The Meaning of Easter
Holy Week, or La Settimana Santa, is a Christian tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. This observance, which begins with Palm Sunday and culminates in Easter Sunday, celebrates events including the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Palm Sunday, also known as the Sunday of the Passion, marks the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, and is usually celebrated by a blessing of palm leaves and readings from the Scripture detailing the occasion. This is followed by a procession into a church holding Mass, where gospels about the suffering of Jesus Christ before his death, are read. The next big event, Maundy Thursday, celebrates the Last Supper with Christ’s disciples, and also inaugurates the last day before Good Friday. Often called Holy Friday, this day is used to commemorate the agony of the death of Jesus on the cross and is observed through a day long fast. Popular activities on this day center on the significance of holy water, the cross, penance, as well as blessing the sick, and praying the Stations of the Cross. The biggest event, Easter Sunday, is a day for feasting, celebrating the resurrection of the Christ, spending time with family, and giving devotion to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
La Settimana Santa in Italy
Although the entirety of Holy Week is celebrated with colorful spectacles, traditional sweets, and opportunities for families to commemorate together, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are especially known for their passionate processions and religious proceedings. The Sacred Representation of Good Friday, or Sacra Rappresentazione Del Venerdì Santo, is a procession held in many towns throughout Italy, which welcomes volunteers to take part by reading texts from the Scriptures, or by singing songs that celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Later on, the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, taking place in St. Peter’s Basilica, is be led by the Pope, who also performs the final ceremony of Good Friday, the Via Crucis, at the Colosseum in Rome. The events of Good Friday are sacred and special not only because of their religious significance, but because they are emblematic of the historical relationship between Roman Catholicism and vibrant Italian culture.
The extravagant and poignant events on Good Friday share the spotlight with the meaningful traditions of Easter Sunday. Easter festivities commence early in the morning with the Abballu Di Li Diavuli, or Dance of the Devils, in which two individuals dress up in red costumes and grotesque masks, joined by a third member dressed in yellow clothing and make-up, representing death. They leap through the streets, tempting the observers with treats, until they are confronted and defeated by statues of the resurrected Christ, the Virgin Mary, accompanied by protective angels with swords. This battle, which dates back to the medieval period, serves as a representation of good versus evil, and of the inevitable triumph of good. Another Easter Sunday tradition intertwined with the origins of modern Christianity is the Scoppio Del Carro, or Explosion of the Cart, which recounts the tale of a brave Crusade knight who, upon planting the flag of the Holy Cross on the newly conquered Jerusalem, was awarded stones from the Holy Sepulcher of Christ; stones used in present-day ceremonies to start the fire on Easter Sunday serve as a symbolic reminder of the recapture of Jerusalem.
Easter Sweets and More
Of course one cannot talk about Easter in Italy without mentioning the food! Colorful sweets that are elaborately decorated and beautifully presented are the highlight of Italian Easter traditions. Easter eggs, a popular Easter treat, come in thousands of different patterns and colors, and are made from chocolate and other sweet varieties. Decorating eggs became a conventional form of Easter fun during the medieval period, when ancient festivals mixed effortlessly with Christian traditions. Since antiquity Spring festivals were held in expectations of the nature’s bloom and fertile season ahead, while eggs and rabbits alike were strong symbols of fertility. Another delicious treat to look forward to is the famous Pastiera Napoletana, thought to be the creation of a nun from a Neapolitan covenant. This pastry is thought to have been created especially for Easter, since it makes use of ingredients which emphasize the fresh, distinct aromas of spring. Pastiera Napolitana must be started on a few days before expected consumption, however, as the flavors must be allowed to mix and blend until Sunday, so be sure to start this one soon! But perhaps most famous Italian Easter sweet is Colomba Pasquale, or the Easter Dove cake, a traditional treat with roots as far back the 6th century when a Lombard King commissioned bread leavened in the shape of a dove for peace. The charm of this crowd pleaser is the simplicity of its recipe, as well as its meaningful ties to the origins of Easter Sunday traditions.
