When I hear about family businesses in their 3rd or 6th generation, I’m impressed. It’s a testament not only to the business itself, but also to the family’s ability to keep younger generations interested in sticking around. The other night at my Italian conversation group, one of our friends said on his last trip to the Chianti region he met with winemakers who were in their 70s – and there were no younger family members around to take over. While I doubt that something as venerated as the Chianti wine-making tradition will die out anytime soon, it is sad to see that so many young people want nothing to do with things that have made their country and culture great for hundreds or thousands of years.
Glassmaking is an ancient tradition and art in the Veneto, and particularly on the islands of Murano. Glassblowers had to move their workshops off of Venice itself in 1291 due to fears the heat generated would burn the city down. Murano, a short boat ride away, is now home to some of the most beautiful glass art in the world.
The Seguso family has been making glass on Murano since 1397 – more than 600 years – and the contemporary adults are the 23rd generation of the family to be involved in making glass art. You read that right – the 23rd generation. (You can read about the family’s history here.) And the thing is, I’m sure they’re not alone – I’m sure there are other families who can boast similar track records of keeping things “all in the family” – this is just the one I happened to hear about.
Murano is definitely worth a few hours of your time during your visit to Venice. It’s a quick boat ride from the San Zaccaria dock nearest the Bridge of Sighs and Doge’s Palace on the #12 or #41 vaporetto line. There are constant free glass blowing shows (sort of impressive, but mostly sales gimmicks) on offer, the lovely Glass Museum and some amazing glass art in shops all over the island.