Venice – the civic museums (Burano Lace Museum & Murano Glass Museum)

Following the previous posts about the Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Pesaro, Mocenigo Palace and Carlo Goldoni’s house, this post will be about the last two museums that I visited of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE), that is to say, the Lace museum on the island of Burano and the Glass Museum on the island of Murano. This time, we will leave the main island of Venice and visit two small islands in the lagoon. If you have read my previous posts about Venice, please click here to jump directly to the main content of this one. If not, the following paragraphs will be about an explanation of the outstanding universal value of Venice in terms of its history, city planning, architecture and art; some practical tips concerning the ideal length of your stay, the proper season of your visit and what you should note while eating in the restaurants and an introduction to the public transport system as well as the entrance prices and opening hours of some of the major attractions such as the churches belonging to the Chorus Association and museums of the MUVE. Now, let’s get to know Venice, a precious gem on the Adriatic sea.

As the UNESCO comments:

Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.


威尼斯及其泻湖: 威尼斯始建于5世纪,由118个小岛构成,10世纪时成为当时最主要的海上力量。整个威尼斯城就是一幅非凡的建筑杰作,即便是城中最不起眼的建筑也可能是出自诸如焦尔焦内(Giorgione)、提香(Titian)、丁托列托(Tintoretto)、韦罗内塞(Veronese)等世界大师之手。

1. Venice and its outstanding universal value

When’s the first time you heard about Venice and how? Well, I guess the first time I heard about Venice was in my English literature class when I was introduced to William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice“. Or maybe it was in my history class when I learnt that Marco Polo departed from here in search of China, Annam (nowadays Vietnam), Tonkin, Sumatra (an island in Indonesia), India and Persia. His voyage reminds us of the role that the Venetian merchants played in the discovery of the world, though after the Arabs, around 200 years before the Portuguese. In fact, it’s also possible that I heard about Venice even earlier, in my Chinese literature class when I was appreciating the essay “Venice” written by Zhu Ziqing, a renowned Chinese poet and essayist.

威尼斯(Venice)是一个别致地方。出了火车站,你立刻便会觉得;这里没有汽车,要到那儿,不是搭小火轮,便是雇“刚朵拉”(Gondola)。大运河穿过威尼斯像反写的S;这就是大街。另有小河道四百十八条,这些就是小胡同。轮船像公共汽车,在大街上走;“刚朵拉”是一种摇橹的小船,威尼斯所特有,它那儿都去。威尼斯并非没有桥;三百七十八座,有的是。只要不怕转弯抹角,那儿都走得到,用不着下河去。可是轮船中人还是很多,“刚朵拉”的买卖也似乎并不坏。 威尼斯是“海中的城”,在意大利半岛的东北角上,是一群小岛,外面一道沙堤隔开亚得利亚海。在圣马克方场的钟楼上看,团花簇锦似的东一块西一块在绿波里荡漾着。远处是水天相接,一片茫茫。这里没有什么煤烟,天空干干净净;在温和的日光中,一切都像透明的。中国人到此,仿佛在江南的水乡;夏初从欧洲北部来的,在这儿还可看见清清楚楚的春天的背影。海水那么绿,那么酽,会带你到梦中去。

Zhu studied at Peking University (always one of the 2 top universities in China), and during the May Fourth Movement became one of several pioneers of modernism in China during the 1920s. Zhu was a prolific writer of both prose and poetry, but is best known for essays like “Retreating Figure” (背影), “You. Me.” (你我) and the long poem “Destruction” (毁灭). This time, before leaving for Venice, I told my parents that I was going there and my dad said, “Oh, Venice, the city that Zhu Ziqing visited and wrote about. Don’t forget to take the gondola and check whether they are the same as he described or not. Maybe they have changed now?” The text above is part of what Zhu wrote and I’ll try to translate it by myself here. I hope and will try my best to keep the “original taste” of it.

Venice is a unique place. Once leaving the train station, you will immediately realize that there are no cars here. Wherever you wanna go, you can to take either a steam ship or a gondola. The Grand Canal goes through Venice like the letter “S” and it is the “main street” of the city. What’s more, there are 480 small canals and rios and they play the same role as the small alleys (hutong) in Beijing. The steam ships are like buses in other cities, “driving” passengers hither and thither. Gondola is similar to a rowed boat and it’s unique here in Venice. Wherever you wanna go, it can take you there. There are no bridges? Of course there are and there are 378! That’s a lot and enough because after turning around and around, you can basically reach everywhere without touching the sea water. Nevertheless, still quite a lot of people choose to take ships and it seems that gondola is also a rather popular option among them. Composed of many small islands and located at the northeast corner of the Italian peninsula, Venice is called the “city in the sea”. Seen from the top of San Marco Campanile, the islands are like floral clusters floating on the Adriatic sea. In warm sunlight and with almost no smoke, my sight goes through the seemingly transparent whole until it reaches the horizon where the sea meet the sky. As a Chinese, Venice reminds me of the water towns in southern China. After my trip to northern Europe in early summer, I can still find spring here, retreating yet clear. The water, so green and so “strong”, flows into your dreams.

The essay is much longer and I hope you can grasp a general idea or feeling of it from my translation. I’m happy that writing about Venice gives me the opportunity to read Zhu’s work again. I think the last time I read the “Venice” by him was somewhat more than 10 years ago and I have forgotten almost all of it except the “gondola”. A city floating on the sea? Doesn’t it only exist in fairytales or the magical world? As Zhu mentioned in his essay, I was born and grew up in southern China and I know Suzhou (Soochow) is called the “Oriental Venice” because of its rivers and bridges. I lived in this city for four years and I’ve always dreamt of seeing the real Venice. Eventually, the opportunity has come.

In this lagoon covering 50,000 square kilometers, nature and history have been closely connected since the 5th century when the Venetian ancestors came to the sandy islands of Torcello, Jesolo and Malamocco. As time went by, temporary settlements turned to be permanent and the fisherman and peasants became a maritime power. With its expansion over the centuries, Venice never ceased to consolidate its position in the lagoon. What is it that made the UNESCO decide to protect the whole city and its lagoon? What kind of historical, cultural and educational values does Venice possess? Based on what I read from the UNESCO World Heritage website, I’ll try to answer these question from three main aspects, that is to say, the city planning (protection), the monuments (architecture) and the art (painters and paintings).

