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 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, and remember to follow the rules to #EnjoyRespectVenezia.
This video has some more tips for how to visit Venice responsibly:
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. I arrived 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.
What is Murano Glass?
Before we started the workshop, Massimiliano gave me a brief overview of the history of Murano Glass.
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 him, and he then works the glass to make his designs.
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.
Glass workers like Massimiliano use cylinder rods of Murano glass to create beautiful jewellery designs. He purchases the rods directly from Murano, heating them to mould into his designs.
Murano Glass Making Demonstration
I had the choice of which kind of artwork I wanted to see him making. 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 the 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.
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
Hostels in Venice
For me, Wombat’s City Hostel Venice Mestre is by far the best hostel in Venice. I stayed there as part of the #WombatsTraveller ambassador project which has now finished, but I would happily stay at Wombat’s every time I go back to Venice! Wombat’s is on the mainland in Mestre, right next to the train station so you can be in Venice in 15 minutes.
The dorms are huge, and there are also private rooms with ensuite bathrooms if you prefer more privacy. There are social events, a kitchen if you want to make your own food, a buffet breakfast (extra cost) and a bar which is open every night – and you get a free drink voucher on check-in! I loved it here and highly recommend it whether you are visiting Venice on a budget, or are looking for a clean, comfy and friendly place to stay – regardless of price! Read my full review here, or check it out on Hostelworld.
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 gets great reviews for the friendly staff, good location and great service. Canal Grande Santa Croce Venice is in a similar location and also gets rave reviews for the views over the Grand Canal. If you would rather be more ‘in the middle’ of the action, take a look at the lovely B&B Ca’ Bonvicini.
Airbnb 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. This spacious private room, for example, is a short walk from the train station and walking distance from the main sights in Venice. Alternatively, this private ensuite room is in Mestre, close to the train station
You can check all the options for Airbnb in Venice here. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
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