As the glass blower deftly twirls and blows a blob of molten glass, I realise I am actually holding my breath. There is no way, I think, that simply using a pair of specialist scissors and pliers a person could conjure anything out of that glowing orb.
Yet before my very eyes, shapes start to form. In a matter of minutes a horse sculpture emerges that looks so real I expect it to get up and prance out of the room.
If you’d have told me that glass blowing was going to feature in my Insta-feed I would have rolled my eyes in disdain. Local crafts don’t normally do it for me. Yet here on the island of Giudecca (just 20 minutes by boat from the centre of Venice), the local artisanal workshop has me researching glass-blowing videos on YouTube.
The Arti Veneziane alla Giudecca (or AVG) offers our Trafalgar group the chance to see up close the beauty of Venetian glassware (known the world over as Murano glass) as well as the chance to marvel at the city’s famed glass-blowing artisans.
But it’s the attached gallery that completely blows us away (forgive the pun). As we wander through the glittering display of thousands of pieces, ranging from life-size sculptures (look out for the life-size glass clown. I kid you not) to jewel-hued vases and glasses, it’s apparent there’s something for everyone. And don’t get me started on the immense OTT chandeliers (which would look at home in any episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.) They are jaw-dropping.
And if the chandeliers didn’t have the women in the group calculating their Euro-exchange rate, the exquisite jewellery section certainly did. From simple strands of hand-made beads to elaborate necklaces, which beg to be worn at a black-tie occasion, it is almost impossible to get out of there without reaching for the credit card. My purchase? Simple, yet classic, glass bead earrings for all the women in my family. Gifts sorted.