While sweets are a nice ending to a traditional Easter dinner, there are lots of wonderful flavorful dishes typically served on Italian Easter dinner tables. Typical Easter dinner in Italy includes a roasted lamb, a custom borrowed from earlier forms of Passover, in which the sacrifice of a lamb was thought to bring peace and safety for the family. For those living in the northern parts of Europe or the United States, a popular choice is usually ham. The popularity of this choice originates with the process of slaughtering pigs in the winter, and salting and smoking them until spring, just in time for Easter dinner.
Enrich Your Easter with Beautiful Murano Glass from Glass of Venice
Easter is a time of new beginnings and freshening up your home décor is a great way to enjoy the bloom of Spring. Our charming Murano Art Glass Gold Millefiori Rabbit Sculpture, created by skilled and innovative Murano glass masters is a great fit for Easter and a fine symbol of Spring. Our colorful vases, pitchers and tumblers, as well as fine tableware make any home look festive and bring sophisticated Italian accent to your home decor.
Choose from wider selections by visiting our website, and have a happy Easter from all of us at GlassofVenice.com!
by Kevin Grinberg
Venetian Carnival, an intriguing mix of gorgeous masquerades, street fairs, high-end balls, and tourist craze set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice, is one of the most famous and highly anticipated events in the world. The Venetian Carnival in its present form has been celebrated since 1979 when Italian government and Venetian civic society decided to revive it as an attempt to re-ignite interest in Venice and its rich traditions. However, the original Venetian Carnival has a long history that dates back to the 12th century, if not earlier, and many of the traditions and glamorous highlights of today’s Carnival come straight from the Middle Ages.
Origins of the Venetian Carnival
Many scholars agree that Venetian Carnival has its roots in Christian tradition and that it has likely evolved as a way for people to indulge in life’s pleasures and have fun in the days before the solemn period of Christian Lent (a time of sorrow and reflection leading up to the Holy Week). One of the theories is that the Italian word “Carnevale” comes from the two Latin words “carne” meaning meat, and “vale” meaning farewell or goodbye, signifying the fact that during Lent people had to fast, avoid temptation, and give up life’s luxuries, in order to concentrate on prayer, reflection, and self-denial.
However, the Carnival’s history likely runs even deeper. Venice was founded by Romans escaping barbarians and built on the remains of crumbling Roman Empire. As such, it has deep roots going all the way back into Roman and even Greek history. Hence, Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Greek Dionysian festival before it are thought to have played a role in Venetians’ desire for a festival that allows people to be free from social norms. Saturnalia in ancient Rome was a time of complete break from normal social order and hierarchical boundaries, when masked slaves and Roman citizens alike celebrated with music, dances, symbolic acts, and orgies.
The first historical mentions of Carnival in Venice date back to 1092 when it appeared in the charter of Doge Faliero. However the event that gave rise to the Carnival’s key traditions was the victory of Doge Vitale Michieli over Ulrich II, the Patriarch of Aquileia, in 1162. In that year Ulric II captured the city of Grado, a key territory on Venetian mainland which had been the source of much conflict between Ulrich II, the Venetian Doge, and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederic Barbarossa. In response to Ulrich’s act Venetian doge Vitale Michieli immediately sent fleet to re-capture Grado, in the process capturing Ulrich II, his 12 key vassals and hundreds of his soldiers, who were then brought back to Venice as prisoners. Eventually the Pope intervened asking for peace and Ulrich’s release. As a condition of his release, Ulrich was forced to pay a yearly tribute to the Venetian Republic of one bull, 12 pigs, and 300 loaves of bread. In commemoration of this important Venetian victory ceremonial slaughtering of the bull, representing Ulrich, and the pigs, representing his vassals, occurred on St. Mark’s square every year around Shrove Thursday (known as Zioba Grasso in Venetian dialect), and gave rise to a cherished Carnival tradition kept for hundreds of years since. The Carnival was designated as an official public holiday starting the day before Lent by the order of Senate in 1296.
