It is pretty funny that in our previous three trips to Venice we’d never made it over to Murano, the “Glass Island.” I think I had always lumped it into the box of tourist attraction, full of crowds buying Chinese imitation Murano glass. It is that, but it is also an important piece of Venice’s history, a community and heritage in danger of disappearing.

Our last time in Venice I had met local guide Andrea D’Alpaos , among other things art historian, Gospel music director and arranger, and most importantly for today, local boy. Raised on Murano, he conducted a unique tour of the back streets, peppering history with boyhood recollections and musing on Murano’s changes. Jonathan and Philippa joined us, and another couple. As we walked, Andrea traced the history of the island and how forces are changing the traditional industry and community.

One stop which I was enthralled by was the ancient church Santa Maria e San Donato. Most of the present structure was built between 1125 and 1140. Beautiful facade on the eastern side which faces a canal, as people would first see the church when arriving by the water. The western side with entrance is elegantly simple. Inside, the inlaid floor is marvelous, with cosmatesque geometric designs and animal motifs. The floor has been painstakingly restored.

That beautiful simplicity is again evident in the apse mosaics, with Mary surrounded by gold. Andrea asked the caretaker to let us into the small room to the side, containing Roman plaques and the mummified remains of St. Donatus.

Another stop on our walk was a very large glassworks, where we watched workers creating a large fish shape. It was fascinating to see the amount of work and care that goes into such pieces. I will admit for not caring for Some of what is being made in that workshop, but I can certainly appreciate the craftsmanship and years of work involved.

Andrea did show us to just a few of the shops lining the Rio where high quality glass is being sold. Much of the glass sold in a lot of the shops is not made on Murano, much from China. I did see some beautifully sleek contemporary pieces I loved from local glass makers. And I did buy a few earrings for gifts.

Oh, this was hilarious. When we met up with Andrea, another couple came over, said “hi Andrea, ” and introduced themselves. I thought, huh, I guess Andrea combined a tour, I’m fine with that since it brings the per person price down. When the tour ended, they got very embarrassed, and we all realized that they had joined us by mistake, they were supposed to meet a different Andrea at F. Nove! Andrea had assumed they were with us, I assumed Andrea had brought them! Pretty funny, but they agreed that they probably got a better tour. We ate sandwiches together, and went on our way.

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