1.1 Urban setting

Before seeing it, it’s rather difficult to imagine a city built on the sea. We sometimes say though a sparrow is small, it has all the organs that it needs. From Torcello to the north to Chioggia to the south, the islands here in this lagoon are similar to the sparrows, small yet highly functional. Made up of these islands and located at the heart of Veneto, Venice “stood as one of the greatest capitals” in the Middle Ages. In this distinctive city, street means canal, alley means rio, bus means ship and pedestrian crossing means bridge. This unique landscape resulted from a long and sophisticated process which reflects the interaction between people and the natural environment and it is this interaction that demonstrates people’s high technical and creative skills in the “realization of the hydraulic and architectural works” in this area. Although Venice presents a complete typology of medieval architecture, what makes it more special and valuable is that these buildings were constructed according to certain urban setting which had to adapt to the special conditions of the site.

Was it an easy task to organize the islands in such an urban system? It was not and it is not an easy task to keep the system or to update it nowadays either. Venice was and still is vulnerable due to various reasons. One of them is the irreversible natural and climate changes. We human beings can change a lot of things but one of the few things that we can never take control of is nature. Though very difficult, negotiating with nature and protecting their home is a task that the Venetians never forget or give up. When you are in the city, you will see ingenious devices and designs that have been applied to the streets and buildings (palazzos, churches and so on) for this specific purpose. As part of the coherent ecosystem, the muddy shelves, the small islands, the pile dwellings, the fishing villages, the rice fields and so on (which can be easily neglected) all need the same level of attention and protection. Shouldn’t we remember the crystallization of wisdom of these people who were, are and will be coping with nature to preserve this glorious gem of the sea?

1.2 Architecture and monumental arts

The second aspect showing Venice’s outstanding universal value is its influence on the development of monumental arts. I was writing about Palladio and his works in and around Vicenza some time ago and I mentioned some of his original designs in Venice. Honestly, for me, visiting Venice is like visiting the historic centers of Rome and Paris in the aspect that almost every building has its own history and is worth knowing about. This is the reason why the UNESCO emphasizes that “the lagoon of Venice has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces in the world”. From the palazzos to the squares (piazza and campi), from the bridges to the streets (calli), from the churches to the Scuole hospitals and chartable and cooperative institutions, one who sees Venice sees the complete catalogue of medieval architecture and even more.

While we are talking about the city’s history and buildings, how can we miss its significant role as the capital (810–1797) of the Republic of Venice? For almost a millennium, Venice was the major witness to the ups and downs of this powerful sovereign state and nowadays, its architectural ensembles make it possible for us to see the magnificence of the Republic’s Golden Age. What’s more, internationally, the monuments built based on the Venetian models “first through the Serenissima’s fondachi or trading stations, along the Dalmatian coast, in Asia Minor and in Egypt, in the islands of the Ionian Sea, the Peloponnesus, Crete, and Cyprus” are strong evidence of the width and strength of this Republic’s influence on architecture.

1.3 Paintings and decorative arts

When the Republic of Venice started to lose its power over the sea, it exerted its influence in a rather different manner. I personally am a great fan of Italian paintings and besides the Manneristic Renaissance painters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, the ones belonging to the Venetian school are always among my favorites. From the later part of the 15th century, Venice had a distinctive, flourishing and influential art scene. Beginning with the work of Giorgione and the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, major artists of the Venetian school included Titian (Tiziano Vecelli), Tintoretto (also known as Jacopo Robusti in his youth), Paolo Veronese (also known as Paolo Caliari) and Jacopo Bassano (also known as Jacopo dal Ponte). Together with Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, their revolutionary and ingenious masterpieces illustrating a brand-new perception of space, light and color left a decisive mark on the development of painting and decorative arts in the whole of Europe.

I remember that in the museums in other cities, once I saw paintings of these masters that I mentioned above, I would definitely take a close look at them. Nevertheless, in Venice, I only chose to take a look at the most famous ones or the ones that I like the most. Why? Because there are so many! I assure you that in no other city of the world can you see such a complete collection of works created by these great painters. These marvelous masterpieces are scatted all over Venice in the churches, houses, palazzos and of course in the museums and art galleries. For example, in the Church of San Zaccaria, you can see Giovanni Bellini’s “San Zaccaria Altarpiece”; in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, you can see Titian’s “The Assumption of the Virgin”; in the Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, you can see Tintoretto’s “Last Supper”; in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, you can see Paolo Veronese’s “The Feast in the House of Levi” and “Mystical Marriage of St Catherine”Titian’s “Presentation of the Virgin” and many more. Trust me, if you are a fan of any of those masters in the Venetian school, you will certainly feel Venice is the paradise of art. Just a reminder, as a city built on 118 small islands floating on the Adriatic Sea, the beauty of Venice also inspired numerous landscape painters such as Canaletto, Guardi, Turner and so on.

2. General tips for visiting Venice

Having elaborated on the outstanding universal value of Venice, now, by answering four questions, I’d like to give you a general introduction to the city accompanied by some suggestions or tips based on my own experiences. The first question that I guess many people, who have never been to Venice, have in their mind is: “What are the must-visit attractions in this wonderful city?” Well, I guess anyone who knows Italy knows Venice and anyone who knows Venice knows St. Mark’s Square. It is the principal public square of Venice and is generally known just as la Piazza (“the Square”). Together with the Piazzetta (“little Square”), an extension of the Piazza towards the lagoon in its south east corner, it forms the social, religious and political centre of Venice. In fact, All the other urban spaces in the city (except the Piazzale Roma) are called campi (“fields”). Dominated by the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint MarkProcuratie Nuove, Napoleonic Wing, Procuratie Vecchie, the Campanile of St Mark’s churchBiblioteca Marciana, and Doge’s Palace, these two spaces are worth the name “the drawing room of Europe” (a comment which is said to have been left by Napoleon).