Medieval Carnival Celebrations in Masks and Costumes
The earliest documentation discussing using masks during Carnival celebrations dates back to 1268, when the practice of masked men throwing eggs at ladies during Carnival was outlawed by Venetian Council. Venice was known to have one of the strictest social hierarchies in Europe, and the use of masks during Carnival provided a much-needed peaceful outlet for the hostile feelings of the lower social classes, allowing them to engage in otherwise forbidden activities such as mocking the government, making fun of the aristocracy, or mixing up with high society. The prominent Venetian citizens, visiting merchants and politicians, and members of nobility also enjoyed wearing masks and costumes, for it allowed them to engage in frivolous behavior and socially or religiously inappropriate activities without fear of being recognized. As Venice gained prominence as a wealthy cultural and commercial center in the Middle Ages, the Carnival with its frivolous and easy-going nature started to attract lots of visitors from all corners of Europe and beyond, turning Venice into one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations of the time.
Venice’s famous masked balls, fairs and fun street scenes gave rise to the impromptu street performances in mask, which later came to be known as Comedie dell’Arte. A form of theater, Comedie dell’Arte started in the 16th century with travelling theater companies presenting short plays using a well-known set of masks and costumes and playing out amusing scenes around the topics of love, marriage, adultery, social class mishaps, master-servant relations, and other popular themes. The quick wit and the fun content of these plays made them wildly popular, and Comedie dell’Arte flourished till the 18th century. The masks and characters used in these performances, such as Harlequin, Colombina, Pantaloon, Pulcinella are well-known to this day and lay at the basis of rich theatrical and literary heritage of many European cultures.
As Venetian Carnival became more popular it started to attract shady characters with darker intentions, and criminal deeds started to happen, especially under the cover of night. Men could get dressed as women or as servants of faith, allowing them to enter convents and act inappropriately. Casinos attracted masked gamblers, who sometimes fled creditors, and masked men easily concealing weapons under costume could cause mayhem on the streets of Venice without being recognized. This led to a variety of prohibitive decrees, including the ban on costumes and masks at night in 1339, and the 15th century ban on entering holy places wearing masks, followed by later bans on concealing dangerous objects and weapons under Carnival costume.
The Fall and Revival of Venetian Carnival
In 1797 Venetian Republic was conquered by Napoleon and lost its independence. This led to a long period of Venetian decline – political, economic, and cultural- and to the end of the Carnival. Year 1797 saw the last Venetian Carnival, as Napoleon prohibited wearing Venetian Carnival costumes, except during private parties and for the Ballo della Cavalchina in Teatro La Fenice. As a result, the Carnival ceased to exist for nearly 200 years until in 1967 Venetians started to organize first costumed private parties in an attempt to revive Venice’s rich cultural heritage. In 1979 Italian Government officially brought back the Carnival as part of its efforts to revive Venice’s economy and culture and bring back the tourists. This was a very successful initiative as the Carnival drew a large following in Venice and beyond and became the ground for revival of Venetian traditions and crafts, including mask-making and theater. Today the tradition of annual Venetian Carnival continues with a new theme announced every year, rich masks and costumes, lavish parties, and the atmosphere of a unique and beautiful celebration that can only be felt in Venice.
by Kevin Grinberg
The most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, is approaching with the speed of Cupid’s arrow, bringing with it the perpetual quest for a perfect memorable gift. This year you can surprise your sweetheart with a museum-quality piece of Murano Glass for a gift that will always be treasured. In addition to gifting the marvelous work of Murano Glass, you are also granting your loved one an experience that is associated with the romantic aura of Venice and the artistic heritage of the famed Murano Island in the Venetian Lagoon.
This distinct and labor-intensive method of glass-working originated in Venice many centuries ago, most likely passed down by the ancient Romans, who spotted wonderful and elegant glass pieces that Egyptians loved to use. Since 1291 the glassmakers on Venetian island of Murano have held the ranks of rule over the industry of blown glass works for centuries. As a result, the skilled artisans who create Murano Glass pieces continue to spend painstaking hours upon hours practicing a craft that has been passed down by generations of glassmakers and apprentices. Individuals who work with glass in Venice are held in high esteem thanks to the beauty and craftsmanship put into their glasswork. Today, the same techniques and traditions continue to be used in the formation of Murano Glass pieces.
