Italy is one of the top countries on every traveler’s bucket list, with over 46 million tourists visiting every year! This is no surprise – with it’s winning mix of history, culture, architecture, natural beauty, cuisine, art and fashion, Italy attracts people with all sorts of interests, from all walks of life. Yet with Italy’s incredible multitude of options comes a challenge – how to balance the different kinds of experiences to make your visit the best it can be? We at GlassOfVenice.com have spent considerable time in Italy, both on our regular merchandising visits and, for some of us, living there. So we decided to compile our ten best Italian travel tips to help all who are interested in Italy to get the most out of their next visit. We hope you will find our advises helpful – please comment and share away!
1. Do not try to cover too much ground in a short time
Italy is famous for its cultural and artistic treasures, rich history, natural beauty, great food, fine wines, top fashion and too many other things to list on one page. It is also a big country that consists of multiple regions, each with its own history, culture, and cuisine. So it’s no wonder that Italy is high on the list of every tourist’s “must-see” places and that once there, visitors try to do it all, often in relatively short amount of time. If you are like most tourists and only have one or two weeks at a time to spare, we urge you not to make a mistake of checking off boxes on the “been there done that” list and rushing from city to city and from attraction to attraction. Instead, choose one or two regions, pick just a few towns, spend a few days in each place, take it in, feel its spirit, and resolve to come back later to see more of Italy. Trying to cover a few key cities, such as Venice, Florence and Rome in the first visit is another popular strategy, but you need to be mindful of the time it takes to travel between them and understand that each one is a multifaceted cultural gem that needs several full days to be explored, although even in that time you will only scratch the surface.
Murano Island in Venice is world-renown for amazing art glass that has evolved from its humble utilitarian beginnings into an art form over the centuries. Part of the reason is the sheer concentration of glass furnaces on the island and the length of time that the artisans have been experimenting and creating, leading to virtuosity in techniques and styles. One of the most famous and oldest glassworks on Murano is Venini, the family that has given the world generations of talented Murano Glass artists. The surprising part, however, is that in the twentieth century Venini glassworks helped create a new breed of masterful and innovative artists, those that were born outside of Murano and even Italy.
In breaking with Murano’s long-standing tradition of shielding the glassmakers’ world from the outsiders, Venini started serving as a learning site for American artists eager to learn the secrets of Murano Glass masters. Over the years, the Venini glass factories have hosted American-born talents such as Thomas Stearns, Dale Chihuly, and Richard Marquis, all of whom ultimately helped expand Murano’s fame far beyond Italy. These prominent artists have traveled to Murano on the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and were fascinated by the medium of glass and the artistic possibilities it offered.. However, although they share a country of origin and a common passion which expanded the boundaries of glass work, they are as different and unique as the handmade glass pieces they produce. Continue reading
It is rare to see the very best of artistic Murano Glass created by prominent Venetian artists outside of Venice, let alone in the United States. For a short time this May and June all lovers and collectors of Murano Glass in the United States can enjoy a wonderful exhibition of Murano Glass Art at Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. The exhibition features 33 beautiful glass art pieces by Giampaolo Seguso, a member of the renowned Seguso dynasty—a family which has been crafting glass on the island of Murano for over 600 years! The legacy of glass work goes back twenty-two generations in the Seguso family, and has garnered them international acclaim.
The pieces on display are each accompanied by a poem by Giampaolo Seguso himself, which reflects of the meaning of existence, nature, and beauty, merging together Seguso’s gifts for visual, as well as verbal arts. It is so rare to capture beauty in one medium, but Seguso ambitiously endeavors to capture it doubly, creating something new and profound. The name of the exhibition, La Ragnatela, is Italian for “spider web,” referring to Filigrana technique of glass-making invented on Murano in the 16th century. This complex technique uses glass canes that are positioned parallel to each other and then melted together so as to create delicate spiral or web-like patterns within the glass. Seguso was so enchanted by the endless artistic possibilities offered by Filigrana technique that he authored the book, La Ragnatela, published in 2001, which is the culmination of his research and personal application of the Murano Filigrana technique. Like all in-demand artists, Giampaolo Seguso and his art have traveled the world, holding exhibitions in Norway, Germany, and Brazil.
