12 April 2016
In the weeks before I became a parent last October, my husband and I started hearing about ‘push presents.’ Apparently some men buy their partners gifts to thank them for tolerating 9 months of pregnancy and labour. Some women receive designer handbags, diamonds or even a new car.
Thankfully my husband not only knows me very well but also understands that I have come to rely on a couple of weeks a year with no responsibilities and plenty of museums. He is enough of a feminist (although he would probably call himself an equalist!) not to expect me to be trapped at home under a mountain of nappies without a small break when he himself gets to continue his career uninterrupted and leave the house without the baby. So when it came to a push present, my superstar husband gave me the independence and support to travel solo for a short trip just as I used to before baby arrived. It may be considered unusual to crave leaving my baby behind for seven days, but I bet that if every woman had a partner as supportive as mine, many would at least consider a trip. A week of no poops, 2am feeds, as much sleep as I wanted and adult pursuits was just what I needed after six months of being a new mum, and so I booked my tickets to explore the Veneto region of Italy.
And so, with baby at home being spoilt rotten by her Daddy and an assortment of doting grandparents, I flew in to Venice.
There are none of the ancient ruins that I usually insist upon visiting, in fact when I’ve been travelling elsewhere around the Mediterranean I’ve often found that the Venetians have plonked a fortress on top of the ancient site I’m interested in. The Parthenon, everyone’s favourite Greek temple, was bombed by the Venetians, leaving the temple iconically ruined. Other sites have had artifacts plundered to beautify Venice (although us Brits probably shouldn’t judge them too harshly on that…)
In spite of this, Venice is unique and undeniably alluring despite her decline and fading grandeur. I can sacrifice seeing a few ancient theatres and sanctuaries if it means I see Venice once.
After landing in the early afternoon and after taking an age to leave the airport I headed to the Alilaguna pontoon to catch a water bus to Murano; a small clutch of islands nearly a mile north of Venice which is famous for glass production. The main group of islands can wait awhile, as Murano cannot be missed.
Settled as early as the 5th century AD, glass making didn’t come to Murano until 1291 when the Venetian Republic banned furnaces from Venice in an attempt to prevent fires in a city built mainly of wood. The artisans were set up as a community on Murano and have been creating beautiful glass objects ever since.
The story of glass making is explained at the Museo del Vetro so it makes sense to head there first. It is situated in a palazzo previously occupied by the bishops of neighbouring Torcello and exhibits include displays of ancient glass as well as glass produced on the islands.
I already had my ticket as the museum is included in the Venice Museum Pass that can be bought online in advance. It’s well worth getting as you’ll save a heap of cash and queue times.
The genius off the glass blowers was such that they were given certain privileges within Venice such as immunity from prosecution and the right to carry swords. They could charge astronomical prices as they held a monopoly, the price they paid was a ban on ever leaving the Republic lest they share their secrets abroad. Any glass blowers who did leave the lagoon were condemned to death as traitors in absentia. Conversely, when a glassblower fled the city after murdering a man in 1524 he was offered a full pardon on the sole condition that he return to his work on Murano.
Murano is ridiculously pretty to stroll around, but for a more colourful experience I headed over to the Faros water bus stop to take a pretty vaporetto ride to Burano.
If you can’t walk along a canal without passing dozens of glass shops on Murano, then you can’t help but pass a myriad of lace shops on Burano. The Venetian Republic took control of Cyprus in the 16th century and brought back the delicate and intricate skill of making lace using needles. The demand for Burano lace has ebbed and flowed since, but the lace makers are determined to keep the tradition going and have set up a school. The population has shrunk from 8,000 at Burano’s height to 3,000 today, but tourists keen to photograph the candy colour houses of the island make up for it. The splashes of colour are not as whimsical as you may imagine with each house having a small choice of colours and shades of paint allotted to it by the government.
Sadly, the need to check in to my accomodation on time (and dump my huge backpack…) cuts my time short and forces me to abandon my hopes of visiting nearby Torcello. I’m not too worried, it’s already very clear that I will be returning to Venice again and again…
A ferry to Lido as the sun sets is a wonderful way to spend a hour with plenty to see on the way,
The water gate of Forte di Sant'Andrea, a 16thC fortification at the entrance of the Venetian lagoon. Giacamo Casanova was imprisoned here for a couple of months in 1743. The fort never fired a shot in anger until 1797, ironically speeding yp the downfall of the Venetian Republic #venezia #igersvenezia #ig_venice
and from there it is a short vaporetto ride to Sant Elena, the quiet, leafy corner of Venice where few tourists bother to explore. I’m staying on a gulet in the marina; what could be more fitting for a stay in the watery city?
The sleep deprivation of life with an infant has ruined my stamina, Venice can wait for the morning…