When you purchase a piece of authentic Murano Glass in the U.S., you are getting the convenience and security of knowing your order will be reliably processed and promptly shipped, without sacrificing the quality. And the handcrafted and individually designed pieces using the techniques of Murano Glass that you will give to your precious Valentine will come along with visions of romantic canal rides and beautiful sunsets over the Venetian Lagoon, giving them the sentimental value not found in any other gift. Heart shaped pendants, necklaces, and earrings fashioned using centuries’ old techniques make wonderful gifts for women who love unique artisan jewelry. There are plenty of fine gifts for men as well, including designer cufflinks to add elegance and style to a man’s wardrobe, along with exquisite office accessories and barware for the men who prefer upscale designer accessories and value European quality and artistic tradition.
High-end pieces such as intertwined Murano Glass lovers are made with intricate detail using the famed Murano glass techniques. For Valentines who love the look of art, go all out with a tabletop sculpture featuring this amazing art form. Consider a sculpture of rich red heart or love birds for a dining room centerpiece. A Murano Glass sculpture will remain gorgeous and translucent as the years go by – it will never fade, go out of style, or shrink too small. Additionally, you are giving your loved one a piece of history that can be passed down through generations. This Valentine’s Day as you shop for the ultimate in treasured romance, choose a handcrafted, one of a kind keepsake made by passionate Venetian artisans practicing centuries’ old Murano Glass art.
by Kevin Grinberg
Have you ever thought of visiting Venice in the winter but decided against it for fear of cold weather, potential floods, and worry that there wouldn’t be much to do but hide all day in little osterias? Well, maybe you’ve made a mistake. Actually, Venice in the winter is fascinating, not least because of its annual Carnival that is a gorgeous cascade of colors, festivities, balls, wine and food, turning the city into one magnificent party, fifteenth-century style. This Carnival that takes its roots in the middle ages is still one of the most beloved events held in Venice each year. For 2014, this exciting event will be held from February 15th through March 4th and will be focused on the kindred spirits that intertwine to connect humankind with mother earth, and with the fairy tales that are part of many different cultures. Represented at the Carnival this year are Oceania and Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Organizers of the festival plan to guide attendees toward rediscovering the rich tapestry that can be so beautifully woven by the fantasies of costume, the global cultural experiences, and the romance of the city itself, creating a fantastic fairy tale world.
This year’s Carnival starts on February 15th, with a festive evening show featuring music, fantasy and fairy tale elements on the banks of Cannaregio. The lineup of titillating Carnival adventures includes Ice Skating on a beautiful oval ice skating rink in the center of ancient Campo San Polo, masked balls, and special events both for the general public, and for exclusive crowd in private palazzo’s. Some visitors will choose to partake in the mysterious Walking Theatre, “Secrets of Venice. ” This Carnival event is in keeping with the fifteenth century tradition when nobles and wealthy Venetian residents would walk down a dark path by lantern light and thrill to the stories and anecdotes told by the legendary, “Codega,” a servant that leads the way. Today’s version includes actors of the Pantakin theatre company, who lead visitors to unique, fun and secret locations in Venice for exciting historically based tall tales.
In March, the Gran Finale of the Best Masked Costume Contest is one of the most popular events of the entire Carnival. Revelers will parade their magnificent costumes before a host of judges that will award them with a number of thrilling and prestigious prizes. Among the prizes there will be gorgeous Murano Glass pieces, representing the art that which has flourished on the nearby island of Murano since 1291. Consorzio Promovetro, the world’s only Murano Glass-makers consortium and the owner of Murano trademark, is one of the official partners of the event, and will offer the Best Costume winners precious Venetian Glass gifts as mementos of the fairy tale spirit of Venice Carnival. And for those who don’t win these gifts, we at GlassOfVenice always offer the widest variety of high quality authentic Murano Glass pieces that are guaranteed to lift your spirits and become your own wonderful mementos of Venice.
by Kevin Grinberg
Venice is known as the most romantic destination in the world, so it’s only fitting to combine Venice with the most festive time of the year to get the potent cocktail of beauty, spirituality, and magic! Not many people think of Venice as an ideal winter holiday destination, yet Venice is truly enchanting this time of the year with few tourists, the convivial atmosphere, the music of church bells, and the romance of snow falling on water and covering the world’s most beautiful sites. Here we offer you a few tips for discovering Venice at Christmas and having a wonderful time.
