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.

How to Buy Murano Glass in Venice

Murano Glass store selling authentic glassware made on Murano

If you want to buy Murano Glass in Venice, you need to understand several key things: how and where Murano Glass is made and what it looks like, where to find genuine Murano Glass, how to pay the right price, and how to bring your purchase safely back home.

  1. How Murano Glass is made.
  2. There are many different methods and techniques of making Murano Glass, some ancient and some modern, some used to make very light and delicate pieces, others used to create large and heavy imposing objects. Jewelry is frequently made under a small gas flame from special pre-made glass canes, using technique called “a lume” in Italian and “lampworking” in English. Mosaic-like designs are crafted using Millefiori technique, milky opaque designs are achieved with Lattimo technique, regular bubble patterns crafted with Bullicante technique, just to name a few. You need to become familiar with all the main techniques and the resulting designs to understand the important information that the appearance of Murano glass pieces can relay to you.

  3. Where Murano Glass is made.
  4. Murano Glass has been traditionally made on Murano Island in the commune of Venice, but these days the production spilled over into Venice proper. While the official Murano Glass consortium refuses to acknowledge any glass makers who do not physically have an office on Murano, those based in Venice are really every bit as genuine and legitimate as the ones based on Murano, and their glass-making practices are exactly the same. It is important to remember that Murano Glass is not made outside of Venice, even if elsewhere in Italy, and that few, if any, masters of non-Venetian origin are involved in this craft.

  5. How to find genuine Murano Glass.
  6. If you familiarized yourself with Murano glass-making methods and the resulting designs, and have checked out out enough stores (or at least store windows) on Murano Island and in Venice, you will probably know well enough what to expect and what to look out for. Of course any place that has very low prices should be avoided. Your best bets are stores that carry many different styles and types of items, feature sophisticated store design, have knowledgeable staff, and sell pieces that have stickers, signatures, and authenticity certificates.

    Always try to talk to the salesperson or store owner before making a purchase and find out as much as you can about the artisans he works with, his experience with Murano Glass, his thoughts on the current state of Venice and Murano Glass industry, and his local knowledge. Stores that stock fakes typically try to save on everything, from store design to sales staff, and will often hire salespeople of non-Venetian or even non-Italian origin, who know little about Murano Glass.

  7. How to pay the right price.
  8. It is very disappointing to find a piece you love and pay a fortune for it, only to find out later that the next store sells something very similar for half the price. Even though you should be aware of places that sell things very cheap (which typically means they sell fakes), it is important to get a good feel for the prices on authentic Murano glass in Venice before buying that piece you just love. There are rarely two pieces that are exactly the same in different stores, but similar pieces made in the same technique are often easy to find, and comparison-shopping is very possible and advisable.

    Contrary to popular thinking, Murano Island does not always offer better prices. Many glitzy showrooms on Murano have agreements with Venetian hotels, which talk guests into free no-obligation visits in private boats. Once in the showroom, such captive visitors often experience lots of sales pressure and are made to feel that this is their last opportunity to buy, and the best price they could possibly get. Needless to say, this is usually not the case, but many unsuspecting tourists do fall in this trap and buy expensive pieces on the spot, which they later regret.

  9. How to ship Murano Glass home from Venice.
  10. Once you found the piece you love, are positive that it is authentic, and know that you are paying the right price, don’t yet rush to make a purchase. Find out first how the piece will get to your home. Of course it may be tempting to just take the piece with you, but it may not be practical if it is very fragile, large, heavy, or otherwise presents a challenge on the plane, train or other means of transportation that you will take.

    Many Venetian and Murano merchants will offer you to ship your purchase. This sounds convenient but presents its own challenges. When and how will it be shipped? Will you be able to track it yourself? What happens if it gets damaged in transit or disappears along the way? What will you do if due to some misunderstanding or error it never leaves the warehouse, or if you receive the wrong piece altogether? Always make sure that you have the information of the contact person in the store or factory, and have recourse in case something goes wrong with the shipment. If you can take your Murano Glass treasure with you without too much trouble, we always advise you to do that rather than have it shipped.

    If you do ship it and something goes wrong, contact the store that sold you the item and speak with them about resolving the situation. The more reputable the store, the higher the chances that they will work with you and make things right.
    How Murano Glass is shipped from Venice
    In conclusion, many people believe that it is best to purchase Murano Glass in Venice because that way they will certainly get an authentic piece at the right price. Unfortunately, just by buying in Venice you are neither assured authenticity, nor a good deal. So many merchants peddle fake glassware in Venice that police is periodically raiding the stores and seizing the counterfeits. Moreover, lots of unscrupulous store owners take advantage of unsuspecting tourists charging them sky-high prices for mediocre-quality pieces that may or may not be genuine. If you do decide to shop for Murano Glass in Venice, please follow our advice to avoid the common traps. It is important to be armed with information in order to solve any potential problems.

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5 Myths About Venice That You Should Not Believe

Myth 1: Venetian canals smell

Venetian canals do not smell
Have someone ever told you that Venetian canals are… well, less attractive than you imagined? And that you might have to hold your nose when standing near one? We’ve heard this too. But this story is nothing more than a myth

This myth is typically spread by those who have never been to Venice and do not plan to visit mainly for this reason. But if you ask those who live in Venice or spent at least a few days there they’ll tell you that canals in Venice smell like the sea.

