On a blisteringly hot day, our discomfort heightened further by our inability to get anywhere near a window on the waterbus from San Zaccaria to the Navagerro terminal stop on Murano, we pursued our second and final excursion from the Venetian mainland.
The place has a completely different feel from the cramp and bustle of the six mainland sestieres, with almost none of the shops and cafes facing anything other than open waterfront.
The photo to the right shows the current day Museo terminal, the point where Malin lands under the protection Signor Caloprini, the head of the glassmaker's guild. As we walked along it, the Riva Longa felt pretty exposed as the route by which they gained their long-awaited secret rendezvous, yet its directness offers a distinct advantage over the other streets of the island's interior that might carry one west.
Before following in their footsteps, though, we enjoyed a welcome, dare I say it wholly necessary carafe of chilled white wine, and some beautiful grilled fish from the Lagoon.The oasis of cool, luring us in from the midday flagstoned heat made such decadence inevitable.Thank you, Antica Trattoria, for showing us the way, and offering the means by which we could best enjoy this place.
We walked to the dock at the far end of the island, the afternoon air as still as a gekko sensing the gaze of an unwanted predator. Or a child hearing a shopkeeper's footsteps, his own hand buried deep in the upended sweetie jar. Or... well, you have a go.
Suffice to say... we were enjoying all of the Adriatic heat of the Giardini back on Castello, but without any of the chorusing crickets. Just a humid, expectant silence, and the sound of my sweltered and slightly self-pitying sighs.
It was good to stand here and get a sense of just how far from the authorities this place feels - a million miles from the cluttered mayhem of San Marco, or the ominous walls of the Arsenale. Pretty good venue for a discrete arrival and getaway, I'd hazard.
This whole part of the island feels completely underdeveloped. It featured a couple of modern housing blocks, surrounded by dusty roads and functional garden allotments, and bounded by the only canals we'd seen over the last week that were banked by rushes and other natural marsh flora. A few small motor boats, moored up along another nearby waterway, would struggle to attract any but the most desperate in need of a private taxi back to the Italian mainland.
The building shown opposite could easily occupy the site of an older, timber-built predecessor. A building full of damp and low light on a still, late February day in 1348, the cold penetrating the thickest of cloaks, and witnessing discussions of the darkest of deeds.
While of tangential relevance to the world of THE QUARANT, I'd just like to share with you a fascinating half hour spent observing the furnaces of Estevan Rossetto, one of the established Murano glassmakers. Being a Saturday, the guys working there were taking time off from the creation of high-end art pieces (gorgeous doesn't come close to the items we were shown by Roberto, although the price for anything of distinction would have involved remortgaging our house, selling at least one major organ each, and our children into slavery) and instead fulfilling an order of 250 wine glass for a hotel back on the Venetian mainland.
The gentleman you see in the photo opposite is a maestro glassblower of some forty years experience. While his left hand has spent those decades at least three feet from the thousand-degree glass, his right hand has fared less well. No gloves, no regulation - it's accepted that men devoting their lives to this trade will develop major scarring on their 'clipper' hand, and inevitable nerve damage. We were quite shocked by the matter-of-fact nature of how this appeared to be acceptable and normalised.
The younger, less experienced chap in the blue T-shirt has all this 'normal' tissue and nerve damage to look forward to.