The legend of the wizard from Murano

Still on the train trip story. Continued from here. 😛

Even though I started writing the story of a much awaited train trip almost two years ago, if I close my eyes for just a second, I can still recall surprisingly many details, as fresh as a summer cherry.

So, coming back to our story, I close my eyes (again!!!), and yes – one more time for only a second :P! Slowly I begin to feel the chills of the June morning, when together with my hub, we hopped on a fast train to Zurich. I can hear the raindrops slipping on lake Zurich and the sunny days spent in Lugano, then followed by friendly Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna. Gorgeous Carlotta in Tremezzo (oh, she was divine!). Few intense hours in Milan. Chill and breathtaking views in Turin. The smile of a happy child from Cremona. A gorgeous stage in Mantua. An angry house in Verona. River flows into you in Padua‘s train station. Orange-like sky in Venice. My granny’s whole warmth stuffed in a  s-shaped Burano biscuit. And yet, one more story has to be told – and that is the story of the Wizard of Murano.


There are no wizards in Murano?

Only fancy colored glass, you say?

Let’s see what you’ll think after you read this story! But, be warned, read this story only on your own account!

A very long time ago, in the swamps of a lagoon, a scared man was seeking for refuge. As he was running, tired from poverty and great violence he stumbled on a muddy hole. Folded in the coldness of the gray mud, he could hear the heavy steps of evil men approaching. The pictures of his loved ones started playing in his tired mind, one by one. As he was saying a last goodbye to his family, warm tears of love and sorrow touched the coldness of the gray mud. Suddenly, a terrible sound took the scared man away from his goodbye ceremony. His eyes got filled with shock, as one muddy finger started growing from the cold ground. The earth was shaking as a giant gray hand was finding her way out. The army of evil could not believe their eyes! Once the fully grown Hand wrapped its fingers around the evil, it hit the muddy soil with a strong noisy blow. The sky turned as gray as the hand and all the birds of the world came to sing around it. The oppressor was defeated. Between shakes and tears our scared man took the courage to open his eyes: the clay hand had hit the evil so deep into the ground that the piece of land where he was now laying  was spun off the mainland and started to float shyly into the deepness of the lagoon. The giant Hand spread her fingers towards the scared man, and gave him a kind stroke. Then it gathered its fingers in a fist, and hold it strongly. As the Hand unfolded the strong fist, a wave of gold sand started to flow from its grayness. Then the Hand knocked gently the ground and a golden pipe arose. After a gentle flick, it widespread its fingers towards the sky and sparkles of fire started pouring down from the dark clouds. The Hand gathered a bunch of fire between its fingers and invited the scared man to come closer. As he approached, the Hand threw the sand in the fire. Then it took the golden pipe and left the cold wind pass through. Suddenly, at the end of the pipe a strange shape of color and beauty started growing. This is how, out of suffering, love and fire a new man was born. His name was Murano.  And he was a wizard.

Do you believe me now?

This is how deeply I was impressed by the craftsmanship of the Murano artists. If you are in Venice, please take the vaporetto and visit this island. Do not waste your time wandering around the canals, as it does not worth it. You have enough of those in Venice or Burano. But please visit the glass galleries and keep on being amazed by the vivid colors, various lines and shapes which for many hundred years, Murano glass can take. On this island you can discover how the rough golden sand is melted in a violent fire and then bewitched into true art by the strong breaths of the craftsmen.

And believe me, it’s just like magic!


A short walk in Padua

We woke up early in the morning to leave our beautiful Verona. After a nice breakfast we checked-out and started thinking on the big plans we had for that day: traveling to Padua, spending few hours and then… yes, the cherry on top and the final destination of our train trip: Venice and its gorgeous islands.

The train ride lasted around 40 minutes and the fare was around 7 euros. If you plan to travel to more destinations in Italy, I strongly recommend taking the train – they’re many, fast and more than affordable.

As we arrived at Padua’s train station I was impressed by the relaxed attitude and youth of its inhabitants. In one of the station’s halls, many talented youngsters display their talents by playing the piano, which gives you the opportunity to assist to a free unconventional show. In case you do not already know, Padua is one of the main student centers in Italy, where even Galileo Galilei was a lecturer.

We started our promenade on Corso del Popolo street, trying to enjoy the small city as much as possible in the few hours dedicated to its visit. As we were walking through amazing buildings and piazzas, a chic city started to grow.

Our first stop was at Padua University – Palazzo del Bo’. The weight of its inner courtyard was guarded by tall strong columns. Amazing statues and frescoes tell many stories of wisdom.

We continued our walk with the Jewish Getto. I could see, just like magic, how the life of its inhabitants was looking like many years ago. Flocks of noisy and cheeky kids running and playing around the slim columns. Long bearded men selling their handmade products on the tight alleys. Women hanging clothes to dry by their large windows. The music of life echoing between the old buildings. In present, everything was surrounded by peace and quiet.

