MURANO: It’s a Crystalline World

Visiting Venice, you absolutely have to venture out to discover the Crystalline World of Murano.

Vetreria Ducale in Murano Crystalline World
Some of the best places to shop for glass on Murano island: The Vetreria Ducale, adorned by a sign of Guerrieri pottery, and to the left the Ferro & Lazzarini glass factory.

Most visitors to Venice stay and explore only the Centro Storico, the historic center. It is divided into six districts called Sestieri. Although they seem to form one large island, there is a total of 120 islands in the lagoon. However, only 11 are permanently inhabited. Of those islands, Murano is the third largest one – after the Centro Storico and the Lido. It actually consists of seven small islands divided by eight channels and connected by bridges.

World-famous for glass and crystal, Murano is definitely worth the short boat trip from the Fondamente Nove stop. 

Mainly when the exhibition Glasstress is on, visiting Murano’s crystalline world is indisputably a must.


The island of Murano is located about 1.5 kilometers – or one mile – north of the Centro Storico in the Venetian Lagoon. It once used to be an independent commune, but is now part of greater Venice.

Canal in Murano Crystalline World
It shows that the Centro Storico island and Murano are somehow…related.

Although there are some landmarks such as the Church of Santa Maria e San Donato, the Church of San Pietro Martire, and the Palazzo da Mula, most people are visiting for the glass. For the uncountable stores as well as for the Murano Glass Museum, housed in the large Palazzo Giustinian.

Murano’s History

In the 13th century, Murano was a summer resort for the Venetian aristocrats who built beautiful villas with orchards and gardens.
The furnaces that the artisans used for melting the glass were a fire hazard. Therefore, the Venetians outsourced the glass production to the island of Murano.

The island became Europe’s prime glassmaking center, whereby the 15th and 16th centuries were the heydays of production.

Torre dell'Orologio on Murano Crystalline World
Campo Santo Stefano with the Torre dell’Orologio, the clock tower, and the Albero di Natale in Vetro, the Christmas tree made of glass.

Murano wasn’t only famous for its outstanding quality. During the 15th century, the local glassmakers created cristallo. This almost transparent glass was the world’s finest.

On the other hand, they also developed a white-colored glass, a milk glass called lattimo, that looked like porcelain. They have been making huge chandeliers, amazing mirrors, bowls and vases, jewelry, and beads.

To this date, glass is one of the most sought after souvenirs among the visitors to Venice.

In the 13th century, it took the nobles about an hour to row a boat from Venice to Murano – which, of course, they didn’t have to do themselves.

Italy - Murano Island
Getting to Murano by Vaporetto in just a couple of minutes.

Today, if you catch the Vaporetto at the Fondamente Nove stop, you’ll get to the first stop on the island of Murano in about ten minutes and it sets you back 5 €uro. However, that’s only to the first stop Colonna, though. If you go further, it’s 7,50 €uro each way.


Mr. Adriano Berengo was born in Venice in 1947. He studied in his hometown at the Ca’ Foscari University in Venice as well as at the State University of New York where he obtained his Ph.D. After a short career as a teacher of English Literature and Language, he started working as the artistic director at the glassworks Vetreria Salviato & C.  in 1982.

In 1989, Mr. Berengo founded the Berengo Studio to promote glass as an artistic medium.

Glasstress Exhibition: Hans Op de Beeck Frozen Vanitas - presented on Murano Crystalline World
Hans Op De Beeck is famous for his life-size monochrome installations. Here, he’s exhibiting some  The Frozen Vanitas made of glass.

Then, in 2014, Fondazione Berengo was installed. It’s focusing on Adriano Berengo’s thirty-year project, namely to unite and present the traditional glass art of Murano together with contemporary art projects in a fresh, innovative way.


In 2009, the project Glasstress was introduced. It’s showing the most interesting glass works as a collaterale during the Venice biennial.

The venue of choice was the historical Palazzo Franchetti right in the heart of the Centro Storico, just across from the Accademia.

Didn’t I say Mr. Berengo wanted to show glass art in a fresh and innovative way? Well, he achieved his goal with bravado.

When I visited Glasstress in 2013 for the first time, this exhibition just blew me away and left me speechless.
Glass, handicraft, and art alike, to me had always been not only fragile and tender, but also lovely and sweet – pleasant and pleasing.

Glasstress Exhibition: Javier Perez Carrona - - presented on Murano Crystalline World
Fragile? Obviously! But tender and pleasing?! Javier Pérez Carroña

What I saw here was totally different from what you’d expect from glass. The works were raw and rough, political, critical, and daring.
It was possible to create this of glass?! Wow!

Glasstress Exhibition: Koen Vanmechelen Black Medusa
So far from being sweet’n’lovely. Koen Vanmechelen Black Medusa

Glasstress became one of my very favorite shows at the biennials and since then, I haven’t missed a single one.

Expect the Unexpected

It never got old or mediocre. On the contrary, with every issue, I was amazed which artists had contributed. Obviously, those were artists I had never expected would work with glass. For instance, quirky guys like Ai Weiwei, the Chapman Brothers, or Erwin Wurm. Even Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, chipped in. Albeit, they are famous for filling rooms with their installations referring to life in the former Soviet Union.

Glasstress Exhibition: Ai Weiwei Up Yours - presented on Murano Crystalline World
Ai Weiwei showing the visitor the finger – in all the colors of the rainbow. Ai Weiwei Up Yours

This year, to celebrate Glasstress’ 10th anniversary as well as 30 years of Berengo Studio, the exhibition does not take place at the Palazzo Franchetti, but appropriately on the island of Murano.

Glasstress Exhibition: Fiona Banner Work2 and Michael Joo Expanded Access - presented on Murano Crystalline World
It’s a pretty unusual idea to build a scaffold from glass – something that is supposed to sustain and uphold, something that has to be really sturdy. Fiona Banner Work 2 and Michael Joo Expanded Access (to the left)

It was simply a masterstroke to choose an abandoned glass furnace for presenting this kind of outstanding works and installations. You truly have the impression to witness how these incredible pieces are emerging before your eyes.

Glasstress Exhibition: Wael Shawky Cabaaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala
Wael Shawky Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala on top of the old ovens.



As I explained above, you just hop on a Vaporetto at the Fondemente Nove stop and get off at the Colonna stop at Murano.

There you just walk down the Fondamenta dei Vetrai till you get to the Campiello della Pescheria.

Fondamenta dei Vetrai on Murano Crystalline World
Across the canal from the Fondamenta dei Vetrai.

Fondazione Berengo Art Space
Campiello della Pescheria 4
30141 Murano

Update: The exhibition was open until November 24, 2019. Murano, however, is always worth the visit and I’m looking very much forward to Fondazione Berengo’s next production!

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Note: This post is being regularly completed, edited, and updated – last in March 2022.

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