Of Venice’s 100-plus outlying islands, the group that forms Murano is the most famous. This tight cluster of small islands has been the center of the Floating City’s historic glassmaking industry since 1291, when the city center’s glass factories were forcibly moved across the lagoon—just north of Venice proper—after a number of devastating fires. Today, travelers visit Murano to see how expertly trained artisans blow glass into exquisite stemware, chandeliers, vases, and sculptures. Those particularly interested in the history of glassmaking should stop by the Museo del Vetro, which traces the art back to ancient Egypt.
The best way to visit Murano is on a boat tour of the Venice islands. These tours make stops on Murano to see traditional glassblowing the island of Burano, famous for its lace-making; and Torcello, believed to be the first populated island in the Venetian lagoon. Private tours let you enjoy a boat ride across the waters of the lagoon, visits to artisan workshops and factories accompanied by an expert tour guide, and a bit of free time for shopping and exploring without having to navigate Venice’s complex vaporetto (ferry) system between the islands.
Things to Know Before You Go
Be sure to bring your camera, as Murano glassblowing and Burano lace-making demonstrations make for great photos.
Murano glass and Burano lace are both famous for their impeccable craftsmanship and quality—and prices reflect that. Be wary of “bargain” prices, which often mean counterfeit goods.
Murano’s glass shops are known for their hard-sell techniques, which can be uncomfortable. To avoid being strong-armed, always book your Venice islands tour through a reputable company.
How to Get There
From St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), take vaporetto (ferry) 4.1 from the San Zaccaria stop, or a private water taxi from the Grand Canal boat launch, just steps from St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
When to Get There
The Venice islands are most crowded in summer. From November through February, Venice is relatively quiet, though the temperatures can make for a chilly boat trip across the lagoon.
There Be Dragons
Murano’s seventh-century Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato, one of the oldest in Venice, is famous for its exquisite Byzantine mosaics. It’s also known for what’s on display behind the altar: four massive rib bones said to be from a dragon slain by St. Donatus in Greece.