Our next stop was Piazza della Frutta, which made Padua look very alive, in contrast to the mysterious quietness of the Jewish Ghetto. The rough voices of the merchants trying to advertise their fresh fruits and veggies gave the small piazza a joyful atmosphere.

Attracted by the strong scent of velvet tomatoes, many locals and tourists were queuing for a slice of the farmer’s hard work. Behind this vivid scene, something else was happening. A gorgeous medieval building was rising – Palazzo della Ragione and its beautiful market.

Behind the majesty of Palazzo della Ragione lies obedient Piazza delle Erbe. Another amazing place where you can take a short rest and admire the quiet life of the beautiful locals. Small, but elegant balconies decorate the surrounding buildings, sometimes embracing the presence of their owners, which watch curious at the many tourists.


Piazza dei Signori – was a true delight! The superb architecture is enchanting  your eyes and the old pharmacies and stores give you a glimpse of how amazing was the life of its past inhabitants. Tall arches knighted with colorful frescoes give you the shade you long for in a sunny summer day.

But what is a town without a place for worship? Of course, as many other Italian cities, Padua does not lack the presence of the House of God. Duomo di Padova is one of the many cathedrals which give beauty and spirituality to this wonderful city. Unfortunately, we were running out of time, so we were not able to visit the gorgeous cathedral and its baptistery.

On a fast pace, we began our journey to our last stop – the amazing Prato della Valle – the largest square in Italy and one of the largest in Europe (it measures around 90 000 square meters). Il Prato – how it is spoiled by the locals – is a gorgeous piazza witch hosts a green island at its center l’Isola Memmia – embraced by a shy canal bordered by two rings of statues. Nowadays around 78 stone figures watch over the stunning square.

Unhappy to leave the graceful town of Padua, we started our walk back to train station. Again we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and the serenity of the locals. To be honest, this was one of the most beautiful cities I have visited until now in Italy. It’s less touristy, locals cheer you warmly and it has many points of interest. And its strongest asset – it looked so young!

As we were waiting impatient for our train to Venice, I was able to enjoy few more minutes of the local spirit. The air was warm and clean, everybody was smiling. As our train was approaching the station, a talented student was playing one of my favorite piano pieces – Yruma’s “River flows in you”. The song was played so majestically by the raw fingers of the pianist, that the arriving train was not able to cover it up. The train stopped, and with mixed feelings we got on the train. My ears were still playing the wonderful piano tunes…

The soft melody was brutally interrupted by the thick voice of the conductor announcing the next station: Venezia Santa Lucia!

The hidden stage from Mantua

We woke up early in the morning on our 9th day on the road. We already had visited Zurich, Lugano, Lake Como (the beautiful towns of Menaggio, Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo), Milan, Turin and Cremona. A long day was waiting for us: going to Mantua and spending few hours, then heading toward the city of love birdsVerona 🙂 .

The train station in Cremona is quite small, but is frequently passed by trains which stop in Mantua. Traveling by train in Italy is quite cheap. If I remember correctly, a ticket to our destination was around 6 euros, and the trip would last around 50 minutes.

As we arrived in Mantua, a cold grey weather welcomed us. From the train station, you can easily walk to the small, but full of history town. Due to the nasty weather, the old city seemed unfriendly, but as we walked toward its core, we were able to discover its shy beauty.

We had a lovely walk on the narrow pedestrian streets. Suddenly, medieval tall buildings began to rise. As we were getting closer to Piazza Sordello, we were able to admire the imposing walls of Palazzo Ducale di Mantova. Close to the palace, Mantua Cathedral was keeping its warm doors open for us.

The white interior walls were decorated with the famous Carrara marble. Its long and elegant columns imposed us a respectful silence. As we were raising our sights to the sumptuous ceiling, the wide windows made the fine details glow in natural light. We got closer to the shrine, and the sky started falling on us, as it was raining with armies of angels coming from the tall dome frescoes. To be honest, in my eyes, this was one of the most beautiful  cathedrals I have visited until now.

As we were leaving the cathedral, the weather got colder. We had one more important stop – and that was in the wonderful world of theater.  On our way, we had the impression, that the old town of Mantua was build on arches and columns, as all its beautiful buildings were watching us, suspended from high above. Soon we reached our destination – Teatro Bibiena (also known as Teatro Scientifico, Teatro Accademico or Teatrino della Accademia Filarmonica).

