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Venice, 2008

Glass making, Murano

In 1291, the Great Council of Venice banned glass making in the city, for fear of fires, and declared Murano the only place in the Republic where glass could be manufactured. Murano and glass making are still synonymous today. We had to spend a day there. A 15 minute ride on the vaporetto takes you there, with a short stop at the cemetery, which is another island on the way.

It is a quiet place, with small colorful houses, and where practically every other building along the main canals sells glassware. We spent a day going around the town visiting a couple of churches, the glass museum, and of course shopping. One of the specialties of Murano is the murrines which are long cylinders of multicolored glass, cut into small pieces. They are the raw material for all kinds of objects like this paper weight, a modern version of the traditional millefiori style. There are many kinds of beads, including the tiny conterias, barely a couple of millimeters in diameter, which make stunning necklaces when many strands are put together. They also make many kinds of vases (here at the famous Carlo Moretti store) and drinking glasses. We bought these, inspired by the traditional goti da fornasa - water glasses the glass blowers make for themselves (it is hot in these factories!) with the glass left over in the furnace at the end of the day. These are a bit fancier, with gold dust in the glass and a regular pattern of bubbles, using the technique called vetro bulicante in which the glass is first blown into a studded mould, then a second layer of glass is added to trap the bubbles.

Glass chandeliers are everywhere: not just in the shops, but everywhere in Venice. The one in our hotel room looked a little sad, with a burned out bulb and same missing pieces, but we saw some really impressive examples in the Ca' Rezzonico, in the church of San Pietro Martire in Murano, in the Palazzo Franchetti, in the foyer of the Fenice theatre, in the Textile museum, in the Doge's palace, in the Ca' Pessaro, at the Querini museum and the Murano glass museum, and many other places.

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