Take your time but remember, don’t spend all your time here. Otherwise, you will miss a big part of Venice. I somehow feel that visiting Venice is like going through a general body examination. It’s of vital importance to check the heart (visit the St. Mark’s Square) but without checking other parts, this examination just doesn’t make much sense. All in all, I’d really like to remind you that Venice is much more than just St. Mark’s Square. Visiting the bridges (such as Ponte dell’Accademia and the Rialto Bridge), the churches (such as the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and the Basilica of Saint Mary of Health), the houses or palaces (such as Ca’ Rezzonico and Ca’ Pesaro), the islands (such as Murano and Burano), the museums (such as the Lace Musem and the Glass Museum), the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Grand Canal and so on will help you gain a much more detailed and comprehensive understanding of Venice.

“How long should we stay in Venice?” Well, this is a very difficult question because depending on how much you wanna see and how much you wanna learn, the length could vary from three days to a month or even longer. If you wanna have a good understanding of the city, I would say you need to spend at least a week here. “What’s the best time to visit Venice?” I visited Venice in November and at the beginning I was a bit disappointed because my friends told me the weather in the summer is much better. Nevertheless, when they told me they waited for one, two or even more hours to enter the churches and museums, I was so glad and realized that I chose the right time. In totally, I visited 18 churches and 9 museums and I didn’t spend any time waiting for entering them. Though in the winter, almost all the museums close earlier than in the summer, I’m still happy that I can use the time standing in the lines to have a nice dinner and enjoy the view of Venice at night. Briefly, if possible, I still recommend you visiting Venice in the low season to avoid large crowds.

“Is it safe to travel in Venice?” According to my experience, I would say my own trip was rather smooth and successful. I wouldn’t say there’s anything life-threatening that you need to be reminded of. Nevertheless, do keep an eye on your personal belongings because similar to any other big or famous touristy cities, thieves are inevitable. What’s more, don’t fall for their tricks when someone offers you free stuff or asks you to sign something. Just remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Besides,there are two more things that I’d like to share with you concerning having lunch and dinner in the restaurants. Firstly, please note that cover fee and service fee are two different charges so when you go to a restaurant where they say they don’t charge compulsory service fee, don’t be surprised when the cover fee appears on your bill, and vice versa. Honestly, as for the cover fee, I think its reasonable to charge it and as long as they provide ok service, I prefer that the restaurants just charge the service fee directly so I don’t need to calculate and think about how much tip I should leave. The thing I hate the most is that sometimes they say one thing while doing another (For example, some guy standing in front of the restaurant inviting customers in said that the restaurant wouldn’t charge service fee or whatsoever. Nevertheless, by the end, both fees appeared on the bill and I saw some customers complaining to him and he seemed to suggest that he would talk with the manager and give their cover and service fees back. Of course 99% of the people would say “Ah, it’s just a few euros, never mind,” and that’s how he does his “business”.) I don’t mind paying a few more euros but if you lie to me, I won’t allow myself to be tricked like a fool and pretend nothing has happened. The second thing is that when you make your order, make sure you see your dish and the price on the menu. For example, in one restaurant, the waitress asked my friend and me, “do you want some garlic bread”? and I said “sure, why not.” but when I got the “garlic bread” they turned out to be tomato buchetta. I bet that if I questioned her she would say “oh, sorry I can’t speak English well or oh sorry, isn’t buchetta garlic bread?” What else could I say? Fortunately, nowadays on Google Map you can check reviews of the restaurants and I strongly recommend you doing so before entering them. How I regret I didn’t do it because later on I checked the reviews of that particular restaurant and there had been so many similar cases much worse then mine. Can you imagine how you would feel if you and your family enter a restaurant planning to have a simple dinner for around 60 euros and end up paying 200 instead? I sincerely hope that the local authorities could deal with these kinds of restaurants which are obviously trying to “rip tourists off”. We tourists need to respect Venice and on the other hand, Venice (relevant administrations) also needs to respect its visitors. Only in this way can we achieve a harmonious relationship between the city and the people.

3. Brief info about public transport and major attractions (that I visited)

As I mentioned above, during my this trip to Venice, I visited 16 churches belonging to the Chorus Association, a conservation organisation aiming at safeguarding, conserving and restoring the artistic, historical and cultural heritage contained within the 18 Venetian churches that presently constitute its membership (Church of Santa Maria del Giglio, Church of Santo Stefano, Church of Santa Maria Formosa, Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Church of San Giovanni Elemosinario, Church of San Polo, Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Church of San Giacomo dall’Orio, Church of San Stae, Church of Sant’Alvise, Basilica of San Pietro di Castello, Church of the Santissimo Redentore, Church of Santa Maria del Rosario (Gesuati), Church of San Sebastiano, Church of San Giobbe, Church of San Giuseppe di Castello, Church of San Vidal and Church of San Giacomo di Rialto), 8 museums belonging to the Venice Civic Museum Foundation (Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia) (Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Pesaro, Glass Museum in Murano, Natural History Museum, Mocenigo Palace, Fortuny Palace, Lace Museum in Burano, Carlo Goldoni’s house and Clock Tower (visits only upon prior booking)) as well as the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore as well as the Gallerie dell’Accademia.

If you want to visit both the churches and the civic museums I recommend you buying the City Pass from VeneziaUnica which costs 29.9 euros for people from 6 to 29 years old (39.9 euros for people from 30+) and gives free admission to: Doge’s Palace and all 10 Civic Museums of Venice, 16 churches of the Chorus Circuit (another 2 are free), the Querini Stampalia Foundation and the Jewish Museum. Please click here to check more offers provided by VeneziaUnica such as St. Mark’s City Pass (free access to Doge’s Palace and the Corror museum on St. Mark’s square + 3 churches in the Chorus circuit of your choice), St. Mark’s City Pass + tour of the Teatro La Fenice with audioguide, City Pass + lagoon tour, City Pass + public transport and so on.

If you only wanna visit the churches of the Chorus Association, I suggest you buy the Chorus Pass which costs only 12 euros for an adult (please note that entrance to each church in this circuit costs 3 euros already). For more information about the reduced-price Pass, Family Pass, free tickets, opening hours of the churches and so on, please click here.

