Murano is a small island around 10 minutes by boat from Venice (about 1.5km). We visited it on a 20 Euro, four-hour tour of Murano, Burano and Torcello that departed from next to San Marco, so we didn’t have much time to stay and explore.

At first glance it looks similar to Venice, but its buildings aren’t anywhere near as ornate.

Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato

The two big tourist attractions in Murano that we did are the glass blowing studios and the Byzantine-style Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato with its square bell tower. The basilica and its impressive mosaics were constructed in the 12th Century while the paintings were added in the 13th Century. The entrance is around the west side, while the east side provides the best aspect with its colonnaded facade.

basilica dei santi maria e donato murano venice

It’s worth spending some time here admiring the marble floor which dates from around 1140, the large gold mosaic in the apse and the marble sarcophagus which is said to contain the relics of San Donato.

Gold mosaic of a madonna praying in the apse of the basilica
Gold mosaic of a madonna praying in the apse of the basilica

On the outside of the building you’ll find some other carved squares, and opposite is the bell tower, standing separately.

bell tower at basilica in murano
Square brick bell tower next to the basilica in Murano

Behind the alter there are four rib bones that are said to be from a dragon slain by San Donato in Greece, but as they’re over a metre long they’ll be of some long-extinct dinosaur.

Glass-blowing

Murano has been the main glass-blowing region since the 1200s when the profession was moved there from Venice to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire sweeping through the wooden buildings. But before that, glass-blowing is suspected to have been practiced there since at least 800 AD. All credit goes to the people that can do this hot work in the 35-degree heat of August!

The amount of different types of blown glass on sale is quite incredible, and there are different styles of glass that can be created by mixing different chemicals and elements in during the melting and shaping process. Once you’ve watched a glass-blowing demonstration you’ll have an idea of how some of the items are created. Shop around for a good glass-blowing tour which gives you more than just an overview of a few minutes.

Glass blowing demonstration - making a glass fish
Glass blowing demonstration – making a glass fish

We weren’t allowed to take photos in the glass showroom because of copyright restrictions.

If you want to find out more about the history there’s the Museo del Vetro (Museum of Glass) located half way to the basilica from the dock but unfortunately we didn’t have time to go here.

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