Murano Glass Factory Tour: A Visit to Arti Veneziane on Giudecca:
A visit to a Murano glass factory is part and parcel of any tour of Venice and on this occasion we made a stop at Arti Veneziane alla Giudecca. We have visited a few Murano glass factories in the past, but it is always interesting to make the visit to see how designs have changed in keeping with people’s tastes.
A Visit to Arti Veneziane
Arti Veneziane alla Giudecca (AVG) is on the island of Giudecca and this is a new Murano glass factory visit for us – the last one we visited was the Vecchia Murano Glass Factory at the back of San Marco. Our visit began with the familiar glass-blowing demonstration by one of AVG’s artisan glassmakers. With the furnace raging next to him and with some fifty sets of eyes fixated on him, he skillfully turned liquid silica into a glass jug and a glass horse in a matter of minutes while the factory manager explains the Venetian art of glass-making.
Following the glass-blowing demonstration, we were invited into the showroom and shown some beautiful samples of Murano glassware. We also learned about how the various colours of the glass are achieved and how to detect if your piece of glassware has real 24-carat gold trim on it or just gold paintwork. Yes, it’s a bit of a sales pitch, but you can also pick up useful information on how to tell if the glassware you’re interested in is truly Murano glass.
Meeting the President of AVG
AVG does not normally allow visitors to take pictures of their glass work and showroom because of concerns that their designs may be copied and mass-produced in places like China and the Czech Republic, which is a problem for the Murano glass industry. In fact if you visit any Murano glass shop in Venice or on the island of Murano, you will find that shopkeepers are very touchy about people taking pictures. We were fortunate in meeting Michele Bonini, one of the managers at AVG who kindly arranged for us to meet with Mr. Roberto Malusa, the President of the company. He not only gave us permission to take pictures of the showroom, but also spent time telling us about the initiatives at AVG.
Times have changed since our last Murano glass factory visit and in place of some of the traditional Venetian-style glassware, we are seeing more Murano art glassware. Not many of us live in palazzo-size houses that can elegantly show off huge Murano glass chandeliers or cabinets full of Venetian-style wine-decanters and goblets, but many of the stunning modern vases or decorative plates will look very nice in most modern homes.
While Tony discussed the glass art pieces in the showroom with the very affable Sig. Malusa, Michele took me on a tour of their upstairs showroom. Venetian masks are made in this area and I was also shown the exquisite gondola’s chairs that they make, which I wouldn’t mind having, if not for the price. The company is expanding their facilities and a new lounge section will be a comfortable area for husbands to park themselves whilst the wives enjoy their gift shopping. A cafe is also being installed so you can enjoy a coffee break to contemplate whether you should buy that vase or not.
Murano Glassware at AVG
Like the other Murano glass factories, AVG has the traditional Venetian glassware, an increasing range of contemporary glass artwork and the less expensive glass necklaces, pendants, glass beads, paperweights, etc. I’ve seen complaints online about sales pressure at these Murano glass factory visits, but I didn’t see anyone in our group being pressured. Of course the sales people are on the alert and if you evince any interest, they will approach you – it’s their job! Many of the ladies in our group were in fact racing around the jewelry counter and buying as many gifts and trinkets as time would permit them and a couple did make more serious purchases. Our tour guide did have problems extracting people from the showroom as our water taxi was waiting.
As for comments about the Murano glassware being expensive, yes, genuine Murano glassware being handmade is more expensive than factory produced glass and knock-offs from China. Some people seem to have unreasonable expectations that Murano glass should be cheap just because they’re buying it in Venice.
How to get to AVG Glass Factory
Whereas AVG has a lot of group tours visiting, individuals are welcome as well. If you are interested in real Murano glass and don’t have time to get to Murano, you can give the showroom a call and they will arrange for their boat to pick you up. You can also get to there on public transport. Vaporetti no. 4.1, 4.2 and no. 2 will get you to Giudecca, but before you go, do ring to advise them that you are coming.
Arti Veneziane alla Giudecca
Tel: +39 041 2410515