The art of glass bead making is the latest Italian addition to Unesco’s prestigious list of of intangible cultural heritage (other additions in recent years include the art of Neapolitan pizzaiuolo and transhumance.
The art of glass bead making was awarded to both Italy and France. In Italy, the center of this art has been Venice, and Murano in particular, since at least the 14th century. Glass beads used for jewelry and decoration were precious trading goods for the Serenissima (the powerful Venetian Republic), exported as far as Africa, the Americas and India, even used in place of money to buy local items.
In Murano, one of the islands of the Venice lagoon, you can still see artisans perform this delicate technique, which shapes glass with fire using a blowtorch, creating a variety of colorful objects, from vases to glasses to candlesticks and jewelry.
To learn more about the history of Murano glass and how to shop for authentic Murano glass (an art in itself!), we’ve got this super useful “Insider’s Guide to Shopping for Murano Glass” by our Made in Italy expert Laura Morelli.
Also, we do recommend, when you’re in Venice, to make the boat trip to Murano to witness first-hand this ancient art. There are many glass factories that allow you to watch the artisans at work performing this magical transformation.