Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Murano - the Glass Making Capital of Venice

On Saturday we decided to head out to Murano, one of the small islands in the lagoon.  Murano is known for it's glassmaking.  Back in the 1200s glassmakers were ordered to move from Venice to Murano.  At the time, the buildings in Venice were made primarily of wood and the fires needed to heat the materials for the glass were a concern to the residents there.  These glassmakers were and still are considered to be Artisans and according to Wikipedia, "It wasn't long until Murano's glassmakers were the leading citizens on the island. Artisans were granted the right to wear swords and enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the notoriously high-handed Venetian state. By the late 14th Century, the daughters of glassmakers were allowed to marry into Venice's blue-blooded families. (This was roughly equivalent to Archie Bunker's daughter being invited to wed a Cabot or a Peabody.)"

However in order to have this prestigious title bestowed upon them, they were not allowed to leave the islands outside the Lagoon.  But why were they treated so well?  At the time they were the only people in Europe who knew how to make glass mirrors and had developed various technologies that had improved the glassmaking industry.  For the most part they had a monopoly on glass making for centuries until around the time the colonists were heading to the New World. 
Today they are still famous though sadly tourism has gotten in the way of some of the craftsmanship of previous years.  That does not mean that these people are not talented - by god, they are amazingly talented.  But they have given in to money that can be brought in from tourism and can you really blame them.  Many of the higher end galleries that we came across showed more of the artisan work that would be from yesteryear.

On the way over to the island, a quick 10 minute water bus ride from San Marco, we went by the island of San Michele which is the cemetary for Venice.  I had never given thought as to where people would be buried on an island like Venice but this answered it - they have their own cemetary island.  Interesting to say the least!

As we left Venice I noticed this which reminded me of the Umbrella House in Barcelona

Mountains in the background, the Dolomites perhaps?

San Michele - the cemetary

Also San Michele

And the backside of San Michele

We did a few tours of glass favories and were amazed by the talents of these men.  We were told that these men usually hand down the craft from father to son and that to become a master, the son will be an apprentice for 15-20 years!  Can you imagine being in the same role for that long?  But this is the way it has always been done and you have to admire the dedication and patience it takes to do this job!

Entrance to the first glass factory - stunning glass work!

One of the first demonstrations

And the second demonstration

Here is video of the second demonstration - how he makes a vase:

The final product

I wish I'd gotten video of this - he made a horse in about 3 minutes!

Video of a horse being made (not the one above but from another glass factory)

Josh was less than thrilled when after the tours I wanted to go shopping for some gifts.  After all, this was something unique to this area so I had to buy a few things.  I went to use credit card when making a purchase but it wouldn't work (later found out the credit card number had been stolen and my credit card had to be cancelled) and so poor Josh had to go into no less than 50 glass stores on the hunt for gifts for some friends and family.  He was a VERY good sport about it!

One of MANY stores I went inside

View of Venice from Murano

As you probably can tell by now, I love houses with flowers!

We saw a few of these boats selling vegetables

The restaurant we had lunch at... I think...

Tower with cool glass art in front of it

Center of town

More of the center

Beautiful sailboats

Opens up to the lagoon

More of town

We walked around a few side streets as well and this was definitely more residential like
than Venice proper.

Me on a bridge :)

Question - when would you need a glass orchestra?  Where would you put something liek this?

A nice couple took our picture - though I wish they would have angled it so we wouldn't see the construction behind us, but nice of them nonetheless.

Once again we stopped for lunch at a fabulous place that specialized in seafood (as do most places in Venice) and pasta.  We had yet another wonderful appetizer of mussels and then shared a scallop and pasta meal that was to die for.  More walking and then it was time to head back to Venice.  The weather ended up being perfect for our morning/early afternoon on Murano and we were looking forward to a nice evening in Venice again!


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