Our vaporetto ride across Venice’s lagoon to the colorful islands of Murano and Burano was a delight.
We stepped off the vaporetto at Burano and stepped onto an island of vibrant, multicolored homes. The sky had turned a brilliant blue by the time we disembarked, further enhancing the amazing colors.
The intense shades of paint used on the houses truly are a marvel but they are not random. There is a specific system of colors permitted and residents must acquire governmental approval before painting.
In addition to the vividly painted homes, lacemaking is the main attraction on the island. Burano’s current population of nearly 3,000 inhabitants are made up of fishermen, farmers, lacemakers, maskmakers and those who travel to Murano to create the precious glass objects.
Venice ruled Cyprus from 1489-1571 and via that connection, the women on Burano were introduced to and perfected the needle craft of lacemaking. Even Leonardo da Vinci, when he visited in 1481, bought lace to take back to the altar in Milan’s fabulous Duomo.
Though much of the lace for sale on Burano these days is machine made, or a combination of machine made with hand laced accents, we did find one shop that still hand makes each and every lace product they sell.
Years ago we visited the famous leaning tower of Pisa and we recently have discovered that there are quite a number of leaning towers throughout northern Italy. The campanile or bell tower built between 1703 and 1714, next to the Church of San Martino on Burano has indeed, quite the lean.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
While other cities are divided into boroughs and quarters, Venice is divided into sixths, referred to as sestieri. Santa Maria della Salute, in English, Saint Mary of Health, known simply as the Salute, is in the Dorsoduro sestiere of the city.
This 17th century Basilica takes center stage on the opposite side of the grand canal from San Marco, magnificently dominating the skyline and surrounding architecture. Also accessible by water taxi or vaporetto, we instead elected to take the longer pedestrian route to the peninsula for our visit.
Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
San Polo is one of the oldest and smallest sestieri of the city, the first settlement in Rialto and the location of the largest church in the city – the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, known simply as Frari. Building began in 1231 but is was more than 250 years later in 1492 before the church was finally consecrated with the name, Santa Maria Gloriosa.
This Venetian Gothic church may be less ornate on the outside, but the interior holds a number of notable paintings and sculptures. Frari is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary and one of the many unmissable and brilliant pieces is titled Assumption of the Virgin, painted by Titian in 1516-1518. A second Titian painting, called the Pesaro Madonna, painted in 1526, can also be seen here.
The painter, Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian, along with a number of Doges have been laid to rest in this beautiful Basilica.
Nicolò Tron (1399-1473) was the 68th Doge of Venice, reigning from 1471 to 1473. There is a particularly beautiful and grand sepulcher monument of Doge Nicolò Tron in the Basilica. Sculpted in marble in 1476, the tomb is described: “In terms of size, architectural structure and the number of statues it is the greatest Renaissance sculpture in Venice”.
Santa Maria di Nazareth
Located in the sestiere of Cannaregio, near Venice’s Santa Lucia railway station, Santa Maria di Nazareth, also called Church of the Scalzi, was built in the mid-17th century. Scalzi in Italian means ‘barefoot’ and this church was the principal church of the Discalced Carmelites religious order.
The Baroque styled Chapel Manin caught our interest for it’s detail and history. Venice’s last Doge, Ludovico Manin, is buried within. Doge Manin abdicated in 1797 when Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers entered Venice. Doge Manin died Just 5 years later in 1802, thus ending Venice’s ancient Republic.
The chapel was built by his brother. The altarpiece has a beautiful sculpture of “The Virgin and Child and St. Joseph in the Clouds” by Giuseppe Torretto and framing the alter below are two tall brilliant blue Murano glass candelabras.
Speaking of Murano glassworks, the charming island of Murano is renowned for its long tradition of glass-making. Paula Weideger, in her book Venetian Dreaming wrote: “Murano is dominated by a single, superior craft, the making and selling of hand-blown glass”.
Similar to but on a smaller scale than Venice, Murano is composed of seven smaller islands separated by canals and rivers, linked by bridges and hosts a population of 5,000 residents.
Venetian glassmaking in factories existed as far back as the 8th Century. Unfortunately glass factories caught on fire far too often and in order to protect the city of Venice, in 1291, the Venetian Grand Council had all the kilns and furnaces moved out to Murano. The island became the only place authorized to produce glass in the Venetian Republic and within this isolated community, the craft rapidly evolved.
In the 15th century, Murano was known for cristallo—a fine, almost transparent glass—and lattimo, a porcelain-like milk glass. Next it gained fame for its mirrors, followed by its distinctive chandeliers. In the mid 15th century one glass artist discovered how to remove impurities from soda ash to create clear glass. Secrets discovered were painstakingly guarded in glass-making recipe books that were passed from father to son.
After centuries of glass making and countless challenges, Venetian glass to this day continues to evolve, inspire and impart magic into every object. In 1994 glass producers began certifying Murano glass. The certificate guarantees to consumers that their purchase has been made on the island of Murano and that the glass has been made using the traditional techniques of the master glassmakers.
The photo below incorporates two of our favorite styles. Bullicante is when Murano glass blowers create air bubbles in a grid pattern within the glass and Sommerso is the technique of creating 2 or more layers of contrasting glass without the colors mixing together.
Whether visiting the Venetian island of Burano or Murano, the Italian craftsmanship of lace and especially glass has evolved into world renowned treasures and it was great fun shopping for gifts.
Salute from these Veneziano,
Edoardo + Guilia (Ted + Julia)