The truth is you can breathe easy on the Venetian shores – much easier than in our congested and polluted cities. The water in Venetian canals does not stand still. By ancient design, the canals are interconnected with the Venetian Lagoon and the open sea, and constitute the city’s elaborate system of dealing with pollution that has been successfully working for a thousand years. And only once a year, when the lifecycle of the seaweed ends there might be a faint smell akin to the one you can feel on any beach at low tide. However, Venetian canals are cleaned regularly and any smell that may appear is very short-lived.

Myth 2: The best time to visit Venice is in the Summer

In the Summer there are huge tourist crowds in Venice
Lots of people dream of picnicking on the canals and doing sunset promenades in Venice, thinking that Summer is the best season to enjoy the city sans jacket and scarf.

In reality the people who sustain this myth are those who never visited Venice in the midst of the tourist season. The problem is that ancient Venice with its maze of medieval alleyways and dead ends, narrow bridges, and public transportation system consisting of only small vaporetto boats, is not equipped to manage hordes of tourists without crowds and bottlenecks everywhere. This, along with heat and high humidity, makes for very uncomfortable sightseeing and inevitable lack of atmosphere and aura that define Venice.

The shoulder seasons, such as September-October or March-April make for far better relaxed and uncrowded experience in Venice and allow you to feel the authenticity and the unique ambiance of this beautiful city.

Myth 3: The most expensive cup of coffee in the world is in Venice’s famous café Florian.

Coffee in Cafe Florian in Venice is not the most expensive in the world
The famous Venetian café Florian is the oldest continuously operating café in the world that was frequented by many historical figures from Goethe and Casanova to Lord Byron and Charles Dickens. Of course it’s an expensive place to have a cup of coffee but it’s certainly not the most expensive in the world.

Research conducted by the London branch of the American consulting firm Mercer has shown that the most expensive cup of coffee is actually sold in Moscow, Russia, where it costs on average $10.19 (including the tip). And in café Florian’s historic interiors you can have your coffee for mere 5 euro while seating on the same red velvet benches where Goldoni, Casanova, Goethe, Byron, Madame de Stael, Proust, Stravinsky, Modigliani and Brodsky once sat.

Myth 4: One day is enough time to see Venice

One day in Venice during cruise is not enough
Lots of people visit Venice as a day-trip, including millions who visit the city by cruise ships every year. Those people, often armed with a quick “top-5-places-to-see”-type guidebook, hit all the hotspots in a quick succession: San Marco Square, The Basilica of San Marco, The Doge’s Palace, maybe the ascent of the Campanile, and an obligatory gondola trip along the Grand Canal. A few very efficient ones may even be able to squeeze in a visit to another museum or a church, if they skip lunch or grab a quick panini to go from a nameless corner shop.

Sure, that can all be done in one day but what have you really seen and experienced at the end of this long and tiresome hectic day? You have checked off a few boxes on a tourist’s must-see list and ran quickly through a bunch of attractions but this is akin to speed-dating: a quick glance, a short-lived impression, and no way to understand who is really in front of you.

In Venice’s case what is in front of you is a real treasure with layers of history and often deceiving looks, which needs to be studied and appreciated slowly. Venice’s history, culture, heritage, arts, cuisine, and its many quirks do not get revealed to a stranger during a one-day speed-sightseeing session.

By spending several non-rushed days in La Serenissima, visiting selected attractions, savoring slow long canal-side walks, lingering in the family restaurants and small wine bars, you will let yourself slowly get immersed in Venice’s colorful and mysterious world. You will be able to appreciate its character, its slow pace, its fragile yet perfectly balanced co-existence with water, and its attractions, which need to be viewed in the context of this city’s unique personality. And be prepared: you might just fall in love.

Myth 5: Staying overnight in Venice is very expensive. The best option is to stay on the mainland, in Mestre.

Staying in Venice overnight is better than Mestre
Like any city at the top of the must-see-before-you-die list, Venice has millions of people visiting every year and tens of thousands of hotel rooms to satisfy this demand. And of course the hotels in Venice’s historic center are usually not cheap. But do not think this is the whole truth and do not let this thinking convince you to stay on the mainland in Mestre.

Mestre is a small industrial town across the Lagoon that lacks any character. Have you really come all the way to Venice to spend your evenings on car-lined streets of a modern town with no history, offering mediocre restaurants and lacking any charm? Who said that you can’t find reasonably-priced accommodations in the center of Venice?

Besides luxury and boutique hotels, Venice has lots of cozy B&B’s and no-frills apartments for rent, which can be rented for around 100 euros per night in low season and slightly more in high season. Many major travel booking sites now also offer B&B’s, while websites such as VRBO and Homeaway offer a multitude of apartment choices in Venice in all price categories.

Of course you always need to be careful renting apartments from private persons, especially abroad, and make sure to avoid any listings that do not have multiple reviews, do not offer a way to talk directly to the owners, or seem suspicious in any way at any stage in the booking process.

Good luck in your future travels to Venice and please help us continue to dispel these myths that paint beautiful Venice in dark colors.

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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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