La Ragnatela presentation can be visited at the Bellarmine Museum of Art at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. This exquisite exhibition opened its doors on April 10th and will continue to wow the collectors and those interested in Murano Glass until June 13, 2014, so make plans to see it soon.
by Kevin Grinberg
If you find yourself viewing masterful glass works and feel the urge to smile, then odds are you are in the presence of a Fulvio Bianconi design. Famous for producing glass art that celebrates individuality, sensuality, and the light-hearted side of life, Bianconi pieces are still very popular today due to their lively colors, dynamic shapes, and the enduring popularity of his pezzato style.
An artistic prodigy, Bianconi began apprenticing at Murano Glass furnaces as young as sixteen. He later used his amusing style and undeniable talent to consult on and produce cartoons for the Italian Ministry of Popular Culture, until the end of World War II. However, it wasn’t long before the island of Murano and the glass furnaces of his youth called on him, and in 1947 the prominent Murano Glass master Paolo Venini hired him as a designer for a series of perfume glass bottles. The financial independence granted to him by his work as a graphic designer allowed him to dedicate an ample amount of time to freelance work for Venini, which yielded works characteristic of his free spirited and playful style. This did not sit well with the glass artisans at Murano initially. The trademark of a gifted glass artisan in Murano at the time was the ability to perfectly recreate a style or design, and their celebration of flawless repetition could not have been farther from Bianconi’s perception of what constituted mastery, beauty and technique. Bianconi is credited as saying, “…the artistic glass has to be unique, if it is repeated it loses its charm…” Continue reading
Although we love them all year round, what a wonderful thing it is that there is a day to celebrate our mothers and all of the contributions they make to our lives. Make this day truly memorable for her by surprising her with hand-crafted, Murano glass accessories that show just how much she means to you. Also, take advantage of our Mother’s Day sale and save 15% on your order by using the MOM15 coupon code during your checkout at GlassOfVenice.com.
Below are a few suggestions to help you get started:
For the fashionista mother
We recommend selecting one of our elegant necklaces that are made of finely crafted Murano glass beads. The Vecchia Murano necklace, whose impeccable beauty is expressed through the use of beads of complementing cranberry and cocoa tones, and finished with a elegant and secure, is one such item. Our selection of necklaces and other fashion accessories include diverse pieces that vary by color, style, and length. Receiving hand-crafted, Murano glass jewelry is sure to leave any mother speechless on her special day. Continue reading
Easter is an important time in Italy, not only from religious, but also from spiritual and family perspective. Learning more about Italian celebrations and events around Easter time and getting to know the traditions so meaningful and dear to Italians will bring you richer cultural experience when you travel to Italy. Continue reading
Venetian Carnival, an intriguing mix of gorgeous masquerades, street fairs, high-end balls, and tourist craze set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice, is one of the most famous and highly anticipated events in the world. The Venetian Carnival in its present form has been celebrated since 1979 when Italian government and Venetian civic society decided to revive it as an attempt to re-ignite interest in Venice and its rich traditions. However, the original Venetian Carnival has a long history that dates back to the 12th century, if not earlier, and many of the traditions and glamorous highlights of today’s Carnival come straight from the Middle Ages.
Origins of the Venetian Carnival
Many scholars agree that Venetian Carnival has its roots in Christian tradition and that it has likely evolved as a way for people to indulge in life’s pleasures and have fun in the days before the solemn period of Christian Lent (a time of sorrow and reflection leading up to the Holy Week). One of the theories is that the Italian word “Carnevale” comes from the two Latin words “carne” meaning meat, and “vale” meaning farewell or goodbye, signifying the fact that during Lent people had to fast, avoid temptation, and give up life’s luxuries, in order to concentrate on prayer, reflection, and self-denial.
