On our final day in Venice we decided to visit the lagoon islands of San Michele, Murano, and Burano. We had no idea we would end the day with Damien Hirst at the 18th century Venetian mansion, Palazzo Grassi.
The best thing about visiting the lagoon islands is that you can take the public transit to get there. As long as you buy a vaparetto pass you can get on the 4.1 or the 4.2 route vaparetto to the island.
Our first stop was San Michele. San Michele is a “cemetery island,” meaning it’s only inhabitants are the deceased. In 1807, when Napoleon was occupying Venice, he believed burial on the mainland was unsanitary. So, Napoleon ordered every Venetian body to be buried on the island of San Michele. The cemetery is still in use today. Some famous graves include Igor Stravinsky and poets Joseph Brodsky and Ezra Pound. We had to pay them a visit.
Before we got to the “famous” plots we took our time looking at other Venetians buried at San Michele. Many gravestones had photos of the deceased and flowers placed alongside their faces. Seeing their photos on the gravestone made the experience much more intimate.
The next island was Murano. Murano is famous for “Murano Glass.” In 1291 all the glass makers were forced to move from Venice to the island of Murano. This was done to prevent any fires from happening on the mainland due to many wooden buildings that could easily set on fire if a furnace accident occurred.
Since then this island has been home to the art of glass making. Almost every store you walk into is devoted to the craft. You can find any object in glass if you’d like: balloons, goldfish, ornate chandeliers, penguins, glass bead necklaces, earrings and rings. I did not resist purchasing myself a necklace and earrings. Paul surprised me with a beautiful glass ring! It had a black base with light blue and flecks of gold leaf throughout. To me glass rings are pieces of art. I would show you a picture of the ring in this blog entry, but Paul packed it away to give it to me on my birthday, December 25th 🙂
We stopped in a small neighborhood cafe, noshing on tramezzino and cappucinos. Instead of going to the glass museum we opted to visit a contemporary art installation. This art installation was created by Loris Gréaud. Inside the installation the abandoned glass factory fog creeps out from glowing furnaces. The ceiling is lined with 1,000 silver-hued glass chandeliers made from hourglass sand. A mysterious soundtrack plays in the air as glass chandeliers flicker on and off. After a few minutes you are quite surprised when a HUGE blast of fire comes out of the nearby glassmaking machine! As the hanging chandeliers move around the old conveyor belt, every once in a while one piece will drop and crash into millions of glass pieces on the ground. I walked out of the installation thinking about the mystery of glass making and the way certain sacred art forms can disappear when abandoned by the masses.
Leaving the art installation we noticed the weather was not behaving itself. The wind was whipping our faces and cheap umbrellas to bits. The water was rising over the walkways – hence what locals call, “aqua alta” – high water season.
What to do with our last few hours in Venice?
We had hoped to get to Burano, but the current weather was not inviting and walking around in it for another two hours in Burano just didn’t seem worth it. We decided Burano would have to wait for a future visit to Venice.
Disappointed but knowing we made the right decision, we headed back to the main land. Since we had given ourselves back the time we would have spent in Burano, we wondered what could we do with the next few hours we had before catching our train to Florence?
First we needed food. We popped into a fresh pasta- to-go store. This was some of the best pasta I’ve had! Do not ignore those little to-go stops in Italy if you see them. They are good!
We had seen an ad for a Damien Hirst exhibit held at Palazzo Grassi, an 18th century Venetian mansion. We decided to check it out. We were blown away by this exhibit! The exhibit title is, “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.”
You begin the exhibit by watching a “mockumentary” of divers finding deep-sea treasures from an ancient shipwreck. This “mockumentary” was so high in quality; actors, diving equipment, underwater filming. We thought for a few moments it might be real.
Every piece was created to look like it was “pulled from the wreck.” The art was beautifully constructed so it was easy to “play along” with the storyline Hirst had created. Click the pictures below for a closer look!!!!