The Island of Murano was a commercial port as far back as the 7th Century, and by the 10th Century it had grown into a prosperous trading center with its own coins, police force, and commercial aristocracy.
Join our tour "Italian Lakes & Venice + Switzerland" and visit the oldest glass factory in Murano
In 1291, the Venetian Republic ordered glass makers to move their foundries to Murano because the glass works represented a fire danger in Venice, whose buildings were mostly wooden at the time.
Glass makers weren't allowed to leave the Republic. If a craftsman got a hankering to set up shop beyond the Lagoon, he risked being assassinated or having his hands cut off by the secret police--although, in practice, most defectors weren't treated so harshly.
What made Murano's glass makers so special? For one thing, they were the only people in Europe who knew how to make glass mirrors. They also developed or refined technologies such as crystalline glass, enameled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, milk glass, and imitation gemstones made of glass. Their virtual monopoly on quality glass lasted for centuries, until glass makers in Northern and Central Europe introduced new techniques and fashions around the same time that colonists were emigrating to the New World.