San Michele Island, recognisable by high leafy tress which stick out above the encircling walls, is also known as the Isola dei morti - the Island of the dead - as this is in fact the cemetery of Venice. Originally a monastery built in the 13th century, which was famous for its great library and scholars, San Michele only became Venice’s cemetery with the arrival of Napoleon, who in 1804 established a well-known decree which spread across Europe: that the deceased should be buried outside the confines of the city; until then, in fact, Venetians were always buried in the vicinity of their parish church, which was of course extremely dangerous and unhygienic. Among the great many figures who are buried on San Michele are the poets Josif Brodsky and Ezra Pound and the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.
Murano Island and the glass
We are approaching Murano, often called the small Venice, as it resembles the city only in miniature form. It is composed by 5 islands and it also has its own Canal Grande flowing through it. Originally it was populated by refugees, who in the 6th century, began to flee from the hoards of invading Longobards on the mainland. The island is famous worldwide for its production of glass, however the tradition did not begin here. Glass-making was in fact originally practised in Venice, but in 1292 the State decided to move the production centres to Murano, to avoid the risk of fire outbreaks, which were all too common in Venice, as most buildings were at the time made out of wood. The secrets of glass-making were so jealously kept by authorities, that if a mastro vetraio – expert glassmaker - decided to move elsewhere outside of Venice, a couple of hitmen would be sent to kindly persuade him to return home, unless death seemed a preferable option.
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