Postcards from Italy
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Arts and Crafts Lessons in Italy

Everyone loves to bring home a unique souvenir from a memorable trip, and travelers to Italy are no exception. Shopping is one of the joys of visiting this country dominated by small, family-run businesses. Everything from food and wine to traditional artisan wares and custom tailored clothing make excellent gifts for loved ones or mementos for yourself.

There is no better souvenir from Italy, however, than the memories of authentic experiences with welcoming locals. We love to arrange personalized tours and visits with local experts and artisans so travelers to Italy can come home with a true understanding of this country's culture and people.

arts-crafts-florence-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

With an arts and crafts lesson, these two aspects are perfectly combined: under the patient guidance of a traditional artisan, you have the opportunity to learn a new skill in its historical and cultural context...and you leave with the most unique souvenir possible: a unique handcrafted item or piece of artwork that you have made yourself!

Arts and crafts lessons and courses have become increasingly popular among travelers to Italy over the past few years for this precise reason, and there are a variety of private lessons and group courses available across Italy to suit a range of interests and skill levels. Here are a few of the most interesting:

Rome


Mosaic


Mosaics have a long history in the city of Rome, beginning in the 1st century BC when floors of stately villas and elegant public spaces were tiled with increasingly intricate mosaic patterns. At the Studio Cassio, just a short walk from the Colosseum, the Cassio family have been master mosaic artists for over a century. Lorenzo Cassio directed the Vatican Mosaic Studio at the beginning of the 20th century, and in 1945 his son, Fabrizio, opened his workshop and decorated hundreds of churches, buildings, and monuments across the world, in addition to restoring sites including Pompeii and the Baths of Caracalla. Today, the third generation of this family holds classes lasting from one hour to three days, teaching the art of mosaics including how to cut and glaze enamel, blend colors, and mount your composition.

Ancient Roman Rome detail(Photo by Mark Morgan via Flickr)

Painting


In Rome, you are surrounded by great works of art...which can either inspire you to try your hand at creating, or demoralize you with their mastery. If you find yourself inspired, this city is a wonderful backdrop for honing (or discovering) your talent with brush and canvas. There are a number of art schools in the center of the city which offer short, day-long workshops or longer courses lasting a few months, and local art teachers who take on students for individual lessons. Learn oil, acrylic, and watercolor techniques both in the studio and en plein air, and take your sketch pad along when visiting Rome's museums and churches to study the work of some of history's greatest artists directly from their masterpieces.

Italy-0063 - Faster to use a Camera!!!!!(Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr)

Florence


Leather


Florence's historic Scuola del Cuoio was founded after World War II by the Franciscan friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori and Casini families. Florentine leather artisans since the 1930’s, the school pairs the city's master leather craftsmen with visitors and students from across the world in courses lasting from three hours to an entire year. Students learn the traditional art of working leather: cutting, creating, and finishing a number of objects from simple bags or belts to shoemaking, depending upon the course length and difficulty . Classes are held in the brick-vaulted workshops of the historic Novitiate's Courtyard at the central Monastero di Santa Croce, use historic hand-made leatherworking tools, and are taught exclusively by Florentine master craftsmen.

Santa Croce leather school - Florence(Photo by Librarygroover via Flickr)

Paper Marbling


Florence is also known for its delicate marbled paper (http://www.ciuitaly.com/blog/files/italy-handcrafted-paper.php), used in the past by the city's numerous book binders to line their leather-bound volumes. Today, visitors can learn this fascinating art from a number of specialized artisan workshops run by expert *mastri artigiani decoratori *still active in Florence. Each mastro has their own secret recipe for the liquid used to float the acrylic paint in the paper tray, and custom combs used to swirl the mix together to create the one-of-a-kind color pattern which will then adhere to the sheet of paper laid on top of the floating paint. Learn about the centuries-long history of this art, which traveled from China through the Middle East before arriving in Italy in the 17th century, prepare and create a sheet of marbled paper to take home, and even bind a book in leather in a day-long course.

florentine-paper-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Venice


Mask Making


Historically, Venetian masks were plain black or white standardized affairs, as their function was to allow their wealthy wearers anonymity while indulging in the bacchanalian pleasures for which the city was known. Today, masks from Venice are elaborately decorated and either worn exclusively during the winter Carnevale celebrations or used as decorative objects. Visitors to the Dorsoduro neighborhood can stop in at the historic Ca' Macana mask-making workshop for a short minicourse on the history of Venetian paper-maché masks and the opportunity to decorate one or two masks using acrylic paints, metallic colours, wax, feathers, sequins, and ribbon. Though a fun and unique experience for all ages, mask-making is a particular hit with kids.

Ca' Macana(Photo by Tracy Elaine via Flickr)

Glass Blowing


Venice is known for two things: canals and glass. Glass blowing is one of the city's most historic and prestigious arts, and not taken lightly. It takes years, if not decades, for master glass artists to perfect their craft, but for those who are dedicated to learning this delicate art, the Abate Zanetti School of Glass on the famed island of Murano has been teaching aspiring artisans for 150 years. Be prepared to dedicate at least a week to a basic course, though day-long demonstrative workshops are offered. You can choose from a number of glass techniques from fusing and blowing to painted and stained glass, and all courses include hands-on instruction under the guide of a master artisan and the creation of your own glass pieces to take home.

Italy-1453 - Murano Glass
(Photo by Dennis Jarvis via Flickr)

Related posts:
The Best Souvenirs from Italy | Postcards from Italy
Bringing Food and Wine Souvenirs Back From Italy
Travel Memories Al Dente | Postcards from Italy

Contributor: Rebecca Winke

Concierge in Umbria
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