Longing to get a glimpse of Venice beyond the Sala Grande and cocktail parties? Make the most of your downtime with one of these cultural distractions.
Jaunts to the island of Murano to see glass blowers at work have become a hassle for visitors who feel pressured to leave with a pricey, fragile trinket or else. Now, the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (museiciviciveneziani.it) has partnered with the Abate Zanetti Scuola del Vetro (glass blowing school) to offer you an alternative: Glass in Action, from the Museum to the Furnace (€16.50 admission fee). On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:30, this guided tour at the Murano Glass Museum begins with a look at ancient Roman glass artifacts from the first to third centuries A.D. and pieces from the Renaissance era. Look for chalcedony — milky red glass made to look like agate that dates back to the mid-15th century. And don’t miss the central chandelier that was created in 1864 has 60 branches of delicate hand-blown glass.
Next, continue on to the glass school and watch an artisan in action for about 30 minutes. You’ll see techniques like fusing glass with enamels to create paintings and lampworking, which involves the delicate shaping of glass rods to make jewelry and figurines.
Using the word “ghetto” to describe an isolated area originated in Venice, where 700 Jews were displaced to a corner of the city in 1516. (Ghetto means slag or foundry.) Now, this less-traveled but culturally rich section features five synagogues and a Jewish Museum that offers exhibits of ancient scrolls, sacred silk textiles and ketubahs (ornate marriage contracts).
For lunch, keep kosher at Gam Gam (1122 Ghetto Vecchio; 041-523-1495), near the Ponte delle Guglie in Cannaregio. Run by Hasidic New Yorkers, restaurant specializes in such dishes as falafel and hummus, but also serves Venetian-Jewish hybrid dishes like Red Sea spaghetti (with spicy salmon). Try one of the kosher Veneto wines like Bartenura Barbera d’Asti.
Every year, you vow to take interesting pictures. Every year, you come home from the festival with a blurry shot of the Piazza San Marco. This time around, commit to the craft by taking a one-day photography workshop (venicephotoworkshop.com). Helmed by ex-economist and lensman Norbert Heyl, this artistic traipse around the labyrinthine city will lead you to perches with the best views of canals, monuments and vistas. Heyl — who opened a studio in Venice almost 15 years ago and co-authored the photo book “Venice Master Artisans” — can tailor this tour to satisfy specific interests, from the architecture to the surrounding islands to the looming public arts at dusk.
The eight-hour class includes hands-on guidance on composition and lighting techniques. Heyl will also help you conceptualize a photo book before you start shooting, so your pictures can be edited into a cohesive album. The full day costs €950 for the entire class