Baylor study abroad: Alexa Long in Italy

Alexa Long, a junior journalism major from Victoria, Texas, took part in the Baylor in Florence study abroad program this past summer. In this post, Alexa talks about an excursion she took to the Venetian island of Murano in search of the world-famous glassware made there.

Murano Glass
By Alexa Long

I stepped off of the swaying ferry and was immediately in awe of storefront after storefront full of gleaming, glass works of art, stretching down a canal off of the Venetian Lagoon in Italy.

Murano glass is unlike any other glass; it is colorful, detailed and delicate. Artisans often begin to learn the art of glass blowing when they are children, watching their grandfathers and fathers intricately twist and sprinkle strands of colors around what transforms into one-of-a-kind vases and ornaments.

My friends and I stood and watched an artisan carefully form a tiny glass horse from what looked like a glowing, orange blob of lava. When he was done, he smiled and set the now royal blue, glass beauty on a workbench before tossing it aside and letting it shatter into a million pieces. “It was no good,” he said when he saw the shocked faces of those who had been admiring his work just moments before.

We wandered out of the sweltering room, where the artisan had returned to creating delicate figurines, and began strolling alongside the canal, gazing in all of the store windows. I spent hours wandering through store after store and admiring the shimmering chandeliers and colorful wine stoppers. The choices are endless, but like finding the perfect pair of shoes, once you see the perfect piece of glass, you know that it was meant for you.

I went to the island of Murano looking for two vases, one for my mom and one for my grandmother, but unfortunately left with none. It was incredible to be able to walk through the stores and look around, but it was overwhelming trying to find something to buy. There were so many beautiful vases, too many beautiful vases. It was impossible for me to buy one because I always thought there might be a better one in the next store or in the store across the canal. So, I ended up getting back on the ferry to Venice empty-handed, with no souvenirs for my family.

When we returned to Venice, I happened to wander into a store just off of St. Peter’s Square and immediately saw it. It was the perfect vase for my mom, blue with deep reds, bright yellows, and eye-catching flecks of gold adorning it. The artisan had even signed the bottom. I could already picture it sitting on our dinning room table. With one vase down, I only had one more to look for and once again, it seemed to find me.

As I was wandering down a street, looking at the gondolas floating by on the canal, I saw a glass store and figured I might as well look inside. I walked in and there it was, a delicate coral vase with white and gold accents, all of my grandmother’s favorite colors molded into one flawless vase. I couldn’t believe I finally found the perfect gifts as soon as I stopped looking for them.

So, if you are ever in Venice, take the short ferry ride across the lagoon to the island of Murano. The glass is breathtaking and the glassblowing demonstrations by master artisans are amazing. Just don’t look too hard for the perfect vase, ornament or chandelier. It might just find you.

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