ArticleMurano Glass Factory
Venice's "to see and admire" list comprising floating palaces, historic bridges and the city's jewel in the crown, the St.Mark's Square with its legendary/omnipresent pigeons overfed by thousands of tourists on a daily basis, is quite big and impressive. A similar "to experience" list is significantly smaller but equally stunning and, in some way, even more unique. It stars, above all, gondolas and Murano glass factory.
While aquataxies are mere means of transportation, long, sharp-nosed, multi-coloured, velvet-lined gondolas are, first and foremost, a cultural phenomenon providing its passengers with an opportunity of total immersion in the city's spirit and traditions. Arguably, Venice's most famous tradition is its collective gondolier - a Jack (or should I say, Giacomo) of all trades juggling the hats of a boatman, a tour guide, a street entertainer and a singer. It is to that latter capacity that the world of music owes one of its most romantic and distinctive song genres - barcarolle (literally translated as "boatman song"). Barcarolles may be also considered that ace up Venice's imaginary sleeve that sets its gondolas apart from Christchurch punts and Vienna Fiakers (stylish horse-drawn carriages used mostly by nobles to move around several centuries ago)
As for Venice's second superstar, if the Murano glass factory were allowed to share only one fact to establish its reputation, it would probably mention that mirrors it had produced since times immemorial used to cost more than Raphael's paintings of the same size! Add that quality and reputation to a number of marketing tricks the factory has been using for quite a while, and it's not really surprising that the island of Murano gradually turned into something like a pilgrimage site. Right in front of numerous guests, local glassblowers handle fire in a way any fakir would be proud of - and very few fakirs could turn a shapeless, colourless mass of sand, mixed with soda ash and limestone, into a cute green bell dotted with golden and silvery marks. Then such a bell, quite literally hot off the blowpipe, is being delivered to the factory souvenir shop conveniently located right on the other side of the production area exit door... I dared myself not to buy a pair of those bells - and lost the challenge!