However, the Carnival’s history likely runs even deeper. Venice was founded by Romans escaping barbarians and built on the remains of crumbling Roman Empire. As such, it has deep roots going all the way back into Roman and even Greek history. Hence, Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Greek Dionysian festival before it are thought to have played a role in Venetians’ desire for a festival that allows people to be free from social norms. Saturnalia in ancient Rome was a time of complete break from normal social order and hierarchical boundaries, when masked slaves and Roman citizens alike celebrated with music, dances, symbolic acts, and orgies. Continue reading
The most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, is approaching with the speed of Cupid’s arrow, bringing with it the perpetual quest for a perfect memorable gift. This year you can surprise your sweetheart with a museum-quality piece of Murano Glass for a gift that will always be treasured. In addition to gifting the marvelous work of Murano Glass, you are also granting your loved one an experience that is associated with the romantic aura of Venice and the artistic heritage of the famed Murano Island in the Venetian Lagoon.
This distinct and labor-intensive method of glass-working originated in Venice many centuries ago, most likely passed down by the ancient Romans, who spotted wonderful and elegant glass pieces that Egyptians loved to use. Since 1291 the glassmakers on Venetian island of Murano have held the ranks of rule over the industry of blown glass works for centuries. As a result, the skilled artisans who create Murano Glass pieces continue to spend painstaking hours upon hours practicing a craft that has been passed down by generations of glassmakers and apprentices. Individuals who work with glass in Venice are held in high esteem thanks to the beauty and craftsmanship put into their glasswork. Today, the same techniques and traditions continue to be used in the formation of Murano Glass pieces.
When you purchase a piece of authentic Murano Glass in the U.S., you are getting the convenience and security of knowing your order will be reliably processed and promptly shipped, without sacrificing the quality. And the handcrafted and individually designed pieces using the techniques of Murano Glass that you will give to your precious Valentine will come along with visions of romantic canal rides and beautiful sunsets over the Venetian Lagoon, giving them the sentimental value not found in any other gift. Heart shaped pendants, necklaces, and earrings fashioned using centuries’ old techniques make wonderful gifts for women who love unique artisan jewelry. There are plenty of fine gifts for men as well, including designer cufflinks to add elegance and style to a man’s wardrobe, along with exquisite office accessories and barware for the men who prefer upscale designer accessories and value European quality and artistic tradition.
High-end pieces such as intertwined Murano Glass lovers are made with intricate detail using the famed Murano glass techniques. For Valentines who love the look of art, go all out with a tabletop sculpture featuring this amazing art form. Consider a sculpture of rich red heart or love birds for a dining room centerpiece. A Murano Glass sculpture will remain gorgeous and translucent as the years go by – it will never fade, go out of style, or shrink too small. Additionally, you are giving your loved one a piece of history that can be passed down through generations. This Valentine’s Day as you shop for the ultimate in treasured romance, choose a handcrafted, one of a kind keepsake made by passionate Venetian artisans practicing centuries’ old Murano Glass art.
by Kevin Grinberg
Have you ever thought of visiting Venice in the winter but decided against it for fear of cold weather, potential floods, and worry that there wouldn’t be much to do but hide all day in little osterias? Well, maybe you’ve made a mistake. Actually, Venice in the winter is fascinating, not least because of its annual Carnival that is a gorgeous cascade of colors, festivities, balls, wine and food, turning the city into one magnificent party, fifteenth-century style. This Carnival that takes its roots in the middle ages is still one of the most beloved events held in Venice each year. For 2014, this exciting event will be held from February 15th through March 4th and will be focused on the kindred spirits that intertwine to connect humankind with mother earth, and with the fairy tales that are part of many different cultures. Represented at the Carnival this year are Oceania and Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Organizers of the festival plan to guide attendees toward rediscovering the rich tapestry that can be so beautifully woven by the fantasies of costume, the global cultural experiences, and the romance of the city itself, creating a fantastic fairy tale world.
This year’s Carnival starts on February 15th, with a festive evening show featuring music, fantasy and fairy tale elements on the banks of Cannaregio. The lineup of titillating Carnival adventures includes Ice Skating on a beautiful oval ice skating rink in the center of ancient Campo San Polo, masked balls, and special events both for the general public, and for exclusive crowd in private palazzo’s. Some visitors will choose to partake in the mysterious Walking Theatre, “Secrets of Venice. ” This Carnival event is in keeping with the fifteenth century tradition when nobles and wealthy Venetian residents would walk down a dark path by lantern light and thrill to the stories and anecdotes told by the legendary, “Codega,” a servant that leads the way. Today’s version includes actors of the Pantakin theatre company, who lead visitors to unique, fun and secret locations in Venice for exciting historically based tall tales.
