitors alike flock to San Marco for grand celebratory experience on this special night. But the celebrations don’t stop here; Italians keep on celebrating with the Feast of Santo Stefano, on December 26th, leading the way to the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari to enjoy a free live concert and choir.

This is the kind of luxury Venice offers, the richness of its beauty and the bliss of its peaceful wintry canals, that bring it closer to those otherwordly visions we recall from ancient paintings. This is what makes Venice an even more magical place around Christmas and winter holidays.

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Travel Tips for Eating Out in Venice: Where To Eat Like A Local

As exquisite, fresh and wholesome as Venetian cuisine may be, it is unfortunate that many travelers report unpleasant experiences of being ripped off or having bland meals when eating out in Venice. Figuring out where to eat in Venice can easily become a tourist trap for eager visitors who go looking for the most stereotypical meals, and in return get low quality dishes at grossly inflated costs. Venetian cuisine dominated by abundance of seafood is not what travelers typically associate with Italy, yet it is incredibly tasty if you happen to run into the right place. Good coffee can absolutely be enjoyed outside of Piazza San Marco’s expensive restaurants, and freshest seafood you ever tasted can be found in many unassuming local eateries called osterie.

The first and best tip is to avoid any “tourist menus” as they have limited food choices, often not of the freshest kind, and dishes that aim to please tourists en masse rather than offer authentic local experience. These kinds of menus in restaurants situated in crowded touristic areas just concentrate on one-time tourist crowds that will most likely never come back, and therefore pay less attention to quality and exclusivity. It is easy to recognize these places: they all have explicit pictures of every dish, waiters in bow ties loudly inviting customers to come in, and frequently no Italians inside.
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