As we entered the hall, just like magic, we were transferred into a new world. I was surprised to see seats even on the stage. The whole room was giving me the impression that you can be seen from every corner or angle. A diffuse light protected each seat and the weight of the balconies which was hosting the boxes was overwhelming. In a hidden corner, a stone spiral staircase was allowing us to experience a complete view of the entire room. Suddenly, as I was resting on a red velvet bench, I heard the gentle music of an overture. Smooth violins and cellos started whispering. I could see with the eyes of my mind, the heavy curtains opening, leaving a cloud of light dust behind them and with that revealing the main characters of the drama. All, like living ghosts, were saying with great talent, their best lines. A sudden thunder of applause opened my eyes woke me up to reality. This theater was not built by human hands!


When leaving the curious theater, a tender rain started. It was high time to leave to the train station. We had a second chance to admire the old city of Mantua. Even if it had an urgent need of restoration, a particular beauty was floating all around.

Next stop: Verona! 🙂





The bravest girl in Cremona

It was a sunny Saturday morning when we left Turin (what happened in Turin can be checked out here). Our next destination: Cremona. I know, it’s not that popular. How did we decide to go there? Well, I heard the name of this city in a BBC radio play called “Cabin Pressure” (one of the main characters is played by Benedict Cumberbatch :X ) – I know, very superficial of me :P. When planning our train trip, we wanted to stop in as many places as possible between Turin and Venice. And guess what? I found Cremona on the map! 🙂

Leaving the joke aside, Cremona is famous for its musical history (Antonio Stradivari, the famous crafter of stringed instruments), lovely sweets (the tasty torrone) and splendid architecture. On first impression, the city of Cremona seemed very quiet. It’s not packed with tourists, comparing to other Italian cities, which gives you the opportunity to feel the real vibe of the city. Even if in the first moments I felt a bit disappointed – as soon as we arrived in front of the Cremona Cathedral, my disappointment vanished. The tall building was growing slowly into the skies as a white pale ghost. What brought her to life were two brick towers which were growing on her back. Built in Romanesque style, the beautiful decorations in Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style gave that holy place an unique charm. Its slim long columns and the delicate white statues still looked alive, as they were warmly inviting you inside, where amazing frescoes decorated the old walls.

The cathedral’s guardian, the famous Torrazzo (bell tower), watched over the blessed house, with grace and great affection. Its red bricks showed its strong muscles, and the top terrace were the big eyes which looked over the kind city of Cremona. After visiting the church, we decided to admire the city panorama from the top of the tower. On the fourth floor, resided the mechanism of the largest astronomical clock in the world. As we climbed more stairs, the space started to get smaller and smaller. Even the stairs became more narrow. Before going on what we thought would be the last round of stairs till reaching the top terrace, we met an Italian mother with her son, and her daughter –  the one who would soon become – The Bravest Girl in Cremona. She was around 7 years old, but at heart, was as brave as a knight. The young mother’s son was too scared to climb further the narrow stairs, but the fire from the Brave Girl’s  brown eyes gave her the courage to hand us, total strangers, her care –  so she could see the city where she was born from up above. Happily, she took me by the hand, and she did not look back, not ever for a second.

The Bravest Girl in Cremona spoke Italian. Either the narrow spiral staircase, or her warm hand which was holding mine, gave me the power to understand her and to exchange few words. I allowed her to lead the way, while I was holding her hand firmly. As we were going further, everything got smaller, and the air was not enough for all of us to share. My mind was telling me that this place was shrinking so much that soon would not longer exist. My fears were soon scattered by one look in the eyes of the Brave Girl. We stepped into a larger room, which had few windows with bars. In the middle of the room was laying one the the scariest things I have ever seen – the narrowest wooden staircase in the world. The Brave Girl was eager to get on the top terrace. Every step we took on the staircase felt like a strong earthquake, as the fragile stairs were moving. I was praying that nobody would come from upstairs, as only a tiny person could fit at a time. The spirit of the Tower heard me, and we reached our destination safely. Once The Bravest Girl in Cremona got to see, using the eyes of the Tower, the beauty that surrounded the city, a victorious look spread all over her clever face.


The bravery which was glowing from her eyes made me forget about my fear of tight spaces. She helped me to learn that once you focus on your destination, you will enjoy the journey. Once you enjoy your journey, meeting your biggest fears on the way won’t make you scared anymore. The power of your determination will make them abandon your thoughts, fully defeated.

After handing over The Bravest Girl in Cremona in the safe hands of her mother, we continued our visit with the child of the mighty Tower, the baptistery. Later on, we visited Palazzo Comunale, Loggia dei Militi and Piazza S Antonio Maria Zaccaria. Unfortunately, when we arrived at Museo del Violino (Violin Museum), was the closing hours and we were not allowed to enter. In exchange, we admired the sweets shops windows, and rested our legs on a bench in the park.

I do encourage you to visit Cremona. For its sweets, narrow streets, amazing architecture and welcoming inhabitants. And maybe, who knows, you will be lucky enough to meet the Bravest Girl in Cremona.

Coming next: Mantua! 🙂