Not everyone gets a chance to do it the ‘Venetian’ way when they visit the city of Venice.
I was a tour guide for a number of years and know full well what the routine normally involves – drop off from the tour bus early in the morning, and then according to finances and inclination, a walk or a boat ride through to the St.Mark’s Square area where the group will be met by a local guide for a quick tour around the Square. A glance at the better known monuments followed by a brief exhibtion of glass blowing and the usual look at the glass showroom where you can pick up – for a sum which is often higher than elsewhere – a piece of glass which hopefully doesn’t have a ‘Made in China’ label underneath.
Having completed the ‘accelerated’ tour it is just about time to head off for lunch. For the less courageous there is usually the option to follow the bus tour guide to a local restaurant where a ‘tourist’ menu has been negotiated as part of the daily deal. Sad to say that what you eat often has very little to do with ‘typical’ Venetian food, but no time to haggle, and if you hadn’t found the courage to eat somewhere unassisted, you will probably also have booked up for the rest of the afternoon’s activities.
More often that not these will include a ride in a gondola where you will share the experience with at least another five people, be they strangers or not, in the same gondola. Don’t wax too lyrical at the serenade – the guy will probably be singing something Neopolitan anyway unless you are extremely lucky. The only song most visitors to Venice know is ‘O Sole Mio’ and we know the customer is always right. The other trip you might have booked yourself on would likely be the one over to the islands, where in actual fact, unless you are exceptionally lucky, you could well find yourself inside yet another furnace watching yet another guy doing something with molten glass. And if you aren’t careful, if they didn’t get you first time around, here you might end up opening your wallet for that expensive, and usually useless – piece of glass.
And just when you were thinking that you might still have time to have a look around the shops, the tour guide warns you that it’s now time to head back to the bus. Dinner is at 7pm and by the time you take the local transport boat, and then all get on the bus and wait around for the family that inevitably gets lost and holds everyone up until the next boat gets in – then ride the twenty or so minutes back to your hotel which is out in the middle of nowhere – you realise you just have time for a quick shower and change for dinner. That is of course, providing you haven’t booked in for the evening ‘Gondolier show’ back in the city centre again.
I resolved the problem by marrying a real Venetian. If you want to do the same, you had better be quick since there aren’t many of them left.
I feel obliged here to stress a point — the real McCoy Venetian glass is a classic handcraft, and the few working furnaces that still survive on the island of Murano produce some exceptionally beautiful pieces of work. Unfortunately, due to disloyal competition from abroad, the craft is slowly dying. The European economy at the present time (2014) makes it difficult for the Italian craftsmen to compete with the labour costs of many non-European markets. When you buy glass in Venice, please look for the Murano authenticity and quality certification.