When visiting Venice, take your time to explore the lagoon and its islands. You will need a boat, either private or the public water bus, the vaporetto. And if you travel in a wheelchair, here is the information you need to make the best of your time!
The island of Murano in a wheelchair
Not too far from Venice, in the northern lagoon, the island of Murano is the best-known one among the over thirty islands that surround Venice.
I can imagine what it looked like at the end of the 13th century. Villas and gardens featuring plants coming from the southern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Relaxing resort away from the hectic life of the central town. Convents and monasteries, churches and some mills, salt marshes and fishers’ settlements.
In 1291 the turning point in the history of Murano took place and the glass industry was moved there. Venice had to be protected from fires as in the meanwhile it had become a real city, experiencing an unprecedented construction and population growth.
Take therefore the vaporetto and get off at the “Museo” stop. And reach in a few minutes the entrance of the Glass Museum of Murano. Just the palace where the glassware collection is hosted is worth while a visit. A peaceful garden in the back, a gorgeous room upstairs with spectacular glass chandeliers and brilliant frescoes. You can reach any room on a wheelchair. Ramps and elevators help. And wonderful personnel at your disposal to give you any advice, too.
If visiting before the 25th of April 2017, there is an exhibition on Murano Glass Artists arranged in collaboration with two associations born to promote exceptional Muranese production, i.e. the Associazione InMurano and 30141Murano.
And just next door to the museum, enjoy a visit to the church of St. Maria and Donato. Have you ever seen such an astonishing brick work? And the marble floor inside? And don’t miss the altar where there hang some mysterious bones too…
The island of Mazzorbo in a wheelchair
Back to the water bus, heading to another island, further north, Mazzorbo. The island is quite fascinating. In some respects more than the better-known Burano, lying next. The convent of Santa Caterina with its church and the old nuns’ porch inside is always sorrounded by peace and silence. A couple of steps are not making it easy to get in, but moving along the waterfront to reach the church is a calm experience which I recommend.
And then you can see the modern architecture of the Iacp Quarter, designed by the architect Giancarlo De Carlo in the period 1980-1997. Don’t be afraid of wondering what contemporary architects could add to the beauty of the island. Repopulating Venice. Connection between land and water and the sky. Colors and shapes.
And eventually accessible Burano
After a major sea storm, the island was restored and an itinerary fully accessible on a wheelchair was completed.
Well known for its lace art, which really dates back to the 19th century, the island of Burano is a major attraction for its colourful houses, its reflections and fish restaurants.
The little lace museum is a jewel which unfortunately is not accessible to visitors in a wheelchair. However, you can enter the famous shops and see some women showing their ability in using the needle and the pillow, no bobbins. Here is the link to a viral videoclip showing the most amazing lace maker, the “merlettaia” Emma Vidal, over 100 years old:
In her words: “Burano was very poor and all women came here to learn. I turned out to be very good and learnt how to make tulle quite quickly. The Burano stitch, the net, the tulle technique is the most precious art as all you use is a needle and the yarn. It’s an art, but a dying art. All girls on the island have a degree at the University, but they cannot make lace… Lace has the same value as Michelangelo’s art. You need personality, silence, devotion, patience and not to be interested in making profits.”
I love also looking at the restaurants on the island. The famous Da Romano used to be the Lace school and when it became a restaurant (have a look at the great kitchen with its copper pots), then painters that lived on the island would leave their works, often in exchange for a dish of pasta. One should soon make a research about the art collection there.
On your way back to Venice, by water bus across the lagoon, let yourself be enchanted by this unique environment, its marshy land, its old buildings in ruin and the “bricole” marking the deep channels… one understands Venice, its history and people better this way.
by Luisella Romeo
registered tourist guide in Venice, Italy