History



In discussing glass from Italy, the first city that comes to mind is Murano. The seven small islands (just north of Venice) that make up Murano have been producing fine glass since the 13th century. During that time, the govenment of Venice moved its glass artisans to the islands of Murano to preserve the secret of their technique and prevent fires. Murano has remained the most important art glass producer in the world for centuries.

However, there exists another city in Italy that has been equally as important as Murano in the production of Italian glass. Though it is not widely known, the city of Altare has been pivotal in glass production since the 12th century. Situated just a short distance inland from the Italian Riviera, Altare has been the home base of the finest art glassmakers.



The most warranted explanation of  the establishment of Altare as the city of glass begins at the end of the 10th century. A group of isolated monks from an island situated across from Cannes (French Riviera) were chosen to take care of the remains of a saint on the small island of Bergeggi along the Italian Riviera. The monks were skilled in glass making, but had no means to produce glass on the small, rocky island. Subsequently, the monks were given a donation of a piece of land on which to settle. After establishing the town of Altare, the monks realized that the surrounding land was rich with timber and the raw materials necessary to produce glass. They soon established Altare as a center for glassmaking, calling upon skilled glass artisans from both France and Spain to assist them. The secrets and techniques of the artisans were handed down within families for centuries. Altare has continued to yield both production glass and art glass, uninterrupted, from the Middle Ages to present day.


Bergeggi Island

Altare benefitted from being close to major shipping ports in Italy (Savona, Genoa, Noli). This allowed the glass to spread all over Europe, especially during the 14th century.
Since the glass was predominantly transported by boat, it was not strange for some of it to be lost in the sea.

In current times, the sea gives us back this same glass, transformed. Sea glass found here is different from any other in the world due to many factors. First, the glass is centuries older than what can be found in other areas. Another factor is the body of water itself - the Mediterranean Sea. Due to the high salinity of the water, extremely rocky sea floor and constant wave action, sea glass found here is incredibly smoothed and frosted. In addition, a lot of art sea glass can be found here as well.

Sea glass found along the Italian Riviera is not simply just a shard of sea glass, but a piece of ancient art crafted and perfected by both man and nature collectively.