Behind the whimsical creations of a Venice glassblower

May 23, 2017
Simona Manarin

Murano glass is one of the most precious traditions and treasure of Venice, and, just like Venetians themselves, the artisans who make these glassware masterpieces are proud, passionate artists. Simone Rossetto on the island of Murano is one of them.

Along with members of his family, Simone is one of the leading artists in glass-making, and uses a particular technique known as lavorazione a lume (lampworking); it’s different from traditional blowing and allows him to make beautiful, tiny pieces. His project, Humor Glass, is the result of his creativity and genius, mixing traditions with the contemporary visions of a young and eclectic artist. Think lollipops and sushi so real-looking you think you can eat them or beautiful ballerinas so delicate and defined that you can imagine them actually dancing and floating in the air.

glassblower at work in Venice

Simone Rossetto is one of the great glassblowers of Murano | Photo by Simona Manarin

The art he does is not easy, although if you watch him, you can easily see the passion he puts into every piece he creates. He works with a hot flame and oven all day, and doesn’t always get the design quite right. “Sometimes to make a piece properly you have to re-do it more than three or four times,” he says. This is also one of the reasons why every piece you get from a real Maestro vetraio (glassblower) is totally one of a kind.

Glassblowing on Murano goes back to the 13th century, when authorities moved glassblowing factories from the centre of Venice to the island of Murano, for fear of fire breaking out amid the city’s wooden buildings. As such, the pieces from Murano carry history, but Venice is littered with glass objects made abroad and sold as “authentic” to unassuming tourists — you need to know the right places to go for the true glass art.

For Simone, preserving this art form isn’t just a wish, it’s a part of his lifestyle. Along with his sister, he is part of the Murano Viva, an association dedicated to the promotion of authentic glass work and preserving the traditions of his island of Murano. “I want my little boy to be able to enjoy what I worked so hard for, and to be proud of his heritage,” he says.

close-up of hand working with hot glass

Simone perfects the delicate details of his latest creation | Photo by Simona Manarin

Like many other artisans in Venice, Simone is not only in love with his artwork, but also with the historic city itself. “There is no other city in the world like this,” he says. “Oh for sure there are many other ‘Venices’ around the world, but not like this one. They try to copy us, but the real deal is here, with flaws and all”. He describes Venice as a fragile and enchanted place, where often the greatest discoveries are hidden away.

When I ask him which is his favorite part of Venice (besides his island of Murano), he tells me with great enthusiasm that it’s Castello, one of the six districts of Venice, and also one of the most authentic ones. “Over there you can still see the real Venice, you can still have that community feeling that you will not find in St. Mark’s,” he says. “That’s the city I love. Go there during the summer festivals, in June, when the nice weather allows people to spend the nights out eating and drinking together.”

close-up of coloured glass pieces

All the colours of the rainbow | Photo by Simona Manarin

I discuss with Simone the importance Urban Adventures puts on encouraging travellers to seek out local experiences; I’m curious to know what he thinks about our motto of #localsknow.

“Making people understand that this is a real, lived-in city is sometimes quite hard. People have this romantic idea of this place, with gondoliers singing, etc. But in reality, it is slightly different. With a local you can understand how it is to actually live here in Venice. The impact that massive tourism is having on the city, for example. The resiliency that local artisans are demonstrating, especially the new generations, is to be admired. The fact that we can create awareness around this topic is precious not only for us citizens but also for travellers. It makes it a more authentic and true experience.”

Another thing that Simone stresses for travellers is the importance of eating local. “I always say to people to try local food, be adventurous. Through food, especially here, you will understand a lot of our culture and you are definitely missing out if you only stick to pizza while you’re here”. Many of Venice’s dishes are the result of the different cultures and traditions that have merged over the years to make up the city’s people. And fun fact: the reason Venetians eat salted fish is because it used to be a way for sailors to have food on-board their ships during their long journeys. These are the types of cultural insights you can only gain by trying local food, as Simone suggests.

Of course, like every Venetian, he is very fond of cicchetti (finger food) that you can have at any bacaro (tavern) in Venice. But when he wants to go out for a proper meal, his favorite place, especially for fish, is Vecia Cavana. It’s a family-run business, tucked away from the hustle of the crowded main street, and serves authentic Venetian food. “The owners have been running this place for quite a while; they have even traced back some old recipes of the 1500s and included them in their menu. What you cannot miss is their sarde in saor, sardines marinated with onions and cooked in white vinegar along with pine nuts and raisins. Delish!”

Once last tip from Simone for travellers is to get lost in the beautiful islands of the lagoon away from the city centre. “Jump on a vaporetto and visit, for example, Sant’Erasmo. Did you know that you can rent bikes there?” It’s a good tip — Sant’Erasmo is famous among locals for its delicious artichokes, beautiful farms, and a tiny beach known only to locals. It’s a countryside landscape framed by the breathtaking view of the lagoon, and pure perfection. Seems like Simone has the #localsknow motto down pat.

Humor Glass is located at Fondamenta Manin 69-70, 30121 Murano, Venice.