Sunday, October 22, 2006

Saturday, 21st October – Venice

Another cold, grey day, so we thought we’d do an island cruise. (True!) Well, it’s going to stay cold and grey the whole time we’re here, so we decided to do the trip anyway, because we wanted to see some of the islands in the Venice Lagoon. The whole trip can be done by vaporetto, so it’s a cheap outing. It ended up raining all day, which did detract a little, but it was still a fun day.

First stop was Murano, the island famous for its glass. Venetian glass-making was moved to Murano in 1291 because of the risk of fires, and since then they have been famous world-wide for their glass. Venice is full of glass shops selling everything from tiny animals and beads to enormous and incredibly gaudy chandeliers, and some stunningly beautiful pieces in between. Murano itself wasn’t much to look at compared to Venice, but its attraction is the glass. We visited the Glass Museum, containing some beautiful pieces, some dating back 2000 years. We also visited a glass factory to watch glass-blowers at work – we watch 2 men making a vase, working together like a well-oiled machine – very impressive. We also wanted to visit the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, because of its mosaic floors dating to 1140 – but it was closed from 12-4. No worries, we thought, we’ll come back later.

Back onto the vaporetto we headed for Burano, a tiny island where the houses are all painted different pastel colours, allegedly so that fishermen can find their way home in the fog. Burano is also famous for fishing and particularly for its lace, which is highly sought after. We visited the lace museum, which was very instructive, and were fortunate to find a couple of Buranese women making lace (it’s all done by hand and looks incredibly difficult). We wandered all over Burano (I said it wasn’t very big), it’s a delightful spot.

The next island we called in on was Torcello, once a town to rival Venice, but now mostly swamps and only about 20 people live there. But it is the site of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, which was founded in 639 and still has most of its 11th & 12th century Byzantine structure standing, especially some outstanding mosaics. There is also a bell tower which you can climb to get a great view - or so we’re told – given the ongoing rain and fog, we didn’t think we’d bother.

So, back on the vaporetto to Murano to see the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato which we had missed before. It was about 6pm, so we were there well before it closed – but it was Saturday night and a mass was about to start, and tourists are not welcome during mass! We sat quietly in the back row for a little while, but only got to see a small portion of the floor – which did look impressive. Add it to the list of places to revisit one day. We had passed a nice restaurant on Murano on our first visit, and planned to have dinner there. But when we went back neither of us could remember where it was! And we were too tired to walk down every street till we found it, so caught the next vaporetto back and had dinner in a nice place just down the canal from our B&B.