Venice for the Artist in You

Venice is celebrated as one of the most romantic cities in the world, with its delicate architecture, quiet canals, and the glorious spectacle of Carnival. Tourists and guests flock to Venice to experience the beauty of San Marco Square, take a serene gondola ride, and see the famous Rialto Bridge for themselves.

But Venice is also home to generations of craftsmen and artisans, practicing centuries-old techniques to make unique crafts. And it’s also been home and training ground for some of the most famous artists in history. A visit to Venice is a rare opportunity to see these artisans at work, and even take up a hand in exploring your own creative side. Here are some ways to experience the artistic side of Venice:

Visit the Biennale. The Biennale is a legendary art exhibition and showcase, with their landmark visual arts event held every other year. But there are exhibitions and events taking place in the Biennale venues from May – November every year. Aside from the international art exhibition in odd-numbered years and the international architecture exhibition in even-numbered years, the Biennale also showcases dance, theater, film, and has collections and venues well worth seeing and exploring.

Glass blowing in Murano. Just a short boat ride away from the heart of Venice lies the island of Murano, where glass blowing is an elite art practiced for more than 700 years. If you visit on a weekday morning, many of the working glass factories will allow visitors in to see how it’s done (don’t arrive after noon, because lunch breaks can last for a few hours). If you want to do more than observe, there are several glass blowing classes and workshops on Murano where you can make your own jewelry or mosaics.

Take a painting class. Venice has been a favorite subject of painters and artists for centuries, with views and landscapes that inspire everyone to capture the ethereal beauty of the city. Seeing Venice with an artist’s eye is so much more expressive than simply taking photos, and gives you rare insight into the thoughts and processes of the masters who came before and found inspiration here.

Lace making in Burano. Unlike the hot, massive glass factories of Murano, the island of Burano has a quieter industry of lace-making that also dates back centuries. Burano is worth visiting just for the vibrant colors of the homes, and a favorite place to take exceptional photographs, but it is also home to a lace museum and workshops where you can learn about the ancient craft of lacemaking and see how it has remained a part of the culture of Venice to this day.

Make a mask. Of course Venice is famous for Carnival masks, and mask makers hold a special role among the city’s artisans. Each mask shape has a meaning and tradition, but, though the forms are passed down through the centuries, the decoration of the mask is entirely up to the maker. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn about the history of Venice and combine time-honored crafts, with personal expression and whimsy. Making your own mask is more memorable and interesting than simply buying one, and is an experience unique to Venice. If you do buy a mask, seek out a traditional mask maker and get a unique piece of art, instead of the one-of-a-million fare sold to tourists.

Venice also has writing workshops, gold-leaf classes, paper-making classes, and you can still find craftsmen hand-making the unique forms and oars needed for gondolas. It’s an incredible place to explore an artisan community steeped in tradition but with ever-new expressions, and find new ways to connect with your own creative spirit.

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