If you only wanna visit the civic museums, you can buy the “Museum Pass” which grants entrance to most of them except Palazzo Fortuny and the Clock Tower. The full price is 24 euros. Depending on which and how many museums in this foundation you want to visit, either buying the tickets separately or buying the “Museum Pass” can be cheaper. However, if you plan to visit more than four museums in this circle, it’s for sure a better deal to just buy the Pass. Please click here and click the PDF file “Civic Museums of Venice – short version” to check both the full and reduced entrance prices for each of the museums and click here to know more about the different types of the “Museum Pass” (such as family pass, child pass, senior pass etc).

As for public transport, water bus (ship) is the main means. According to my experience, it’s fun exploring the main island both on foot and by boat because the former means gives you the opportunity to be closer to the narrow streets and authentic residential blocks while the latter makes your journey much easier and more convenient because there are so many lines and stops. Nevertheless, if you want to visit the Church of the Santissimo Redentore, the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Lace Museum on Burano Island, the Glass Museum on Murano Island and so on and have a cruise on the magnificent Grand Canal, you have to take the water bus. Depending on how many days you will spend in Venice and where you want to go, you can buy one-way ticket (7.5 €), 1-day ticket (20 €), 2-day ticket (30 €), 3-day ticket (40 €), 7-day ticket (60€), water bus tickets with Marco Polo Airport transfer and so on. For more informations about group tickets and some special offers please click here and click “Public Transport”.

4. Museums of the MUVE

There are in total 11 museums belonging to the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, which manages and develops the cultural and artistic heritage of Venice and the islands. I am satisfied that I visited 8 of them but I wish I had more time to know better about them. The 11 museums are:

  1. Doge’s Palace (formerly the residence of the Doge of Venice and the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice, now a museum)
  2. Museo Correr (the Imperial Rooms, the Canova collection, the art and history of Venice). Included in the combined itinerary are the National Archaeological Museum of Venice and the Monumental Rooms of Biblioteca Marciana.
  3. Clock Tower (visit the terrace on the roof and learn about the clock mechanism. Please note that visits are only allowed with prior booking)
  4. Ca’ Rezzonico (museum of the 18th-century Venice)
  5. Palazzo Mocenigo Museum (museum of textiles and costumes with the new itinerary dedicated to perfume)
  6. Carlo Goldoni’s House (not only Carlo Goldoni’s residence but also a museum exhibiting collections of his life and works)
  7. Ca’ Pesaro (International Gallery of Modern Art)
  8. Palazzo Fortuny (Mariano Fortuny’s own photography, stage-design, textile-design and painting atelier)
  9. Glass Museum (on the island of Murano)
  10. Lace Museum (formerly seat of the Burano Lace School on the island of Burano)
  11. Natural History Museum

The museums that I didn’t visit in this foundation are the Clock Tower, because I didn’t book a tour in advance; the Palazzo Fortuny, because it was closed and will be open again from the 24th March 2018 and the Natural History Museum because I didn’t have enough time and I’m not particularly interested in this kind of museums. In five posts, I’m gonna write about all the ones I visited, briefly informing you of the opening hours, ticket prices and the floor plans of them (some of the museums are so big that you might easily get lost in them) and of course focusing on their historical, cultural and artistic values. I hope when you go to Venice and visit them you will have a successful and meanigful trip. Now let’s start our adventure with the colorful Burano Island and the Lace Museum, seat of the famous Burano Lace School from 1872 to 1970.

5. Burano Island

As I mentioned in the introduction part, Venice is much more than just St. Mark’s Square and the main island. I strongly recommend you exploring the islands in its lagoon as well. During my visit, I woke up one day early in the morning and decided to go further in the lagoon to see more, learn more and experience more. Because I was staying in the Cannaregio sestieri (district), I chose to go to Burano by water bus No 12 from F.te Nove “A”. It took me around 15 mins to walk to the boat stop from my hotel and I felt an entirely different Venice. The squares and streets were almost empty. Sometimes I saw a few residents buying vegetables and fruits from grocery stands and sometimes I saw a few small cargo boats unloading goods at the feet of the bridges. That’s all, I guess. No people rushing to work and no tourists smiling to their cameras. Trust me, it’s not common to see Venice like this. Tranquility and emptiness are precious here. Once I exited the narrow alleys and arrived at the harbor, I was amazed. The sun was right in front of me, not too low, not too high, right in front of me. I didn’t need to wear sunglasses because it wasn’t that bright yet and it was this moment that I saw the real, golden Venice. The sun was golden, the sky was golden, the brick pavement was golden, the old houses were golden. It seemed like that some magician just cast a fine golden net covering the entire city. While I was waiting for the water bus, I noticed the snowy mountains at the background of the blue sea, so blue that even appeared to be thick and impenetrable. Finally, my boat arrived. Though a bit chilly, I chose to sit in the outside compartment because I didn’t want the glass windows to obstruct my view. While going further and further, I seemed to see Venice more and more clearly. All the sharp towers, short or long, appeared one by one like rockets, ready to be launched at any time.

Burano is situated around 7 km from Venice and can be easily reached by a 40-minute boat trip. Like Venice, Burano could more correctly be called an archipelago of four islands linked by bridges. It is situated near Torcello at the northern end of the Lagoon, and is known for its lace work and brightly coloured houses. These two features will also be the highlights of our tour on the island. Some other attractions include the Church of San Martino, with a leaning campanile (as you can see in the first picture above) and a painting by Giambattista Tiepolo, and the Oratorio di Santa Barbara.

I heard that Burano is quite touristy and can be crowded because visitors arrive for sightseeing and to purchase lace goods. Fortunately I woke up early and arrived early. The main square was almost empty and after a short walk around (while waiting for the Lace Museum to open), I only saw locals chatting by their houses or boats and retailers opening their shops. I originally thought that there was only one certain area, such as the main square, where the residential buildings were brightly colored. Nevertheless, what impressed and shocked me was that the island is almost entirely covered by residential buildings and all of them are painted with different colors. I felt like I was in a Disney movie, or even in a fairyland. It is said on Wikipedia that “the colours of the houses follow a specific system, originating from the golden age of its development. If someone wishes to paint their home, one must send a request to the government, who will respond by making notice of the certain colours permitted for that lot.”

