It’s worth the trip to Murano to watch molten glass on the end of a rod be transformed as if by magic into gorgeous vases, glasses, and candlesticks before your eyes. Shopping on Murano is a bit of an art, however.
How to Shop Murano Successfully
Chances are you’ll arrive at the boat ramp on the south end of the island of Murano. When you disembark, move away from the area as quickly as possible, as hawkers may lure you into one of the more touristy glass factories bordering the docks that sell lower quality goods for higher prices. Instead, head toward the glass museum and window shop along the way. The farther north you walk toward the museum and the Basilica of Santi Maria e Donato, the more the prices fall.
The range of quality and price on Murano is staggering. Be prepared to see everything from silly figurines of Donald Duck to drop-dead gorgeous tableware with so many zeros on the price tag that it will make your head spin. In order to make sense of it all, the wonderful glass museum should be the first stop on your trip to Murano. You may be inclined or encouraged to head straight to the glass factories, but insist on visiting the museum first. There you will have the chance to train your eye.
The glass museum contains works of Murano glass from ancient times to the present, including an incredible glass centerpiece made for what must have been an enormous dining table in the Palazzo Morosini in the 1700s. The intricate ensemble resembles a garden complete with glass shrubs, vases, and fountains. After viewing this impressive collection of glass from the Roman era to the present, it’s hard to imagine that today’s glass artists could come up with anything new. However, styles evolve, and rest assured that you’ll emerge from the museum with plenty left to see in the shops.
In addition to the glass museum, a tour of one or more of the glass factories is the main attraction on Murano. Even if you don’t buy there, it’s worth the trip to see the impressive glass-blowing demonstrations. You can catch a factory tour just by showing up during open hours (most remain open during the sacred Italian lunch hour). Don’t feel obliged to buy as the crowd funnels into the factory shop. There is much to see on Murano and you’ll find many more buying opportunities.
Don’t leave Murano without visiting the Basilica of Santi Maria e Donato. This beautiful church contains a treasure—a twelfth-century floor mosaic with images of birds and other creatures, all crafted from shards of Murano glass.
Getting it Home
Some glassmakers are set up to pack and ship your treasures home and can usually ship anywhere in the world. Many of them have special packing materials and containers designed for protecting glassware. Still, shipping delicate pieces home can prove both costly and hazardous. If you decide to ship, don’t forget to get the seller’s email address, get the tracking number, and insure, insure, insure.
Chances are a persistent hawker hanging around San Marco will offer you a boat trip and an “exclusive” glass factory tour on Murano. The truth is that it only costs a small fee to take the ferry to the island yourself, and once there, you will be free to visit any glassmakers you want on your own. Best of all, you’ll avoid the high-pressure sales tactics and be able to enjoy the highlights of this quiet, beautiful and special island free of distraction.