1) Nativity Scenes
Venice is a perfect place to escape the commercialization and hoop-la around winter holidays that took the United States and much of Europe by storm in recent years. In tune with Venice’s centuries-old traditions, Christmas trees and crazy amounts of Christmas decor are not favored in Venice, giving place to elaborate nativity scenes or Presepi, which were first invented in Italy by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223. The beautiful and elaborate handcrafted Nativity Scenes can be seen in hotel and shop windows, Christmas markets and in churches, though many Venetian churches do not unveil them until Christmas eve.
No matter what your religion, gorgeous Venetian churches are a must-visit destination around Christmas time when they are hosting concerts, Nativity scenes, and, of course, masses. Some church concerts are free, such as the one at Frari church in sestiere San Polo which is held on December 26th at 4pm. Other concerts are held in historical palazzos and scuolas and require tickets for entry, and there are some that are by-invitation only, such as the famous Concerto di Natale at the Basilica di San Marco. It is difficult to get invited, but if you would still like to experience holiday spirit in the Basilica, you can attend the high mass there on Sunday before Christmas or the midnight mass on Christmas eve, which starts at 10:30 p.m. and you should get there early to get a seat (no tickets are needed).
3) Christmas Markets
Christmas markets are a long-time tradition in Europe and Venice is no exception. The biggest and best Christmas market in town is at Campo San Stefano and runs from early December until Christmas. The market features cheerful atmosphere with special performances, tasty regional food and hot spiced wine for adults, sweets and entertainment for kids, and local crafts such as Murano Glass Christmas ornaments, jewelry, and figurines, Burano laces, masks, and other artisanal specialties. Italian Babbo Natale (Father Christmas), a Santa Claus-like figure, is loved by kids throughout Italy and makes and arrives into Venice by water (of course) stepping off a gondola and giving out sweets to the delight of children and tourists alike.
4) New Year’s
The most cherished New Year eve tradition in Venice is to gather at Piazza San Marco for a convivial evening of live music and dancing, toasts, a midnight kiss with beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica and water splashing in the distance as a backdrop. The magnificent fireworks follow and then DJ’s continue to light up the night. In other words, if you are in Venice over the New Year’s San Marco is the place to be for the festivities. Of course, we recommend heading there only after you’ve had a delicious dinner at one of Venice’s many great restaurants, which always need to be reserved ahead for New Year’s Eve.
5) After New Year’s
In Italy New Year’s is not the end of holiday festivities. Italians love their holidays and their winter holidays end only on January 6th with Epiphany, when a witch called La Befana flies on the broomstick and leaves gifts for good children all over Italy. La Befana is celebrated in Venice with special races where men over 55 years old dressed as old witches row their boats along the Grand Canal. The rowing club Canotierri Bucintoro, the sponsor of the races, serves hot chocolate and mulled wine for spectators on Fondamenta del Vin. This one-of-a-kind annual Venetian festivity is not to be missed if you are there on Epiphany day.
by Kevin Grinberg
Thanksgiving is a distinctly American tradition, yet over the years it’s gotten some interesting touches from other cultures which make up the famous “melting pot”. Coming from the culture of food connoisseurs who love a good feast, Italian-Americans put their own twist on a traditional Thanksgiving celebration and we think there is much the rest of us can learn from them. Here are a few Italian-inspired ideas on decorating, cooking, and setting the table to help make your Thanksgiving warm, stylish and delicious.
