Murano is probably the most visited island in Venice, often even people that are here only for a few days try to find the time for a visit, and -obviously- the reason is not food, but glass. Still, all those thousands of people need to be fed and often don't know where to go, so I decided to dedicate a post to eating and drinking in Murano.
First, a few premises. Murano became the island of glass in 1295, when a decree issued by the Most Serene Republic of Venice established that glassmakers had to move their foundries to the island in order to avoid the widespread of fires in central Venice. Nowadays, it is frequented mainly by tourists during the day, from 10 am to 5 pm, while in the evening it is half deserted, so I would approach food not with the perspective of a gourmet, but with the one of an easy-going and open-minded traveller. Many people ask me "Do you think it's worth visiting Murano? Or is it just for tourists?" and my answer is that the island was not born for tourists, but that it is obvious that during the day the locals in Murano are either glass masters or workers so in the streets you will find only foreigners. Still, Murano is a stunning little island, an absolutely beautiful and relaxing antique world and you should just enjoy it, sometimes I cross the canal just to go for a walk and relax, so, yes: I do think it is worth seeing at least once in your life.
The art of Murano glass is a century-old tradition that keeps evolving and merging with contemporary art and design and it is so fascinating that I am sure you will love it. Anyway, I'm going to discuss food, so please refer to this link for more info on Authentic Murano Glass and Sculpture.
Unless you have a specific plan, I suggest getting a boat 4.1 or 4.2 from F.te Nove and getting off at the first stop: Murano Colonna. The island is quite small, so you can easily walk round it in less than half a day. Once off, take the right, you’ll be in F.ta Vetrai. Here you will immediately realize how many bars there are, on the other side of the canal, in fact, the former glass factory Mazzuccato has now been transformed into a huge cafeteria and self-service, not my cup of tea but I see it’s always very crowded.
Remaining on F.ta Vetrai, there is another shopping centre with a cafeteria and this place too is always crowded. Often people think that these places are cheaper… but, no, in fact –personally- for the same amount of money I’d rather go somewhere nice and with a view or a garden (all bars have outdoor seating, why should I lock myself up in a place with no windows and artificial lighting?!). Both my two favourite places are only a few metres from here. They are quite different from each other, the first one is Ai Cacciatori, a real old style place where all the elderly Muranese men spend their day playing cards, chatting and drinking ombre. Don’t imagine anything fancy, it’s a real rustic osteria, but the staff is incredibly nice. The hippy looking youngsters are university students, while the big men wearing the Museum jacket are all taxi drivers (you will learn that Museum is the jacket of all Venetian taxi drivers, the only able to keep them warm in the dampness of the lagoon). At Ai Cacciatori you go for a drink, a coffee and a nibble, like a crostino or a small mantovanina sandwich. I’m sure that if you have eyes, you will know what to choose!
If you are looking for a slightly more refined but still affordable spot and wouldn’t mind having some fish, my suggestion is Al Corallo. Don’t be frightened by the white tablecloths outside, if you glance at the menu you’ll see it’s more than doable and, anyway, the fish is good! I usually have a cicchetto and not a proper meal and this time I tasted their sardoni al pomodoro (small sardines) and a little bit of baccalà in Vicenza style, lovely! I didn’t sit down, but if you just have a nibble and sit inside in the front room with the wooden table, they won’t charge you any table service.
I forgot to mention that in the same fondamenta there is also Pizzeria Ristorante Marlin, where the staff is very nice and you can have a quick sandwich or pizza. The tourist menu is 15 euros and includes a first and second course and a drink, but you can also order a la carte. I have never eaten there but in Italy if you ask for a pasta with tomato sauce, you know it’s never going to taste bad! It really all depends on your budget.
On the other side of the canal, in F.ta Manin, there is the only gourmet restaurant I feel like recommending, and this is Acqua Stanca. Once you step in you can immediately notice the difference with all the other places, much fancier and contemporary, with a beautiful design and a more sophisticated menu. In daytime, if you don’t want to spend much, instead than sitting for a meal you can just enjoy a glass of good wine with a paninetto.
A few metres from this place, there is Da Tanduo, an easy going bar and restaurant with lots of nibbles (stick with the nibbles). Differently from central Venice, the spaces on Murano are much bigger so everything seems enormous to me. This also explains why lots of places have both a restaurant and a pizzeria. At this point, you will cross the Pietro Martire bridge and I highly recommend to stop at the church with the same name. Inside there is a marvellous painting by Bellini, the renowned Pala Barbarigo, which alone would be a good reason to visit.
By the way, my mother's favourite restaurant on Murano is just at the foot of this bridge and it is called Trattoria Busa da Lele alla Torre, upmarket but good quality. And if she says so, I believe her!
From here you will cross another bridge, the Ponte Longo Lino Tofolo bridge, which will lead you straight to my favourite artisanal bakery: Marcato (in Riva Longa, 16). This family run business makes the most delicious biscuits, cakes and savoury treats ever. When I was at university (consider that I graduated in 2011), I had a part time job in Murano and I would often come here to buy my snack and a little something to eat at home after dinner.
I know you have heard me say many times that I don't have a sweet tooth, but there are (lots of) exceptions and I really have to recommend the typical Venetian meringues, called Baci in Gondola (kisses on a gondola…how does that sound, ah?), two mini meringues attached by melted dark chocolate! Yum… and, in case you like meringue, they also make mouthwatering macarons, although my favourite thing are the pistachio or chocolate biscuits with almonds!
From now on, plenty of more options, from the La Gare to the Bar Al Faro. If a sandwich and a salad are good for you, any of these places will do, the quality and the prices are more or less the same. But with all the eating done, now you can really focus on glass, art and history: just round the corner there is the museum of glass, while if you keep walking straight on you will reach the famous Santa Maria e Donato church, one of the oldest churches in the lagoon known for its mosaic pavement, its very simple façade and an unexpected and unique back side, market by a succession of small columns.
Arrived at this point, probably your eyes will be tired from all the colours, beads and new and magical objects you will see, so just wander around and enjoy the views of the north lagoon.
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For more info on Murano Glass, don’t forget to visit Murano Glass and Sculpture page!