One of the most fascinating sides of Venice is its strong handicraft tradition, passed down from one generation to another for centuries and still alive today.
The lagoon city, for its unique geographical location, in the past was a focal point for trade and merchants, coming from exotic places, the Far East and the Mediterranean coast, who brought into the city the most diverse kind of materials and goods. Unique skills and crafts developed because of this particular cultural exchange, together with a raising richness during the Serenissima Repubblica that helped the growing of workshops and new tecniques.
What's still alive at present from this amazing cultural heritage in the artisan tradition?
The Murano Glass district
Since the 1291 Murano, a small island near Venice, is the centre of glassmakers and an handicraft district where still at present the glass is blown in traditional furnaces. That year all the glass production moved from Venice to this isle to prevent harmful factory fires in the historical centre and since then it is hosted in the Murano workshops.
At present, in spite of the crisis, the Murano glass district still creates a very broad range of glass items, from objects for home furnishings (pottery, dishes, glasses, etc.), accessories (necklaces, bracelets, earrings), and lighting. But if you think that Murano glass is just about traditional Venetian and classical style, you are wrong: the glass blowing art is now developing also in a new design direction, with new shapes and items that can be perfect also for modern interiors.
The other side of the coin of the huge popularity of Murano glass is the rising of imitations and fake items sold, both in the local shops and online, as real "made in Italy" but actually coming from the Far East.
Real vs fake: how to spot this?
An official Murano trademark Vetro Artistico® Murano, created by Italian Consorzio Promovetro, certifies that the product was made in Murano according the glass making tradition.
The natural imperfection of glass are also a distinctive track of its handcrafted value.
More than glass: Venice luxury handicraft production
In the past, during the golden age of the Serenissima, the demand for luxury and unique products was extremely high, because of the rich society of patricians and merchants.
A thriving community of sculptors, gilders, painters, goldsmiths, perfumers, but also cobblers and tailors, took root in Venice developing products of impeccable quality for their clients, who used to enjoy the best of the best. Venice fabrics tradition is a great sample of how this historical request for luxury items generated a new market niche, thinking for example of silks, velvet, damask, brocades.
Today the global situation has changed a lot, but in certain areas of Venice (for example in Cannaregio and Castello areas) may still be found small workshops that refuse the mass production and sell unique handicraft products.
Selling online, on trusted e-shops, helps this community to stand out from the crowd of the low cost production, to make itself known outside the local area and to be appreciated also outside Italy for their unique creations.