Fog often drapes this island off Italy’s northeastern coast, blanketing the narrow streets and submerging the stone bridge ways until all is lost in a milky sea. In the stillness, an oar dips into the canal and droplets of falling water reverberate off marble walls. A gondola glides by, and intricately worked stone buildings seem to rise out of the mist. All is monochromatic, a scene painted in shades of grey.
It’s not hard to imagine, then, the appeal of the region’s bright glasswork, which has been handcrafted for more than 800 years. Glassmakers first fled to Venice after the fall of Constantinople at the beginning of the 13th century, and in 1291, the glassmaking furnaces of Venice were moved to the nearby island of Murano. Venetian officials cited the fear of fire spreading to the island’s wood frame houses, but some say the move was designed to keep the elaborate glassmaking techniques a secret. Either way, Murano soon became the epicenter of glasswork in the region. There artisans created goblets and decanters in dramatic colors like vermilion and aquamarine. They fashioned gemstones and laid gold thread into their work. Wealthy and powerful glassmaking families reigned in the Venetian Republic for centuries.
Today, the glassmakers of Murano continue to ply their trade. You can visit the showroom and museum of Barovier & Toso, a glassmaking company first founded in 1295, or visit the Museo Vetrario for a century-by-century look at the glassmaking industry. The best foundries are not open to tourists, but you can often arrange for a visit through a gallery or art dealer ahead of time. To reach the island of Murano, take one of the water taxis that traverse the waters of the Venetian lagoon.
Image courtesy of http://devwijewardane.blogspot.com/2011/01/murano-glass-venice-italy.html