“Bella, Bella! You are so bea-uuu-tiful! I kiss your hand! Avante … please come this way.” That was the greeting my friend Sammie received from the salesman as we disembarked the water taxi at the door of the glass factory in Murano.
I followed Sammie, the salesman’s newest star, into the large factory along with the other passengers for a tour to see how glass is made and learn more about the history and art of glass blowing. The city of Venice offers free water taxi rides on certain days to encourage tourists to venture to Murano and buy glass. Luckily, we were in the right place on the right day, and as first-time vacationers to Italy on the lookout for “happy accidents,” we only needed a couple of minutes to decide to take advantage of the free tour.
It was fascinating to watch each group of glass blowers with their individual roles in a well-choreographed dance of duties—they work together at both ends of the blowing tube to form the hot globs of glass and expand them into shapes predetermined by the artist. They also ship to clients all over the world.
Murano glass is well respected by collectors and lovers of art glass. The original glass factories were situated in Venice, but as Venice became more populated, the large factories had to be relocated. Murano became the home of many glass blowers, and all glass made in Murano is still referred to as Venetian Glass.
After touring the hot factory area, we walked upstairs to a series of showrooms. Each room displayed amazing pieces of blown glass, some for sale and some from their private collections. We oooh-ed and ahh-ed appropriately as the salesman did his best to sell us his art glass, effusively filling our ears with compliments and thinly veiled sexual innuendo that only Italian men can easily pull off with most American women.
After the tour, we meandered down the sidewalk next to the waterway to an outdoor cafe. We had a lovely table near the canal and chatted with two Finnish women seated next to us. My late father was a Finn—and I have had a plan to visit Finland—so learning more about their life in Helsinki was another serendipity of the day.
On the way back to the water taxi stop, we entered another small glass shop. It was run by the glass blower himself, featuring his own artistry and designs. I needed him to help me select one of the three pieces that I was considering purchasing. I wanted him to choose the piece he most respected, that best represented his artistry, expertise and love for his work. But since he spoke only Italian and I spoke only English…it was a communications standoff!
I was attempting to employ a few Spanish words (which translate well into Italian) when a young woman entered the shop. She was somehow related to the artist and she spoke English. She graciously translated my special request and the artist chose just the right piece and then signed it for me. As the woman was carefully wrapping my new treasure, I asked what her relationship was to the artist:
“He is the father of my lover” she replied. I was a bit taken aback at first, but after another follow up question I found out that she was married to his son. I laughed and asked if she wanted to know the appropriate title in English for this man. She thanked me and happily repeated “father-in-law” a few times to imprint it into her English lexicon.
Our visit to Murano was very memorable, thanks to a lovely string of happy accidents!
Originally published on TangoDiva.com