Besides the brilliant houses, Burano is also famous for its lacemaking industry. In fact, the island rose in importance only in the 16th century, when the local women started making lace with needles, introduced to such a trade via Venetian-ruled Cyprus. It is said that when Leonardo da Vinci visited the small town of Lefkara in 1481, he purchased a cloth for the main altar of Duomo di Milano. The lace was soon exported across Europe, but trade began to decline in the 18th century and the industry did not revive until 1872, when a school of lacemaking was opened and made lacemaking on the island boom again. There are many shops here saying that their products are handmade, but to be honest, I’m not 100% convinced. The prices somehow surprised me. I’m sure that a piece of lacework of a reasonable size made in the traditional manner should be really really expensive because making it is extremely time-consuming. Why? Please follow me to the Lace Museum not only to discover secrets of this skillful technique but also to admire the rare and valuable specimens of Venetian lace from the 16th to the 20th century.

6. Burano Lace Museum

6.1 Practical information

6.1.1 Opening hours

  • 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 – 17:00
  • 1st April – 31st October: 10:00 – 18:00
  • Closed on Mondays, 25th December, 1st January and 1st May

Please note that the ticket office closes half an hour before the official closing time of the museum and the opening time shown on Google Map could be inaccurate.

6.1.2 Ticket prices

  • Full price: 5 euros
  • Reduced price: 3.5 euros (children from 6 to 14, students from 15 to 25, citizens over 65 and so on)

If you wanna know more about the reduced price, free entrance, family offer, school offer and so on please click here.

Please note that if you wanna visit both the Lace Museum in Burano and the Glass Museum in Murano, you can buy the combined ticket, which costs:

  • Full price: 12 euros
  • Reduced price: 8 euros (children from 6 to 14, students from 15 to 25, citizens over 65 and so on)

As I mentioned in the third chapter, if you plan to visit more than 4 civic museums, please consider buying the “Museum Pass” and if you plan to visit the civic museums as well as the churches of the Chorus Association, please consider buying the “City Pass” from VeneziaUnica.

6.1.3 Floor plan

The layout of this museum is rather simple. On the ground floor, there is one room dedicated to the secrets of lacemaking techniques and different types of points of needle lace. On the first floor, there are in total four rooms with the first three dedicated to lace design and making from the origins to the 16th century, from the 17th to the 18th century, from the 19th to the 20th century, and the last one dedicated to the Burano Lace School (1872-1970).

Before starting our tour, let’s learn some basic knowledge about lace first. As I read from the official website of the MUVE, “lace indicates artefacts obtained out of nowhere, without any textile support, by combining stitch upon stitch with needle and thread or interweaving a certain number of threads spooling off special reels, named bobbins. Other techniques use crochet hooks, knitting-needles, the tatting shuttle or, in macramé, simple knotting of threads by hand”. The main lace types are needle lace and bobbin lace and the main materials used are superfine linen, silk, gold, silver and since the 20th century, cotton. The main characteristic of needle lace is its consistency and of bobbin lace its lightness. I have to admit that before, I had no knowledge of lace and even thought it is the same as embroidery. After visiting this museum, I understand that embroidery is the art of decorating a fabric or other materials with needle and thread while lace is made by looping and knotting threads in a given direction with no foundation material. I suggest you click here and read the relevant glossary of this business because whether you are a native speaker or not, the vocabulary in this field could be distant from the one of our daily use. Pleas note that the information I’m gonna provide below is based on what I read from the official website of the Lace Museum and from the info boards on site.

6.2 The museum

6.2.1 Room on the ground floor

In this room, a didactic video (though in Italian, it has an english subtitle) and an info panel will explain to you the techniques used in lacemaking. What’s more, examples of various points, such as the Venetian point, Burano point and raised Gros point will be demonstrated. Do finish watching the short video because it will give you a general idea of lacemaking and when you go upstairs and visit the other four rooms, the information on the cardboards will make more sense to you.

6.2.2 From the origins to the 16th century

The triple-petalled golden corolla fringes decorating the purple mantle of mosaic madonnas in the apses in Torcello, Murano and in the most ancient of St. Mark’s mosaics, were possibly executed with bibila stitches, a needle point carried out in Aegean islands and presented itself in the Veneto-Cretan icons in the 15th century. However, the needle lace which developed in Venice during the Renaissance, though stemming from that origin, was a different, complicated and advanced collection of various stitches. The first decorations were geometric and adorned the neckline of a woman’s garment and the corners of handkerchiefs.

In the 16th century, hundreds of books with designs for lace and embroidery were published. Executed at the noble women’s homes, these lace patterns in both furnishings and clothing show a preference for geometrical decorations, arabesque, rosette and particularly in the second half of the century, botanical and zoomorphic elements. Lacemaking activities in monasteries and orphanages were already documented in the late 16th century but due to the increasing popularity of and success in this industry, family and convent productions were no longer sufficient. From then on, such activities had been organized on a much larger scale with almost the entire female populations concentrated in particular areas, aiming at making the production more efficient.

6.2.3 From the 17th to the 18th century

This room is dedicated to lacemaking in the 17th and 18th centuries and here you can see many kinds of points of needle lace such as rose point lace, Venice flat point lace, coral point lace, Venice point lace, Burano point lace, leaf-work Venice point lace, Venice Gros point lace and so on. Please note that you can pull and push the display drawers using the “hole handles” but please don’t touch the glass.

In the 17th century, lace gained vast popularity not only among women but also among men of different professions. Flanders, Milan and Genoa specialized in bobbin lace while Venice created inimitable needle-work artefacts. Decorations in the first half of the century were characterized by botanical features structured in circles within which small animals resided. Between 1650 and 1675, Indian flower motifs appeared, which were taken from herbals and interpreted with imagination. In the last quarter of the century, the same motifs underwent a transformation with a reduction both in size and stylization (which means less imagination was involved). I suggest you take a look at the lace examples on display and the “name tags” nearby, where you can see when and where these particular pieces were produced, and check whether they match the general trend of the century or not.

