Two days in Venice is either simply not long enough, or just long enough, depending on who you ask. It was plenty long enough for us.
July 31 – We decided to leave town and head to Murano for a day of glass blowing and art. Our decision arose when we learned about the option to take a special behind-the-walls tour of the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Going online Monday night (7/30) , thinking we were super on the ball in getting tickets a day early, we learned quickly that a lot of people read similar guide books and therefore also know about this special tour…and so there were no tours left for the days we were in Venice. Well…ok. That’s not entirely true. There were no English tours on the days we were in Venice. There was, in fact, a French tour on August 1, and so we thought, “Why the heck not?” After all, it was our only chance to see this piece of history, and since we didn’t imagine ourselves ever being in Venice again, and I had taken a year of elementary French in college, what the heck?
That said, our tickets were bought for the 1st, so we took off on the ferry to Murano to see some amazing Venetian glass being created before our very eyes. We arrived in adorable, colorful Murano only to learn that…you guessed it…”Maybe yes, maybe no.” That’s right, we were on the cusp of that dreaded August closure, and in all fairness, it was so dang hot that the glass blowers were on vacation. I mean, who wants to stand in front of a hot fire on 100 degree+ days making little cats, horses, and other figurines that are sold by the thousands in every single glass shop across Venice, Murano, and probably every other tourist shop in Italy that advertises “Venetian Glass?” That said, there were actually a small handful of working glass blowing studios open with just one artist demonstrating his trade. Of course, when we arrived it was about 1pm, so guess what was open? That’s right…nothing. Not even a single tourist shop. So we wandered. We scoured that entire tiny island and saw every last corner. In fact, we discovered some amazing glass art disguised as door knockers and door knobs on locals’ homes. Super cool. I know the photos don’t do them justice.
At last siesta was over and we made our way back to the studios to get ourselves our glass blowing fill.
Studio Number One: Apparently we woke up the single artist from his siesta because he was yawning and pulling up his suspenders as we sat down in the tourist seating area. He started doing his thing with more than a little bit of malaise while the shop owner (I guess the factory was connected to a shop) narrated. In less than five minutes he had produced a tiny rearing horse. It really was amazing to see him work, and so quickly, but that little horse looked oh so familiar. Sure enough, there were a thousand of them in the shop. And in the shop next door. And next door to that. Ok, it was just a demonstration, and those figurines must be their bread and butter. We wandered over to the next studio…
Studio Number Two: This artist was already awake and was mid-creation when we joined the other tourists. Huh, somehow this looks very familiar… In less than five minutes he produced a tiny cat, though I swore he was making the horse at first. Again, great talent and great speed. The cat joined its 1,000 litter mates in the shop window.
Studio Number Three: We settled into our viewing seats and stood up again five minutes later after seeing the creation of…a rearing horse. That was the end of our glass blowing demonstration viewings.
The next few hours were great fun, however. We discovered all of the less touristy glass shops, the ones that carry the really unique, artistic pieces. One of our favorite galleries carried some of the most amazing glass art I have ever seen. We took photos, but oh did we ever want to purchase one of the pieces! We priced it out and the gallery was willing to ship…but it simply wasn’t in our budget. So darn cool! Then, of course, we went searching for jewelry gifts for family and learned that Venetian glass is more than meets the eye if you’re willing to go off the beaten track and look beyond the horse and cat figurines.
Once back in Venice, sometime around 4pm, we spent our evening wandering the streets and enjoying a little appetizer of mortadella, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and tentacley things. Mmm. As usual, we found a quiet (if there is such a thing in Venice during high season) canal for a picnic site and enjoyed the slow churn of the water as one or two gondoliers swept by.
That evening we chose a restaurant Nicoletta recommended. Thankfully it was still open! Osteria Bea Vita was a charming little place off the beaten track. It was most definitely not in a main tourist area and the ambience was fantastic. We waited a good while for a table as we didn’t have reservations, but the service was friendly and the food was delicious.
Upon returning to our B&B, we found our hosts with their husbands and friends celebrating Nicoletta’s husband’s birthday. They offered us a drink and to join them, but not wanting to crash their party, we politely declined. However, we felt we should toast him, so we cleared our throats and launched into a hearty “Ilgiausiu Metu,” the Lithuanian birthday song. Our hosts were a combination of surprised and thrilled, and after a good laugh and applause, they rewarded us with a very strong drink. Whatever it was, it burned. But we made some new friends!