Where Venice - - Shopping -

Ve­ni­ce and glass: a strong, en­du­ring part­ner­ship that has la­sted for cen­tu­ries. It's na­tu­ral to men­tion glass when tal­king about Ve­ni­ce. It's the sa­me as as­so­cia­ting the ci­ty wi­th the Lagoon, its co­lours and the plays of light that ha­ve ser­ved as in­spi­ra­tion for the mo­st ico­nic crea­tions by lo­cal ma­ster glass blo­wers.

The art of so­li­di­fy­ing si­li­con to ob­tain a hard yet de­li­ca­te tran­spa­rent ma­te­rial, sui­ta­ble for coun­tless pur­po­ses, is roo­ted in the an­cient pa­st. Ac­cor­ding to hi­sto­rians, glass was fir­st ma­de in Me­so­po­ta­mia in the III mil­len­nium B.C. Ho­we­ver, se­ve­ral ar­chaeo­lo­gi­cal digs sug­ge­st that glass­ma­king was al­rea­dy prac­ti­ced in

Ve­ni­ce in the 7th cen­tu­ry B.C. Fur­ther­mo­re, af­ter the year 1000 A.D., its pro­duc­tion had be­co­me so im­por­tant that it was pro­tec­ted by spe­ci­fic la­ws. The­re was on­ly one small pro­blem - the pre­sen­ce of glass fur­na­ces in me­die­val Ve­ni­ce, whi­ch was lar­ge­ly built of tim­ber, pre­sen­ted a gra­ve fi­re ha­zard. As a re­sult, in 1291, for sa­fe­ty rea­sons, the Great Coun­cil or­de­red the glass wor­kers to trans­fer to the Island of Mu­ra­no, whe­re they crea­ted a di­strict that still exists. It was he­re that in the 13th cen­tu­ry eye­glas­ses we­re in­ven­ted, and he­re, in 1369 that mir­rors be­gan to be pro­du­ced. It was al­so he­re, in 1450, that An­ge­lo Ba­ro­vier in­ven­ted cry­stal. Th­rou­ghout the Re­nais­san­ce, glass was a ra­re com­mo­di­ty. It was on­ly in 1827 that glass be­gan to be pro­du­ced on an in­du­strial le­vel. At that point, blo­wn glass or glass pro­du­ced by lam­p­wor­king be­ca­me a hi­ghly pri­zed ma­te­rial used for ae­sthe­tic pur­po­ses, and achie­ved the height of its splen­dor du­ring the Art Nou­veau pe­riod. Ar­tists in­clu­ding La­li­que, Dam­mou­se or Tiffany sought out the glass blo­wers of Mu­ra­no to pro­du­ce their co­ve­ted ob­jec­ts. Du­ring the midt­wen­tie­th cen­tu­ry, real ma­sters of the art in­clu­ding Si­gno­ret­to, Bal­la­rin, Za­net­ti and Vi­dal be­gan to emer­ge in Mu­ra­no.

Their works are hi­ghly co­ve­ted ob­jec­ts, true col­lec­tors' items that are of­ten di­splayed at museums.

Whi­le strolling through the stree­ts of

Mu­ra­no, you'll be spoilt for choi­ce. If you want to ma­ke a pur­cha­se, bear se­ve­ral cri­te­ria in mind. Craf­ting au­then­tic Mu­ra­no glass is no ea­sy ta­sk and isn't cheap. Lar­ge ob­jec­ts re­qui­re hours of work, so don't ex­pect to ta­ke you cu­stom-ma­de lamp ho­me on the sa­me day. Fur­ther­mo­re, ea­ch pie­ce is uni­que, mea­ning that small im­per­fec­tions are an in­te­gral part of the va­lue of the ob­ject. In short, if you co­me across a shop sel­ling mass-pro­du­ced items that pro­mi­ses quick de­li­ve­ry ti­mes or temp­ts you wi­th low pri­ces, beware.

Apart from so­me ex­cep­tions, it's bet­ter to do your glass shop­ping in Mu­ra­no ra­ther than in the ci­ty of Ve­ni­ce. Don't wor­ry if you want to buy an ob­ject but don't ha­ve ti­me to wait: the island's glass fac­to­ries are now equip­ped to ma­ke sa­fe de­li­ve­ries any­whe­re in the world.

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