Glass blowing is hot stuff; photo by dreadpiratejeff
In Venice, land of gondolas and Guggenheims (Peggy, that is), glass artisans have always thrived. In fact, the island directly north of the city center, Murano, is known as “Glass Island.” Since the 1200s, Venice’s major talents in the glass industry have set up shop here, first making one-of-a-kind pieces for royalty and today, offering their services to the masses.
A trip to Murano is easy, but here’s a quick primer: First, we recommend wandering the streets of Venice proper. Get lost (it’s easy to do!) and browse the windows of the trendy glass shops. Chances are you’ll fall in love with a delicate lamp, or maybe a colorful ashtray, or just a pretty set of wine glasses.
Then, instead of paying retail, hop on a vaporetto and head to Murano. Take in a free glass blowing demonstration. If you’re not visiting one of the bigger factories, there’s no need to make an appointment. Simply stop in and start watching. Most artisans will let you walk right into their warehouses while they’re working. If you’re really lucky, you’ll meet and talk to one of the traditionally trained glass blowers or artists.
Next, ask for a sample (this really only applies to those smaller shops, not factories). Sometimes, they’ll hand you a remnant of colored glass free of charge. Most often, you can buy their unique glass art at a discounted cost.
Or, if you’ve got €5.50 (€3 reduced) to spare, take a tour of the Museo Vetrario (The Glass House). For information including restoration projects and opening and closing times, go here (click on the subheads on the left).
Fun fact: The most well known glass blowers in town are Pauly & C (Compagnia Veneto). Visit their web site (in Italian only) for information about the artists that work there.
Ok, so it’s true that people in glass houses (or factories) shouldn’t throw stones. But, just a quick and diplomatic tourist trap note: We’ve heard tales that the Vecchia Murano Glass Factory can be pricey once you’re through the front door. As usual, we suggest sticking with the Ma and Pop glass shops and those single artisan stores.
For more on visiting Murano, go here.