Warm fall colors and gentle glow of the autumn sun have traditionally been the top themes in Thanksgiving décor. A few strategically placed artistic Murano Glass pieces such as candle holders, centerpieces, vases or sculptures in the bright shades of fall foliage can quickly dress-up your home for Thanksgiving with just the right dose of glamour and style
Of course the main event at Thanksgiving table is turkey. There are thousands of ways to cook it and every family likely has their own tradition for cooking the most delicious turkey. However, there is still space for creativity and interesting touches in other dishes, so here are a couple of Italian ideas to get your imagination going:
Spiced Wine (known as vin brulé in Italy, gluhwein in Germany, and vin chaud in France)
1 liter (1 quart) of red wine
100 grams (5 tablespoons) of sugar
a few cloves
2 Cinnamon sticks
A little grated nutmeg
Grated orange peel or slice 1 orange
Mix wine and spices on low heat. Then add the sugar. Keep on low flame for about 15 minutes stirring periodically and try to not let it boil. Take off the flame. Strain. Serve warm and garnish with a slice of orange. Enjoy!
Butternut Squash Soup
2 medium butternut squash – peeled, diced, seeded
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled, diced
2 celery sticks diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
salt, pepper to taste
Optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, or a clove to taste to add spice and autumn flavor
In a pot heat ½ cup of olive oil on medium flame, add carrots, celery, garlic, onion and cook for about 15-20 minutes.
Add squash, bay leaf, a bit of fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté for another 15-20 minutes on medium to low flame until the squash becomes soft.
Add vegetable stock to cover the squash and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from flame and
blend, preferably with hand blender. Mix in about half a cup of heavy cream.
Add the seasonings to taste (cinnamon, nutmeg or clove)
Serve with a toast
Setting the table
Italians love being stylish in whatever they do, and they certainly know the importance of eating in style. Discover for yourself how elegantly set table makes for a convivial atmosphere and enjoyable meals. Beautiful Venetian shot glasses, tumblers and goblets offer a great way to enjoy your spiced wine and other drinks in old-world European elegance, while unique Murano Glass serving pieces will impress your guests with 24K gold foil infused in glass and rich warm colors. Murano Glass offers many ways to dress up your Thanksgiving table – check our website, www.GlassOfVenice.com for more ideas.
Once you made your home and table Thanksgiving-ready, it’s time to enjoy, Relax, gather the family and friends, make a toast and give thanks for everything you have. Happy Thanksgiving!
by Kevin Grinberg
While Murano Glass is ancient and famous art known well beyond the borders of Murano Island, unfortunately it is rare to see a major Murano Glass exhibition outside of Venice, Italy. It is even rarer to see one in a world-class museum, so we are delighted to let you know about the new exhibition opening up in Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York dedicated to the art of famous architect and modernizing force in Murano Glass, Carlo Scarpa. Called “Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa. The Venini Company, 1932–1947” this exhibition illustrates how Carlo Scarpa led the way in breaking the mold of classic Murano Glass making and bringing out new facets of this ancient art in line with the changing times.
Carlo Scarpa was a talented Venetian architect who became familiar with the medium of glass and skilled at glass-making while working at famous MVM Capellin Glassworks on Murano Island for five years. Scarpa was fascinated with the possibilities that the medium of glass offered to an artist with its fluid nature, transparency and color. Having learned the intricacies of glass-blowing, Scarpa was invited to work at one of the most famous glass companies on Murano at the time, Venini, in the role of artistic consultant. Scarpa’s talent quickly became obvious in this job ,where he promoted innovative techniques that built on the solid foundation of ancient art but took it to new levels, achieving the colors, shapes and designs beyond anything created by Murano masters before. Venini Glassworks enjoyed great success with Scarpa’s innovations, showcasing his works at prestigious international exhibitions and gaining global fame.
The exhibition at Metropolitan Museum is organized chronologically and by technique, featuring new takes on traditional Murano decorative techniques. Among others you will see colorful objects created in Bullicante technique where carefully controlled pattern of small bubbles is introduced into the glass, as well as trendy pieces made in elaborate and labor-intensive Filligrana and iconic Murrina (aka Millefiori) techniques. Streamlined shapes, elegance and bold colors characterize many of the pieces and highlight their contemporary appeal.
