Murano Glass is famous the world over. Glass has been made in Venice for over 1000 years, and since the 13th century, the glass furnaces moved to the island of Murano. After seeing a Murano glass-blowing demonstration, I wanted something a little more hands-on to learn more about Murano glass and the art of Venetian glass jewellery, so I booked a Murano Glass workshop with Glass Maestro Massimiliano Calderone.
How to Enjoy Authentic Venice Responsibly
I adore Venice, and would not tell people not to go there, but the city is under threat from over-tourism and the infrastructure there does struggle in peak season. We all need to do our bit to help protect the city and avoid doing any more damage than we have already.
Try to plan your trip to Venice in the shoulder or off-season and remember that weekdays are also quieter than weekends. Not only will you enjoy your trip more without the crowds but you will help by not adding to them!
Take time to explore the city beyond the top attractions, so you as well as ticking off your Venice bucket list with things like taking a gondola ride and visiting St Mark’s Basilica you also learn about the culture in Venice, visiting local artisans who are keeping traditional crafts alive – like this glass workshop or finding other authentic Venetian souvenirs.
This video has some more tips for how to visit Venice responsibly, and read my full blog post about responsible tourism in Venice:
What is Murano Glass?
Glass has been made in Venice for around 1500 years. When it was an independent state, Venice had strong trading connections with the middle east, and Venetian glassmakers learned additional skills from their counterparts in Syria and Egypt where glassmaking was more advanced. Venice became Europe’s first major glass-making centre, and the quality of Venetian glass gained worldwide recognition.
Glassmaking moved from Venice to the nearby island of Murano in the 13th Century, when the Doge decreed that no furnaces could remain in Venice due to the high fire risk. Since then, the island of Murano has become synonymous with glass, and Murano glass is the most famous glass in the world.
Traditional Murano Glass-Making in Venice
If you want to learn how to make Murano glass, the best place to do that is Murano island. To get to Murano you can take a vaporetto water bus or join a tour to visit both Murano and Burano in one day.
- Many of the glass factories offer Murano glass-blowing demonstrations, some of them are free or others charge a small fee to watch their master craftsmen at work. The fee is usually discounted from any purchase you make on glass jewellery or sculptures in the factory shop.
- This Murano Glass factory experience includes the chance to meet the glassmaker before the demonstration
- You can also book a Murano glass blowing workshop which includes the chance to make your own glass creation, although from reading reviews it seems like a good experience for kids but not really for adults.
- Once you’ve learned how to make Murano glass, take a class to make your own Murano glass jewellery in this fabulous glass jewellery making workshop like I did!
The Murano Glass Workshop
I booked my Murano glass workshop at 9.30am on a Saturday morning which was the only slot left available when I booked the week before. Massimiliano Calderone’s Murano Glass Workshop is available to book online at Get Your Guide here, and I highly recommend the experience!
Book as far in advance as you can so you don’t miss out on this intimate and unique way to learn more about Murano glass and the skills it takes to create the beautiful glass artworks:
I arrived for my class a few minutes early, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find the tiny shop, but it was in a peaceful square in a lovely neighbourhood and I didn’t have any problems. Massimiliano had a sign on the door to say he’d gone for a coffee, and he returned shortly after and welcomed me into his workshop.
Murano Glass Jewellery Making
The glass that Massimiliano uses to make his designs is authentic Murano glass from the island of Murano. This is the ‘raw material’ that he then heats and turns into magical creations. Different coloured long glass cylinders provide the base for then glass workers like Massimiliano then use cylinder rods of Murano glass to create beautiful jewellery designs.
He purchases the rods directly from Murano, heating them to stretch and mould into his intricate glass jewellery designs.
Murano Glass Making Demonstration
Before we got down to making my own jewellery Massimiliano offered me a quick Venice glass-blowing class, and I had the choice of which kind of glass-blowing experience I wanted Massimiliano to do.
There was the option of a glass-blowing demonstration to make a glass ball, but I had already seen that kind of glass making in Murano, so I opted for a demonstration that is only possible with the technique that Massimiliano uses here – lampworking. This type of delicate work simply can’t be done in the large furnaces at Murano.
Massimiliano uses a small gas burner to heat up the glass cylinders which he then moulds into intricate shapes. The larger glass rods can be heated and gently stretched to make longer, thinner glass rods of various colours.
Blending different colours to create patterns in the glass, he worked steadily and carefully with the experience of a man who has been doing this for years. He started working with glass when he was just 16 years old, after seeing a glass craftsman use a similar technique.
