Island Hopping

One thing we noticed in Venice is that all the buildings have thick wooden shutters painted a dark forest green. No slats, just solid wood. It seemed unusual to us at first, but then we discovered the benefits: total darkness in our hotel room.

Which allowed us to sleep off the jet lag in one fell blow: eleven straight hours of snooze time. I don’t think we had gotten so much sleep since the kids were born. One hour for each year of parenthood.

Brian had become disenchanted with the idea of aimlessly meandering the tourist-crammed alleys of Venice the day before, which was great, because I was able to talk him into doing what really wanted to do: hop a vaporetto to the islands of Murano and Burano.

Here, just to orient you:

murano-and-burano-map

These are both very touristy islands; you’ve probably heard of them before. Murano is the island known for glassmaking. This is because glassmaking was considered such a fire hazard that glassblowers were banished from the main Venetian islands to keep the city safe . . . but still be able to call the finished products “Venetian glass.”

And if you were a difficult-to-get-to Italian island with no other kind of industry, you’d totally capitalize on this, right?

So there are streets lined with shops selling all kinds of glass trinkets (we purchased a tiny glass turtle for Eleanor) . . .

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. . . and interesting architectural features depicting glassblowing . . .

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. . . and big glass public sculptures . . .

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. . . and even a blown-glass madonna shrine on one of the walls.

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The Museum of Glass was fairly interesting, but most of the exhibit was closed due to construction. I especially loved the miniature glass garden, complete with glass fences and glass bouquets of blossoms.


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There was also a fascinating display about how the Venetian glass industry had a boom in the 20th century by selling glass beads to tribal Africans. And the display copy was written in a way that was . . . shall we say, free of the historical baggage that an American museum might have. Wow.

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A pretty painted boat we saw in the Murano canal. Nothing special, just pretty.

Can you tell that it was one of the first sunny days of the year? I nearly tripped over those sunbathers.

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To tell the truth, there has been such a surge of interest in glass art here in the U.S. (especially in the Pacific Northwest) that the stuff I saw in Murano didn’t nearly impress me as much as I thought it would. But it was still fun to see things like glass ballerinas and animals and hot air balloons and even a complete glass symphony orchestra. (Most shops requested that no photos be taken of their glassware. Fair enough.)

We then hopped another very busy vaporetto for another, longer lagoon ride. (Fun fact: did you know the Italian Boy Scouts have a camp on one of the lagoon islands? Cool.) Onwards to Burano!

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This is a vaporetto that was arriving as we were departing.

 

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There are scads of little lagoon islands that are privately owned, or abandoned, or both.

Burano is the island known for making lace. BUT — it doesn’t have a too-long history for the craft. Venetian lace has been famous for centuries, but it only became associated with Burano in the 19th century. A lacemaking school was opened in Burano at that time as part of an effort to preserve the craft (which was beginning to be lost with the advent of machine-made lace).

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This island oozes charm, mainly because there is a local custom for using bright shades of paint on the buildings. It felt a bit more like Mexico than Italy.

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Brian and I wandered off the main tourist drag and found the streets totally empty. Why more people don’t do this, I’ll never understand.

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It was a sunny day, so lots of people were hanging out their clothes . . . and sometimes more than clothes:

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As my friend Libby put it: “you don’t wash all the stuffed animals unless something bad happened. There’s a story there, and it ain’t pretty.”

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Yes, we did see an elderly lacemaker plying her trade in one of the shops, but I was too shy to take her picture. We did pick out a lace bookmark for Eleanor, though. She adores it.

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The Museum of Lace was one of my favorite museums on the entire trip. Women’s history + handmade textiles = yeah, this is going to be something I love. Even Brian was blown away by the intricacy of the Renaissance-era lace samples.

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We especially liked this one because you can see little cherubs and animals hidden in the design.

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This is a painting of women using lacemakers’ stools, and in front are a collection of stools from the old lacemaking school. I love the wall color, the whole feel of this room.

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Brian’s main question is if this has inspired me to learn lacemaking. Whoa, absolutely not. I haven’t even mastered knitted lace yet. Traditional lacemaking looks like the kind of thing that would turn me blind. Or crazy.

As I’ve stated before when people ask if I’m going to take up new hobbies (birdwatching, CrossFit, fruit propagation): I’m Eccentric Enough.

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One thought on “Island Hopping

  1. You never cease to make me laugh out loud. Your descriptions of your trip have been priceless. I have loved living vicariously through you. Congrats to Brian on finishing the slog through studenthood.

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