The exhibition at New York’s world-famous Metropolitan Museum of Art will be running from November 5, 2013 through March 2, 2014 and is certainly not to be missed. We highly recommend visiting it for a unique opportunity to see the artistic value of Murano Glass up close and appreciate its transformation to a contemporary art form evolving in step with modern times.
by Kevin Grinberg
Venice Historical Regatta
First Sunday in September is always a big day in Venice – the day of famous Regata Storica or Historic Regatta, a rowing competition traditionally held in Venice for centuries. Although over 120 different regattas are held in Veneto region of Italy from April to October, Regata Storica is the most special of them all, a spectacular cultural and sporting event eagerly anticipated and celebrated by Venetians and tourists alike.
Venetian Historic Regatta has a rich and colorful history stretching back to the 13th century, when historical evidence first points to the boat races in the Venetian Lagoon for celebration of a Venetian religious festival. In the Middle Ages Venetian regattas were held to celebrate important events such as accession of a new Doge and appointments of key political figures, commemorate military victories, or to honor visiting foreign dignitaries. These were always popular events among Venetians and foreign visitors, patriotic, pompous and hugely entertaining at once.
Today’s Historical Regatta of Venice reenacts the famous Venetian boating parade and rowing competition held in 1489 to honor the arrival of Caterina Cornaro, the queen of Cyprus and Venice native, who renounced her throne in favor of Venice. The spectacular ceremonial parade that precedes the races features gorgeous carved 16th century-style boats manned by Venetians dressed in period costume. At the head of the parade is famous Bucintoro, or Bucentaur, the traditional state galley of the doges of Venice and the symbol of the Venetian republic carrying the Doge and Dogaressa. Then come dozens of colorful traditional boats of different types oared by gondoliers in rich period dress carrying Caterina Cornaro, and the top figures from Venetian magistrate, in a detailed reconstruction of the glory and might of La Serenissima, which has for centuries been the most revered and powerful naval state in the Mediterranean.
Venice Historical Regatta - Rowing Boat
After the parade the main event starts featuring four races: one for young rowers, followed by women’s race, then one for heavy six-oared caorline or transportation boats, and then finally the most anticipated one for the two-oared gondolini, or slim gondolas. These competitions in Venetian-style rowing are very technically challenging and put to serious test the skills and strength of Venetian boaters. Venetians love these races and set up teams representing various neigborhoods or “sestieri”, establishments, and rowing clubs, while non-Venetians are barred from participating. Nonetheless, crowds of excited tourists flock to Venice for this annual event and flood the banks and floating platforms of the Grand Canal to watch and encourage the racers. After the races are over, the entire city on the water fills with boats and people celebrating with music, food and drink, and the feeling of joy permeates the air.
Venetian Historic Regatta is an amazing event and is much more than just a colorful spectacle; it’s a way to experience the unique spirit of Venice, its special relationship with water, its history and culture, and its dedication to commemorating and celebrating the glorious past. As Venice gets overflown with tourists, Venetians and lovers of Venice alike worry about the city losing its face and its soul amidst commercialization and globalization of the surrounding world. Events like Venice’s Historical Regatta keep the city’s traditions and spirit alive and help us all feel like Venetians, if only for a day.
by Kevin Grinberg
Very few objects are so recognizable the world over and have been the symbols and statements of wealth for so long as Venetian Glass Chandeliers. In the 17th century, when Venice was a mighty and rich maritime republic, Venetian nobility and merchants strived to outperform each other in demonstrating their power and wealth. Murano Glass industry flourished with talented glass masters rushing to create ever more elaborate articles of interior design to satisfy demand from their rich clientele. In addition to elegant mirrors, elaborate goblets, and gold-accented tableware, the glass masters created new designs of lighting fixtures. Replacing the unattractive and unwieldy wooden and wrought iron chandeliers of the past, the new chandeliers appeared airy, translucent, sparkly, and were richly decorated for a grand opulent look.