In the 18th century, super light lace of the Flemish type became popular, a feature that the Venetian needle artefacts attempted to resemble by increasing the background surface made of lightweight netting, where measured floral elements appeared to be englobed. This was the invention of the Burano point. At the same time, the blonde lace was also produced in Venice with bobbins, but it was preferred to be dyed black and used as capes in carnival disguises. Due to the emergence of a simpler and more practical lifestyle, lace patterns were characterized by tiny and wide-spread motifs, suitable for small shawls, etc. Historical events such as the French and American revolution led to the abandoning of lace because it was considered as an odious symbol of the aristocracy.

6.2.4 From the 19th to the 20th century

At the beginning of the 19th century, lace manufacture was resumed in Europe because Napoleon saw thousands of professionals in this industry jobless and made the use of lace in court ceremonial robes compulsory. Throughout this century, lace production rose in England, France, Belgium and Spain but proceeded wearily in Venice. Trying to compete with the machine-made, more economical lace of the same quality, its fate was destined. Fortunately, in the last quarter of the century, committees of intellectuals, politicians and cultured aristocratic ladies such as Andriana Marcello, not only organized schools for learning by retrieving ancient designs to copy but also purchased very expensive artefacts without expecting favorable prices.

The 20th century has also seen ups and downs of the lacemaking industry but since the last quarter, this activity has been recognized as a form of traditional craftsmanship and has been revived and carried on till today thanks to the passion of each of the professionals in this field.

6.2.5 Burano Lace School

The fourth room is dedicated to the famous Burano Lace School. At the end of the 19th century, under the patronage of Margherita of Savoy, enlightened aristocracy launched a project to revive Venetian lacemaking by opening schools. The first school of such was founded in Burano in 1872 after finding an elderly surviving teacher. The others were founded along the coast in the mainland of Venice. During this time, lace pieces were made with higher technical precision than before and the designs were mostly inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Thanks to the generous commissions from the royal families and the endowments by the Marcello family, this activity continue for decades. Nevertheless, as I mentioned above, competing with the industrialized production in Italy, the Venetian workshops which still focused on handmade products were merely struggling in vain. After World War II, only small accessories and souvenirs were produced and in the 1970s, the schools and laboratories were closed gradually. In 1981, thanks to the initiative of a consortium supported by public and private organizations and by the Andriana Marcello Foundation, the School Museum was inaugurated and a series of theoretical-practical courses on the art of Venice and Burano lacemaking was organized, just to remind us of this traditional craftsmanship that once made this island glorious and its residents proud. Please note that some artworks in the pictures in this section might belong to the third room because both the third and fourth rooms are dedicated to the 19th and 20th centuries and I can’t remember in which room I saw them.

This museum is not big and I think that spending 1 to 2 hours here is enough. Having learnt about lacemaking in Burano, how can we ignore glassmaking in Murano? They are probably two of the most famous and traditional craftsmanship in Venice and its lagoon. Do you remember when we visited the palaces and houses, we always saw glassware and in particular, chandeliers made of Murano glass? Now, let’s take the water bus to visit another island, Murano, and its Glass Museum.

7. Murano Island

If you are wondering why the first two pictures look like sunrise or sunset, it’s because I took them when I was on my way to Burano early in the morning. The water bus I took, line 12 actually goes to Burano through Murano and later I went to Murano from Burano by the same line. Compared with Burano, Murano is also composed of a series of islands linked by bridges in the lagoon, but it lies only about 1.5 km north of Venice. Once an independent comune which minted its own coins, it is now a frazione of the comune of Venice. Attractions on the island include the church of Santa Maria e San Donato (known for its twelfth-century Byzantine mosaic pavement and is said to house the bones of the dragon slain by Saint Donatus in the 4th century), the church of San Pietro Martire with works by Giovanni Bellini, the Palazzo da Mula and of course the Glass Museum housed in the large Palazzo Giustinian.

In 1291, Murano became the center of glass production because all the glassmakers in Venice were forced to move here due to the risk of fires. Initially famous for making glass beads and mirrors, they developed and refined many technologies including optically clear glass, enameled glass, glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. Once being the main producer of glass in Europe, today, its artisans still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelry to glass chandeliers. As I read from Wikipedia, the Veneto region protects and promotes the designation of origin of artistic glassworks created on the island of Murano and the most famous glass factories here have a trademark that certifies them. Now, let’s visit the Glass Museum and discover the reason why the glass industry here is so popular and successful.

8. Murano Glass Museum


8.1 Practical information

8.1.1 Opening hours

  • 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 – 17:00
  • 1st April – 31st October: 10:00 – 18:00

Please note that the ticket office closes one hour before the official closing time of the museum and the opening time shown on Google Map could be inaccurate.

8.1.2 Ticket prices

  • Full price: 10 euros
  • Reduced price: 7.5 euros (children from 6 to 14, students from 15 to 25, citizens over 65 and so on)

If you wanna know more about the reduced price, free entrance, family offer, school offer and so on please click here.

Please note that if you wanna visit both the Glass Museum in Murano and the Lace Museum in Burano, you can buy the combined ticket, which costs:

  • Full price: 12 euros
  • Reduced price: 8 euros (children from 6 to 14, students from 15 to 25, citizens over 65 and so on)

As I mentioned in the third chapter, if you plan to visit more than 4 civic museums, please consider buying the “Museum Pass” and if you plan to visit the civic museums as well as the churches of the Chorus Association, please consider buying the “City Pass” from VeneziaUnica.

