After Venice, the most visited place in the lagoon of Venice is Murano - seven islands archipelago (like Venice) connected by a bridge. The island has been inhabited by fishermen and fruit growers since the 6th century, but the last few centuries is famous for its glass.
Although the glass production was known earlier (the glass was produced in Mesopotamia and Egypt as well), the Romans improved it, and the Venetians made an art from it. By the 13th century, glass was produced in Venice and it was one of the main export products of the Venetian Republic, known as Venetian glass.
But in 1291 glass manufacturers were banned from Venice, allegedly because of the danger of fire from the glass furnaces and they were relegated to the island of Murano. Since twenty years before the import of glass into Republic of Venice and the employment of foreign workers in the glass industry were prohibited by the law, it is more likely that the master glassblowers were isolated on Murano in order to prevent them sharing their valuable glassmaking knowhow with foreigners.
In 1295, new regulation forbade glass manufacturers to have any contact with strangers or to leave the territory of the Republic of Venice. They were committed to lifelong glass work, and for any escape attempt were punished by death. Three thousand of then seven thousand inhabitants were in some way involved in glass manufacturing. Although isolated and under strict regime, glass manufacturers were still enjoying the benefits: they had the status of privileged citizens who are allowed to carry swords (like royalty), it was not possible to raise any complaint against them, and their daughters were married in the best Venetian families.
In the new conditions glasswork developed and improved so Venice had a glass manufacturing monopoly in Europe for centuries, especially crystal glass (mirrors), and enameled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass (that replaced chinaware).
However, even under threat of death, some masters of their craft had escaped from Murano transferring their knowledge to other parts of Italy and throughout Europe. In the 18th century, demand for Murano glass started to decline, but a special tradition of making it is still alive.
Already on exit from the vaporetto you will be greeted by various representatives of still living craft workshops which will refer you to ‘their’ production facility. You should visit a brief making glass objects presentation, which is free, but the glass making masters will humorously show you how extremely hot it is by the furnaces and that their throats are dry in order to motivate you to leave some euros, so that they can satisfy their thirst.
The guide will make his ten minutes show; he will tell you a brief story about the glass production, craftsmen will demonstrate how glass is formed and then will escort you to a gallery that each factory owns, hoping that you will buy something from them.
Do not be shocked, all genuine Murano glass articles are quite expensive. During recent years craftsmen from Murano are fighting against many fake Chinese copies of Murano glass. Of course, the Chinese copies are much cheaper and many tourists will reach out to cheap souvenir convinced that it is made of Murano glass. Murano masters warn that up to 70 percent of glass objects in Venice are made of fake Murano glass, some works are so good that even masters can hardly say whether it is original or fake Chinese copies.
Even the products labels (originally Italian or Murano) are forged. It is safest to buy glass in some of the famous glass factories and their galleries or shops (which are generally not allowed to photograph).
Did you know that the red Murano glass is more expensive than other colors glass? Namely, the glass is colored with certain dissolved metals and minerals, and the famous Murano red color comes by adding the mixed gold dust to hot fluid glass mass.
Visit Burano, the island of lace, today best known for its cheerful facades.
Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice – Queen of the Adriatic
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