In March, the Gran Finale of the Best Masked Costume Contest is one of the most popular events of the entire Carnival. Revelers will parade their magnificent costumes before a host of judges that will award them with a number of thrilling and prestigious prizes. Among the prizes there will be gorgeous Murano Glass pieces, representing the art that which has flourished on the nearby island of Murano since 1291. Consorzio Promovetro, the world’s only Murano Glass-makers consortium and the owner of Murano trademark, is one of the official partners of the event, and will offer the Best Costume winners precious Venetian Glass gifts as mementos of the fairy tale spirit of Venice Carnival. And for those who don’t win these gifts, we at GlassOfVenice always offer the widest variety of high quality authentic Murano Glass pieces that are guaranteed to lift your spirits and become your own wonderful mementos of Venice.
by Kevin Grinberg
Venice is known as the most romantic destination in the world, so it’s only fitting to combine Venice with the most festive time of the year to get the potent cocktail of beauty, spirituality, and magic! Not many people think of Venice as an ideal winter holiday destination, yet Venice is truly enchanting this time of the year with few tourists, the convivial atmosphere, the music of church bells, and the romance of snow falling on water and covering the world’s most beautiful sites. Here we offer you a few tips for discovering Venice at Christmas and having a wonderful time.
1) Nativity Scenes
Venice is a perfect place to escape the commercialization and hoop-la around winter holidays that took the United States and much of Europe by storm in recent years. In tune with Venice’s centuries-old traditions, Christmas trees and crazy amounts of Christmas decor are not favored in Venice, giving place to elaborate nativity scenes or Presepi, which were first invented in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. The beautiful and elaborate handcrafted Nativity Scenes can be seen in hotel and shop windows, Christmas markets and in churches, though many Venetian churches do not unveil them until Christmas eve.
No matter what your religion, gorgeous Venetian churches are a must-visit destination around Christmas time when they are hosting concerts, Nativity scenes, and, of course, masses. Some church concerts are free, such as the one at Frari church in sestiere San Polo which is held on December 26th at 4pm. Other concerts are held in historical palazzos and scuolas and require tickets for entry, and there are some that are by-invitation only, such as the famous Concerto di Natale at the Basilica di San Marco. It is difficult to get invited, but if you would still like to experience holiday spirit in the Basilica, you can attend the high mass there on Sunday before Christmas or the midnight mass on Christmas eve, which starts at 10:30 p.m. and you should get there early to get a seat (no tickets are needed).
3) Christmas Markets
Christmas markets are a long-time tradition in Europe and Venice is no exception. The biggest and best Christmas market in town is at Campo San Stefano and runs from early December until Christmas. The market features cheerful atmosphere with special performances, tasty regional food and hot spiced wine for adults, sweets and entertainment for kids, and local crafts such as Murano Glass Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and figurines, Burano laces, masks, and other artisanal specialties. Italian Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), a Santa Claus-like figure, is loved by kids throughout Italy and makes and arrives into Venice by water (of course) stepping off a gondola and giving out sweets to the delight of children and tourists alike.
4) New Year’s
The most cherished New Year eve tradition in Venice is to gather at Piazza San Marco for a convivial evening of live music and dancing, toasts, a midnight kiss with beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica and water splashing in the distance as a backdrop. The magnificent fireworks follow and then DJ’s continue to light up the night. In other words, if you are in Venice over the New Year’s San Marco is the place to be for the festivities. Of course, we recommend heading there only after you’ve had a delicious dinner at one of Venice’s many great restaurants, which always need to be reserved ahead for New Year’s Eve.
5) After New Year’s
In Italy New Year’s is not the end of holiday festivities. Italians love their holidays and their winter holidays end only on January 6th with Epiphany, when a witch called La Befana flies on the broomstick and leaves gifts for good children all over Italy. La Befana is celebrated in Venice with special races where men over 55 years old dressed as old witches row their boats along the Grand Canal. The rowing club Canotierri Bucintoro, the sponsor of the races, serves hot chocolate and mulled wine for spectators on Fondamenta del Vin. This one-of-a-kind annual Venetian festivity is not to be missed if you are there on Epiphany day.
by Kevin Grinberg