It was in those times that one of the mightiest Venetian families of the 17th century, Rezzonico, was building their magnificent residence, Ca’ Rezzonico, overlooking the Grand Canal. Designed by Giorgio Massari, a well-known Venetian architect, and decorated by the best artists and artisans in Venice, the palace featured beautiful façade, a grand staircase, and an unusual grandiose ballroom. The uniquely constructed soaring ceiling in the Ballroom was created by eliminating the second floor in part of the building. As a highlight of this grandeur, around 1730 Rezzonico family ordered a chandelier from Murano masters, which had to fit the regal atmosphere of the residence. Using all of their technical skills and knowledge, Murano Glass masters in the factory of Giuseppe Briati created a gorgeous two-tier masterpiece in rare polychrome glass featuring twenty candle-holders. This chandelier is the most amazing such chandelier still in existence today and it still hangs in its original room in Ca’ Rezzonico where tourists can now admire its beauty.
Moreover, this Rezzonico chandelier was so beautiful and famous that it gave rise to the entire style of Murano Glass chandeliers called Rezzonico, which is still produced in Murano Glass workshops. Rezzonico style, always in high demand for residences, hotels, restaurants, luxury boats and public spaces, is characterized by opulent detailing of stems and cups, elaborate floral elements, gorgeous colors, gold decoration, and grand multi-tier structure. Other classic Venetian chandeliers created by Murano masters today continue the famous Murano Glass chandelier tradition of the late 16th – early 17th century with translucent or colorful glass, lush decorative elements, and use of 24K gold and genuine silver leaf for gorgeous and unique look. Recently, more modern and trendy chandelier designs have also become popular, reflecting contemporary artistic trends and search for leaner forms, bolder colors, and more minimalistic styles.
Murano Glass masters have always stood apart from all their competitors around the world not only because of the superior quality of their glass creations, but also thanks to their unique ability to reinvent themselves and their craft while remaining true to the artistic heritage of Venice and traditions of their forefathers. While experimenting with new styles, decorative techniques, and artistic trends, Murano glassmakers carry on the classical traditions of craftsmanship and quality that made them world-famous since the ancient times. Today the descendants of the famous glass artisans of the centuries past continue to create gorgeous chandeliers and other pieces of art glass appreciated by even the most discerning modern-day customers.
by Kevin Grinberg
1. Glass was first made about 3,500 years ago in Egypt and Mesopotamia
2. By 1350 BC Egyptian glass masters used complex chemical processes to create opaque glass, colorless glass, and even mosaic (millefiori) glass, using canes with multiple layers of colored glass.
3. Ancient Romans revolutionized glass-making process with use of a blow-pipe in 1st century BC. This made glass-making a large industry and allowed ordinary citizens in Roman Empire to enjoy items made of glass.
4. Romans used glass beads for trade and jewelry, made elaborate glass mosaics for decorative purproses, introduced glass tableware, containers, and mirrors into large-scale use, and used clear glass for windowpanes
5. Venice became an important glass-manufacturing center in 8th century AD
6. In 1291 all Venetian glass production moved from Venice to Murano Island in the Venetian lagoon
7. In 15th century many of the old Roman glass-making techniques previously lost were re-invented by Murano glass masters, including famous Millefiori technique.
8. In 1480 Marietta Barovier of the namesake glass-making dynasty invented the most famous bead of all – the Rosetta (aka Chevron) bead, made using a cane and star-shaped mold in an early example of Venetian Millefiori technique. The bead was wildly popular as trade currency and was used to buy prized goods and priveleges.
9. Millefiori is an Italian word meaning ‘a thousand flowers’. It first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1849. This famous glass-making technique was previously called Murrine.
10. In ancient as well as modern Murano Glass colors are traditionally achieved by adding various minerals or mineral oxides into the glass mixture. Some of the most popular minerals used include Cobalt and Azurite for Blue, Red for Gold, Iron for Green and Yellow, Manganese for Pink and Violet.
by Kevin Grinberg