8.1.3 Floor plan

There are exhibition rooms both on the ground floor and the first floor. As for the ground floor, there’s a Welcome room (marked A) which will equip you with the basic knowledge and vocabulary of glassmaking. The rooms which are marked B are for temporary exhibitions and during my visit (November 2017), the exhibition was “Rosslynd Piggott. Garden Fracture / Mirror in Vapour: part 2 | Exhibition”. If you wanna know what the current exhibition is about, please click here. Another room related to your visit on this floor is Room 9, Brandolini room – Contemporary glass, which is the last room of the itinerary you are gonna take upstairs. Please remember to visit this room after your visit upstairs. On the first floor you will find in total 8 rooms, which are arranged chronologically. By going through them you will learn about the history of Venetian glassmaking accompanied by many examples on display. In each of the rooms, introduction and explanation will be shown on the info boards in Italian, English, French and German. Starting with the Welcome room, I’ll show you all the rooms and give you a brief introduction. Afterwards, if you are particularly interested in certain topics and wanna know some detailed information about them, please click here to read more. Please note that all the information I’m gonna provide below is from the official website of Murano Glass Museum and from the info boards that I read on site.

8.2 The ground floor

8.2.1 The Welcome room

On the ground floor of the museum we will start with the archaeological section which contains noteworthy Roman works dating from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D. In the Welcome Room, you will see a big screen showing you how different kinds of glass are made during different periods of time. In various showcases, raw materials are exhibited. If you have particular interest in glassmaking or you wanna have a meaningful and in-depth tour, I suggest you read the four info boards here to prepare yourself. The first info board is about Murano glass today including an introduction to the raw materials, the kiln, the fusion process and the working processes. On the back of it, you can read some more detailed information. The second info board is about Murano glass up to the end of the 19th century including a brief introduction to the raw materials, the fusion process, the types of glass and kiln innovations from the 14th to the 20th century. Again, on the back of it, you can read some further information. The third and fourth info boards are about glossary with the former mainly dealing with Murano glassmaking and the latter with types of glass and decorative procedures. Once equipped with these basic knowledge, your visit upstairs will be much easier and more convenient.

8.2.2 Room 9: Brandolini room – Contemporary glass

Please note that this room is the last part of your itinerary upstairs so please visit it after finishing your tour on the first floor. When it comes to painting, I always like old masters more than modern artists. Nevertheless, when it comes to glass, it seems that I prefer the contemporary pieces. By seeing them against the background of various paintings or pictures, I felt a new harmonious world just opened its door. It was a bit surprising for me that glass could also evoke such deep feelings within us. Anyway, I guess this is why sometimes glassworks are also called artworks.

Please note that another space on this floor is for temporary exhibitions and if you wanna check what the current exhibition is about, please click here. Now, let’s go upstairs and start our tour with the beginnings of glassmaking.

8.3 The first floor

8.3.1 Room 1: At the beginnings

An ancient legend has it that glass was created by chance along the sandy banks of a river in Syria while other theories assume that the emergence of glass resulted from the fusion processes of certain metals. No matter how it originated, we know for sure that it was the Romans who gave new life to glass production, and made it extremely popular. The works on display here are witnesses to the development of glass, offering a wide variety of objects from Syria, Palestine, the Eastern World, Greek, Northern Italian, Mediterranean areas, etc. including plates and goblets shaped in moulds and then cut and engraved, glasses decorated with messages of good wishes, unguentariums (perfume bottles) of various shapes and with different decorations and various blown-glass objects. Also on display here are some of the fragments of the archeological Murano glass, which date back to the Middle Ages and were discovered in the foundations of the nearby San Donato Basilica.

8.3.2 Room 2: From the 14th to the 17th century: the Golden Age

Early Venetian glass production was closely related to the Middle East, to Syria in particular because their sophisticated and elegant glass work was renowned in the Middle Ages. The first Venetian glass makers copied the techniques and designs and imported some of the raw materials from that area for their own production. It was not until the middle of the 14th century that Venice became the unparalleled leader in the art of glass, thanks to the invention of clear glass by Angelo Barovier from Murano. For the first time in history glass became transparent, completely pure and like crystal. Decorated with fusible multicoloured enamels, the transparent glass works were in great demand among the noble families, doges, and even the pope. Some of the decorations included motifs from the Renaissance iconography such as the famous “Coppa Barovier” from around 1460 (as you can see in the first picture above). In the 16th century Murano glass production involved the complex “flying hand” technique, or in other words, the “free hand” technique, a technique still used by the masters nowadays. It was also in this period that new decorative techniques were experimented, one of which was diamond point engraving, which had already been used in Roman times and was reintroduced in Murano by Vincenzo d’Angelo dal Gallo to produce elegant works that looked like lace.

New types of glass were also invented in the 16th century and you can see the examples on display. Particularly noteworthy are iced glass, with a rough external surface and filigree, invented by Filippo Catani della Sirena in around 1527 and being one of the most fascinating creations from Murano. In the 17th century, the greatest invention was aventurine, but because it was extremely difficult to create, the technique was lost more than once until the end of the 19th century. Besides the names we heard before such as Barovier, dal Gallo and Serena, we need to remember Ballarin, Bortolussi, Dragani, Mozetto and Della Pigna as well because it was them who made Murano glass famous worldwide and it was to them that this room is dedicated.

8.3.3 Room 3: The 18th century: fashion and creativity

In the 18th century, a name which is related to glassmaking and must be mentioned is Giuseppe Briati. It was him who invented the renowned chandeliers with multiple crystal arms, decorated with festoons, leaves and multicoloured flowers. If you have read my previous posts, I’m sure you remember the original and marvelous work by him displayed in Ca’ Rezzonico. As an exception, he was granted permission to open a furnace in Venice where he made engraved frames and mirrors as well as table centre pieces and many other fashionable objects. Though the pieces exhibited in this room are not from the Briati factory, they are by renowned glass makers in the 18th century such as Giacomo Giandolin, Lorenzo Rossetto Zuane Gastaldello, who are Giuseppe Briati’s followers, and Vittorio Mestre, Antonio Motta and Vincenzo Moretti. I recommend you taking a look at the large centre piece in crystal imitating an Italian garden, dating from around 1760 and made of numerous pieces.

