Say Venice and I guarantee someone will retort with Murano. This little island has become synonymous with the city in recent times due to its glass making expertise. Murano glass is considered to be the finest in the world, and I must say I agree. After seeing the craftsmanship of the glass blowing process, I will forever be a convert to this notion.

The incredible part of Murano glass blowing is that it is a skill which is passed down from father to son. There is no school or organized craftsman’s guild that teaches the technique. Amazingly, it has survived the centuries simply through the loving instructions of Fathers to their sons. I found this pretty incredible since it is such a delicate and intricate art form. You would assume there would need to be some sort of formal instruction; but no. It is all based on what the father has learned in his own experience and from what his dad showed him. No rules, no standards, just generations of experience.

After fighting against the surge of tourists getting off the vaporetti, we set out to find a non-tourist trap establishment within which to see this legendary process. It took us a while of wondering the streets and shops, but eventually we found one. I should note that we discovered an establishment no thanks to the pigeon who decided he was our tour guide and strutted out in front of us. He was really terrible at giving instructions.

Once we found a proper forge we sat down on the worn wooden benches in excited anticipation of the show. We watched as what started out as a glowing red blob on the end of a pipe was blown, twisted, poked, prodded, and spun into a flower vase, and then watched the process repeated to render a horse. The pressure is on these artists as they have under a minute to complete their work before the glass loses its malleability. I was impressed with this fact as I thought about all the countless hours it took me to turn a pile of clay into a

Crafting the horse

human head, or my grandfather to turn a block of wood into a duck. Yet, these craftsmen can turn a lump of what looks like red hot chewing gum into a beautiful horse in under sixty seconds. Simply unfathomable.

We were astounded even further when the showman dropped a piece of paper onto the completed figures and it immediately burst into flames. Apparently, the glass is hot enough to cause flammable materials to combust on contact

A blue glass horse with red heat raging within

for a few minutes after the figures are completed. This gave the objects a primal beauty since you could see the pretty colors of the glass on the exterior while a red hot glow of extreme heat ebbed and flowed within their core.

Of course, after this spectacle, we did a little light shopping in the glass shops next to the canal and waltzed around like true Italians. Through perusing the stores it became shocking just how detailed and pretty these craftsmen could make their glass. I saw

gorgeous sailboats, extravagant glass jewelry, and even whole scenes of clear glass blocks with glass sea creatures within them.Even the simplest beads and dining wares were far more intricate and beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

I bought a glass duck to go with the wooden mallard my grandpa carved me.