In the 13th century, Venice was a powerful independent nation that controlled the politics and commerce of the Mediterranean. Glass and crystal production were two of the main industries of the state, and their products were in high demand all over Europe for their beauty and durability.
In 1291, the Venetian Republic ordered the destruction of all glass furnaces because they posed a risk of fire. It was then decided that the small nearby island of Murano, where there were already several active workshops, should be the center of glass production of the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
The esteemed glassmakers of the period were allowed to carry a sword and enjoy some immunity in order to protect the secrets of their craft. However, as a measure to safeguard Venetian glass production, they were also forced to live on the island, and completely forbidden to leave the Republic.
Today, Murano is a picturesque island surrounded by canals and beautiful Renaissance buildings. It is a place that breathes history and where eager tourists come from all over the world looking for the most famous Italian glass and crystal, made in the same workshops where master glassmakers once helped the likes of Picasso, Chagall and Fontana to create their artwork.
Several of the stores and historic workshops have become internationally known brands. Such is the case of Salviati, Barovier & Toso, Ferro Murano and Berengo Studio, among others. Murano artisans still use ancient techniques for making glasses, jewelry, vases and plates, as well as the precious Murano glass lamps, one of the island’s most popular products.
The Giustinian Palace is a must stop while visiting Murano. The old building houses the Glass Museum, which offers a journey through several centuries of glass and crystal manufacturing in Venice. Be sure to visit the museum before you do your shopping, since many of the pieces exhibited in its galleries have been faithfully reproduced by artisans in their workshops, and some are of great artistic value.
After a day of shopping and sightseeing, Vecchia Pescheria Restaurant is a great choice to rest and unwind. Located in the square of Campiello della Pescheria, and pretty close to the canal, the restaurant serves fine Venetian dishes like risotto di pesce e capesante (rice with seafood); shrimp, octopus and sardines marinated in vinegar with onions and the battered cod Vicentina style. And, of course, this is a unique opportunity to enjoy one of the specialties of Murano: the delicious stewed bisato (eel). ■
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