8.3.4 Room 4: The pleasure of imitation: chalcedony and lattimo in the 18th and 19th centuries

Various kinds of “imitation” glass were very appreciated in the 18th and 19th centuries and the most popular ones are called chalcedony glass and opaque white glass (lattimo). You can see examples in the pictures above. Chalcedony glass appeared in Murano during the Renaissance, but it was Lorenzo Radi who, in 1856, rediscovered and developed the lost sixteenth-century composition. In 1861 Radi donated a large number of works to the newly founded museum, which are on display here. Another kind of glass that was produced on a large scale in the 18th century was opaque white glass (lattimo), imitating the early porcelain samples from China. When porcelain began to be made in Europe in the 18th century, Venetian opaque glass also became more and more famous. Decorated with enamels and gold depicting genre scenes, chinoiserie, mythological subjects and rococo motifs, it was made using new production techniques. Specialists in this field in Murano include the Miotti family and the Bertolini brothers who, in 1739 had been given the exclusive right by the Republic to decorate their works with gold.

8.3.5 From mosaic glass to “millefiori”: murrine

In the first half of the 19th century, the glass makers on Murano were going through the most difficult time in their history. One of the strategies they adopted to overcome this crisis was to study and revive ancient techniques, adapting them to the fashion of that time. One of these techniques was murrino glassmaking, already known in Roman times and adopted by Venetians in the 15th century. During the production, different pieces of cold glass are placed together and once the desired pattern is achieved, they will be heated in the kiln, so that the components will soften and bond together. When this technique was revived, the 19th-century glass makers also used “millefiori” (thousand flower) rods that were made of concentric layers of different coloured glass with a star-shaped interior because of the use of special moulds (as you can see in the first picture above). Once the layers had been heated, the rod was stretched. After it had cooled down, it was cut into cylindrical sections creating the murrine, which were then incorporated into pieces worked in the ancient style or blown.

Though Vincenzo Moretti produced the most important examples of glass made using this technique, it was Giovanni Battista Franchini who invented thinner and more complicated millefiori rods, with which his son Giacomo specialized in amazing miniaturised portraits that were mainly dedicated to the most famous people of that time such as Pope Pius IX, Emperor Franz Joseph, etc. Unfortunately, this highly skillful but exhausting work drove Giacomo mad. In 1869, his father was given an award in Murano, as if he were being compensated “for the amazing invention of the rod portraits that caused him almost the loss of a son”.

This rooms also hosts an exhibition about Venetian beads and if you are interested please click here. If you wanna know more about how murine are made, please click here.

8.3.6 Room 6: The Barry Friedman – Venetian Heritage Collection, the metamorphosis of glass in the 20th century

After the interruption caused by the First World War, the furnaces resumed their activities under the modern influence of rationalism, which advocated simplicity, essentiality and functionality. During this post-war period, the collaboration with artists at the furnaces became frequent. If you wanna know more about the Barry Friedmann Collection or what kind of changes the artists such as Vittorio Zecchin, Guido Cadorin, Napoleone Martinuzzi, Umberto Bellotto, Ercole Barovier, Guido Balsamo Stella, Franz Pelzel, etc. have brought to glass design or glass production, please click here.

8.3.7 Room 7: 1850 – 1895, the revival

As I mentioned in section 8.3.5, the first half of the 19th century was the most difficult time for the glass makers on Murano. Fortunately, in the second half of the century, some master glassmakers and entrepreneurs adopted various strategies to cope with the crisis. On one hand, they accepted commissions from antique dealers to reproduce old models, while on the other hand, they managed to retrieve the secrets behind the making of certain types of glass which had been deserted due to the very complexity of the procedures involved (such as filigree and aventurine). It was exactly in this period that Lorenzo Radi and Vincenzo Moretti undertook their researches on chalcedony and on murrine, repectively. In the 1860s, the most famous glass furnaces in Murano are Fratelli Toso, who specialised in antique models, and Salviati & C., whose goods were targeted at foreign markets, the British one in particular.

8.3.8 Room 8: 1900 – 1970: glass and design

Murano glass found its way to innovation in the 1900s when the companies began working with artists and designers. If you wanna know how the trend was changed by various artists from the 1900s to the 1940s and from the 1940s to the 1970s please click here.

As you might have realized, the rooms are not strictly arranged in chronological order. Nevertheless, it is still quite easy to tell the timeline from the titles of the info boards. Depending on how much you like glass and the tradition of making it, your visit can vary from 45 mins to two or even three hours. I was quite curious about the techniques of making different types of glass and it was interesting for me to learn how they reflect history, but to be honest, when it came to the designs, I got a bit bored. I guess it’s probably because I am not particularly familiar with this industry and some of the big names just didn’t ring a bell to me. Fortunately, I remembered Giuseppe Briati from my visit to Ca’ Rezzonico. Anyway, if you are an expert or you are a big fan of glassmaking, please click types of glass and glassmaking techniques from the 15th to the 17th centuries, types of glass and glassmaking techniques in the 18th century and types of glass and glassmaking techniques in the 19th century to know more about them respectively.

Having spent one day on the islands, did you see the beauty of the lagoon? Were you amazed by the colorful houses in Burano? It’s a good idea to leave the main island for some time and learn about the traditional craftsmanship such as lacemaking and glassmaking which once made the islands or even Venice famous and glorious. They are the cultural heritage that some people are striving to protect and preserve. Even though they might be of little relevance to our own professions, it’s important to know that they were and are significant parts of our history. Just a reminder, nowadays, Murano is still home to a big number of factories and a few individual artists’ studios making all kinds of glass objects from drink-ware to original artworks.

Up to this moment, I’ve finally finished introducing to you the 8 civic museums belonging to the MUVE. Each of them seems to talk about one aspect of Venice but essentially, they are all related and connected. I strongly recommend you visiting them because they will form, bit by bit, your understanding of this spectacular city with extremely rich cultural and historical heritage. Can the churches and civic museum represent Venice already? Well, I would say a big part but not all of it. How can we miss St. Mark’s Basilica, the Gallerie dell’ Accademia, the church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the rivers, canals, bridges or the wonderful night views? In my next two posts, I’ll introduce to you the Gallerie dell’ Accademia and St. Mark’s Basilica together with the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. In the last post about Venice I’ll simply create a picture gallery and “explain” to you why it is called “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City” and “City of Canals”.


Venice – the civic museums (Burano Lace Museum & Murano Glass Museum) was last modified: August 12th, 2019 by Dong

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