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  • Writer's picture5 Senses CulinaryTours

Leaning Tower

After a week in Venice, I needed a break from the hordes of November tourists clogging the streets. As I have done in the past, I slipped away to her islands hidden oasis. My favorite was always Torcello, at the most northerly end of the lagoon. And with the oldest history, once the seat of the communal government, referred to as parent island from which Venice was populated. Strangely it belonged to the Byzantine Exarchate of Ravenna. Now I understand the fabulous golden mosaics in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which is the back garden of the magical Locanda Cipriani. This is a place that calls me back, again and again. the food, the service and the warmth of their hospitality year after year since Guiseppe fell under its spell in the 1920's.

Moving on to find more hidden secrets of the colorful fisherman's village of Burano. Arriving at night the town seems to be closed up and it was, but for a few places with the locals discussing the day. In the first hour of daylight, I wondered around and found that this island is still populated by fishermen, as they were up and packing their boats with supplies for the day. Burano is only 4 miles from Venice, a 45-minute trip from St. Mark's Square by vaporetto, but many more miles in atmosphere with a total population of about 2400. It rose to attention in the 16th century, when women on the island began making lace with needles, while their husbands were out fishing, their lace was soon exported across Europe. In 1872, a school of lacemaking was opened and lacemaking on the island boomed. Not surprising now, few make lace in the traditional manner as it is extremely time-consuming and therefore very expensive.

As I sped away from my short visit to Burano, I could not help but to see the campanile tilting precariously. I was wondering if I was seeing an optical illusion. Piazza Galuppi is the only square in Burano and is anchored by Chiesa di San Martino Vescovo and her Torre Pendente. From my visit on the ground, it did not seem so tilted. Therefore, I googled Leaning Bell Tower of Burano. Torre Pendente, is one of the most original buildings on the island and one of its symbols. Known for its steep slope due to the partial collapse of its base, founded on marshy land and stilts like many buildings in Venice, the square shaped Renaissance bell tower was designed by the architect Andrea Tirali and built-in bricks on a square base between 1703 and 1714. The top of the leaning tower has always been crowned by an angel; it fell in 1867 during a storm, now in its place there is a cross of iron.

It is one of the most heavily leaning towers in Italy, it shows a difference of around 6 feet from its base to its steeple. Yet the Leaning Tower of Pisa had a 13 feet difference until it was shored up in the late 1990's. So, I am assuming it will be standing the next time I go back.

I arrived in Murano directly in front of my hotel, the new Hyatt Centric Murano. The Museo vaporetto stop let me roll into the garden and lobby conveniently. Hyatt had transformed a former glass factory into curated modern yet comfortable three-story hotel. The decor was beautiful, modern and with all the crystal accents and the massive Murano chandelier I knew exactly where I was!! I was ready for my adventure, as I headed out to explore. A shoutout to the fantastic staff who were extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming; they went above and beyond. As I like to say, the software was as excellent as the hardware! This is the perfect place to keep Venice at arm's length, but less than a mile away.

Initially settled by the Romans and then from the 6th century by people from the Veneto. At first, the island prospered as a fishing port and through its production of salt. It unlike the other islands in the Lagoon, Murano minted its own coins. In 1291, all the glassmakers in Venice were required to move to Murano. In the following century, exports began, and the island became famous, initially for glass beads and mirrors. Aventurine glass was invented on the island by mistake when someone spilled copper into the melted glass vat and golden flakes appeared. For a while Murano was the main producer of glass in Europe. The island later became known for chandeliers. Although decline set in during the eighteenth century, glassmaking is still the island's main industry. Today besides the big producers like Moretti, Tommasi and Vetrerie there are many small artisans producing tempting crafts.

In the 15th century, the island became popular as a resort for Venetians, palaces were built, but this later declined. The countryside of the island was known for its orchards and vegetable gardens until the 19th century, when more housing was built. It was good to see the gardeners were selling their produce from open deck boats along the canal.

Wandering off the main canals you see that the island has a distinct life from the day trippers that come buy and sail back to Venice. There is a real community feel with folks calling out to neighbors to share some gossip or meeting up for the late afternoon passeggiato and il bacetto greetings. I felt like a local after just 24 hours. Dining at Trattoria ai Frati was flat-out memorable with the sun shining on the terrace, delicious Veneto wine and perfect pasta alle Vongole.

Spritz & Fizz Bar brings a modern twist to the riva longa bar at the Hyatt waterfront. The star is the newly introduced P31 Aperitivo, which is dedicated exclusively to bars and clubs. Made in neighboring Padua. Oh yes, it's green: bright, vivid, unabashed traffic-light green. It also has a bittersweet, candied-grapefruit nose and palate, with hints of orange and vanilla on the exhale. In fact, it contains over twenty expertly selected medicinal herbs, coming from distant places and arrived in Venice centuries ago along the ancient Silk Road. The medicinal herbs are linked to the fresh notes of absinthe, rhubarb, ginger, chamomile and cloves. Here it is mixed with Prosecco or soda or making a truly green Negroni. Out with the Aperol orange and in with green. I could have stayed for days, but the hotel's private vaporetto was waiting to wisk me to Marco Polo airport just 20 minutes away and it was complimentary! An additional reason to stay at Hyatt Centric Murano.

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