With the advent of the popularity of glass Christmas ornaments, it is not surprising that Venice, home to the world’s most famous glassmakers, was soon involved. By the late 1800s, the production of Christmas ornaments became one of the most important niches of the Venetian glass industry. During the holidays Venice’s major shopping thoroughfares are filled with windows absolutely packed with wonderful glass Christmas treasures, all locally produced on the nearby island of Murano, the glassmaking capital of the world.
Skilled glassworkers fleeing from the Crusades in Asia Minor arrived in Venice in the early 13th century, where they established the first glass factories in continental Europe. After the main islands banned the presence of foundaries in 1291, the various glassworking enterprises consolidated to the nearby island of Murano. The oldest of these companies, Barovier & Toso, was founded in 1295 and is still in business.
The beautiful and rare glass productions of Murano were a holiday favorite right from the start, especially among Europe’s upper classes. But early glass Christmas gifts from Venice usually took the form of drinking vessels or trinkets. True Christmas ornaments didn’t show up until the 19th century, but the demand for these quickly skyrocketed. Venice has since become a mecca for hand-made glass Christmas ornaments. As if to underscore its supremacy in this arena, every year Murano erects the world’s largest glass Christmas tree. In 2010 it weighed in at over three tons.
The island of Murano, less than a mile northwest of the main islands of Venice, is easily reached by boat. In addition to glass shops and some glassworks that may be open to visitors, Murano is home to the Museum of Glass Art. It is open year-round from 10:00am-4:00pm (later hours in Summer). The cost of admission is E4.00. Web: https://museovetro.visitmuve.it (official Murano Museum website).