In 1292 the rulers of Venice decreed that all glass blowing was to move to the island of Murano, this was to protect the city from workshops burning down. The artists were to become virtual prisoners to their craft as the Venetians attempted to keep a monopoly on glass making and the blowers, under pain of death, were kept permanently on the island.
However, aided by local monks, two craftsmen did manage to escape and travelling south came upon Piegaro, near the shores of Lake Trasimeno. The sturdy walled town was an ideal place to establish their own furnaces. The wood from the local forests and sand from the bed of the River Nestore gave the men all the natural resources they needed. They soon gained a reputation for producing quality glass and in 1312 their services were called upon to make the glass tiles used in the glass mosaics of the facade for Orivieto’s new duomo.
Glass making in Piegaro
Over time the glass industry in Piegaro grew and by the 15th century there were a number of small glass studios within the walls of the town. As the town’s fame and popularity increased the 18th century saw the creation of a large industrial sized factory, that today is the Museo del Vetro, Glass Museum. Here mechanised presses and automated annealing ovens were built to produce bottles, goblets and flasks on an industrial scale.
There was also a profitable industry in producing the classic wicker based bottles, famously used for Chianti wines. Many women were employed within the town to weave the bases giving the bottles their distinctive raffia style.
Modern glass making
Despite modernisation in the 20th century by the 1960s the factory was proving to be inadequate for the levels of production necessary and a new premises was built in the valley below. Finally in 1968 the 750 year history of glass making withing the town centre came to an end as the furnaces were shutdown and left to cool.
In 2009 this old factory was renovated and restored to demonstrate the glorious history of glass production in the area. Within the walls of the original medieval building you can see the furnaces, work benches, tools, moulds and storage vaults. The museum has an excellent collection of glass products down the ages and a well laid out, illustrated story of the history of glass.
Museo del Vetro, Via Garibaldi 18, Piegaro, 06066
Tel – +39 0758358525
Website – http://www.visitpiegaro.com/