Murano was on the list of places to visit today. Famous for its glass making, it has been a centre for this industry since the 1200's. Venice was always well regarded within Europe for its glass production and technical prowess. Whilst originally developed on the mainland, the risk of fire and need to protect technical skills and ability saw the base for manufactured moved to Murano very early. Glass makers could be under threat of death, if they left Murano and were discovered. Such was the skill of glass making such a highly valued secret.
We went to the concierge to book a water taxi to take us to Murano, following our practice for each day since we have been here. The concierge told us that the hotel runs a free service to Murano for hotel guests. As there is a shuttle to San Marco and back we still didn't catch on, so on confirming we could get the water taxi over, but find our own way back, agreed.
What actually happens is that the hotel has an arrangement with one of the glass making firms, delivers hotel guests with their wallets in hand, and the guests buy some Murano glass. Everyone happy - right? Wrong.
The foundry we were taken to was Vetreria Bisanzio Gallery and it has been in existence since the 1400's. We even saw their family tree.
We were invited to watch one of the current glass making experts at work. In his 70's he works with his son and two helpers. Yes it was interesting, and to see how the glass is handled and the pieces created was intriguing, but the style of the ornament of a dandy in his dress coat was not to my liking. Ok, I think, there will be plenty more I do like, no problem.
Good theory, but there was a problem. The suite if showrooms we were taken to were overwhelming. Even for me. You could not move for glass display shelves and cabinets, loaded with glass pieces created by the artisans. The gentleman hovered advising he would assist with looking and advising prices as required. It really was quite intimidating. Then, as I began to realize that what I had assumed was the stock code number, too many with the same "code" was really the price I began to fret. There were way to many zeros.
Prices were in the €1000's - €35000 for a chandelier, just like the one in our bedroom, €5000 for a glass animal etc. We looked at each other in amazement. So much for thinking we might buy something as a gift for someone at home to offset the "free" water taxi ride - which would normally cost about €60 each way. A basic glass tumbler was €150 and a set of six port glasses was €870. On to Plan B.
Needing an escape plan I developed an "interest" in a glass turtle. It really was quite beautiful in matt black glass, with cut away green detail, but with a price tag of €5000 was way beyond our budget. The salesman offered to check to see whether he could reduce the price specially for me. I told him I would need to sweet talk Frank in order to be able to buy the piece, so we would think about it. By this stage Frank was nearly hyperventilating, in the mistaken believe I was seriously interested. The look on his face was classic. The salesman then escorted us to the door reassuring us we would need to return before 1.00pm to catch the water taxi back to Guidecca Island. Once back in the alleyways of Murano it took me the next five minutes to reassure Frank that I was not seriously considering purchasing the turtle. We decided we were over Murano and headed back to the main island, happily spending. The rest of our day wandering the backstreets.
Funnily enough, reading another guidebook in the evening I came across a warning about tourists being offered "free" boat rides to Murano....too late!