As he works, a small speaker pumped out rhythmic dance tunes, which seemed to help him concentrate. Shaded glasses protect his eyes from the intense flame and any stray sparks, but this is not dangerous work – as long as you keep your hands away from the flame!
The result is a glass flower, with individual petals and a beautifully curved stem. Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo of that, but some of Massimiliano’s other work gives you an idea of what he is capable of.
My Murano Glass Workshop
Now it was my turn to handle the glass and make my own Venetian glass jewellery. Massimiliano showed me what to do and I practised without the flame before we heated the glass. My teacher watched carefully as I attempted to follow his instructions, gently rolling the glass rod over the heat until it glowed red and formed a ball of molten glass.
I added dots of different colours from the thinner coloured glass rods, which we then heated again before squashing the ball into a flat leaf shape, and gently twisting and stretching the glass into the beautiful design.
Massimiliano took over to make a loop for the string of the necklace, and he dropped my design into some sand to let it cool off.
I was nervous about being so close to the flame, which burned at around 700°C, but I couldn’t feel the heat from behind the table. The flame is concentrated, so the heat is directed straight to where it needs to be. Pieces of glass littered the table, a rainbow of offcuts and cylinders ready to be used.
I really enjoyed seeing how Massimiliano made his artwork and jewellery and loved being able to have a go myself. Even for a process so simple that I could do it first time, the skill and dedication to make something so beautiful was obvious. And that is a relatively basic Murano glass pendant; just looking around the shop at the other designs it was clear what a talented artist he is.
Buying Murano Glass Jewellery and Artwork
Massimiliano’s workshop doubles as his shop, where he sells all his creations. Some are beautiful pieces of artwork, delicate glass designs with dancing figures and outstretched hands. Others are more simple jewellery designs, but all are handmade and absolutely stunning.
After the workshop, I was given the pendant I had made and offered a discount on any other item I bought in the shop. I chose a similar glass necklace to take home for my mum, which Massimiliano added to a string and popped in a bag for me to take home.
Making Murano Glass Jewellery
I really enjoyed making my own Murano glass jewellery and thought it was good value for a private workshop which included the glass pendant we had made. It perhaps will be a bit expensive if you are visiting Venice on a budget, but it is one of the more unusual things to do in Venice which you will remember forever! If you’d like to take a jewellery making class in Venice with Massimiliano you can book through GetYourGuide here.
A Murano Glass-Blowing Experience in Venice
While the above information is about a specific Murano jewellery making class, if you’d like to learn more about Murano glass than you
Would you like to make your own Venetian glass jewellery? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.
Where to Stay in Venice
Hotels in Venice
Although staying somewhere close to the train station isn’t as convenient for St Mark’s Square, you won’t have to worry about moving heavy cases around the streets of Venice.
Hotel Antiche Figure, for example, is just opposite the station and gets great reviews for the friendly staff, good location and great service.
Albergo Marin is a good choice to get a mix of value and location, next to Grand Canal and 10 minutes walk from the railway station.
B&B Ca’ Bonvicini is a lovely bed and breakfast hotel just 7 minutes walk from Rialto Bridge if you would rather be more ‘in the middle’ of the action. It gets great reviews for the traditional Venetian decor and friendly staff.
Apartments in Venice
There are lots of options for Airbnb in Venice, but given how many locals have had to leave their homes, I would advise against getting a whole apartment for yourself. A private room in a local’s apartment will help them to pay the rent, and help you to really feel like a local in Venice, as well as saving you money.
This room in Venice with a terrace, for example, is a short walk from the train station and walking distance from the main sights in Venice. Alternatively, try Homestay.com which has some options for private rooms in apartments in Venice, Mestre and surrounding areas.
If you do want a whole apartment, you can rent full homes on Vrbo like this lovely historic apartment that is close to the centre of Venice, or this apartment which has its own garden! Booking.com also has a large selection of vacation rentals available too, browse available apartments here.
Hostels in Venice
I stayed at the fabulous Wombat’s City Hostel Venice Mestre, which is now sadly closed due to the pandemic. It may reopen in future, but it’s not looking good at the moment. However, there are other hostels in Venice if you are visiting Venice on a budget, take a look at these options:
- Anda Venice: a trendy hostel a short train ride from Venice in Mestre with excellent reviews
- Ostello S. Fosca in the centre of Venice
- Combo Venezia, set in the grounds of a 12th Century convent.
You can also take a look at all of the hostels in Venice on Hostelworld.
Want More Venice Posts?Check out these blog posts to learn more about the best things to do in Venice and more Venice travel tips, or click here to read all of my Italy posts.
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