The long tradition of Tuscan glass often takes second place in a land so rich in excellence and famous for its specialties.
The wide gastronomic and artistic offer, the places of historical and artistic interest, the natural and thermal landscapes attract a large number of visitors, but that’s not all. In Tuscany, craftsmanship has always been a strong point, which over the ages has been able to create masterpieces that still fascinate. In this sense, Tuscan glass artisans have played their part, bringing innovation in fields such as optics and engineering, but also solving more common problems.
In this article we see 5 examples of the extraordinary importance of glass production in Tuscany that you probably didn’t know about.
Green Empoli: the color of glass and earth
The processing of glass has always been one of the Italian artistic excellences, in Tuscany the green glass of Empoli is traditional.
The typical "Empoli green" color that characterizes this glass is due to the high percentage of iron oxide contained in the sands collected by local rivers or the Tyrrhenian coast.
The processing remained unchanged over time still follows traditional techniques, according to which the master glassmakers after having worked the incandescent glass paste with rods, blow it into moulds until it takes the desired shape.
Born as a result of the agricultural activity for the need of containers intended to preserve two of the major agro-food products of the Tuscany region: oil and wine. Green glass was well suited to this function: it has always been a low-cost material and thanks to its characteristic color filtered the light and kept the products in the best way.
For many years it was the economic driving force of the Empoli community.
The glass of the Louvre is Tuscan
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the Louvre is the Mona Lisa, the second is the reverse glass pyrmindi that dominate it: in both cases there is the Tuscan influence.
The first is the most famous work of Leonardo da Vinci, the other is the imposing glass building that meets twice - outside and inside the building - and remains in the eyes forever.
This is the reverse pyramid also featured in the best sellers of Dan Brown, which reflects and propagates «like a prism, the light inside the underground hall» of the Louvre.
Tourists from all over the world (including Italians) love it, but very few know that to build it were not engineers of the most famous Parisian offices, but a reality of Tuscan excellence: the Rober Glass srl of Calci, a small town in the province of Pisa.
«Le Travi Vitree Tensegrity - explains Froli, of the Department of Energy Engineering, Systems, of Territory and Construction - are the engineering response to the demand for an ideal dematerialization of buildings coming increasingly from contemporary architecture. It is a construction product in prestressed structural glass and steel, currently unique internationally in the high tech sector, which opens the door to the possibility of building large-light glass structures and high load-bearing capacities even in the seismic area, ensuring the same safety standards that today possess other traditional building materials».
Tuscany, wine and glass: the Chianti H-2 fiasco
The stuffed wine fiasco spread throughout Italy, although with different shapes and names, such as the pulcianelle of Orvieto.
In the following centuries the fiasco became synonymous with Tuscan wine and especially Chianti.
In 1574 a grand ducal ban fixed its capacity at 2,280 liters corresponding to "half a quarter" volume that was certified by a stamp with the lily of Florence in the coating and, in later times, in the glass.
In 1922, a hermetic seal was created, which allowed the shipment in large quantities. Hence the marketing and especially the exports of Tuscan wines grew exponentially.
The thing that maybe will amaze you is to know that even in the 60s of the twentieth century the fiasco continued to be widely used even if its production was now more industrialized and, to mouth blown glass, they had replaced those made to machine as it had been mechanized the filling replacing the women "fiascaie".
The shatterproof glass invented by the Romans in Tuscany
In his Natural History Pliny recounts that flexible glass was manufactured by a Roman glassmaker, while Tiberius reigned.
The emperor, to whom the craftsman had shown the invention, did not appreciate the new material and closed the laboratory. Pliny expresses many doubts about the credibility of the story, widespread but not demonstrated.
But during the Middle Ages, the borax was commonly imported to Europe from the East, and nothing prevents us from thinking that it was not already so during the Roman Empire. Anyway, in the much closer Tuscan Maremma, there were (as today) the borax heads that could provide the necessary for the flexible glass.
Is it too imaginative to think that the unfortunate Roman glassmaker accidentally came across the unusual crystals and decided to combine them with the glass mixture, to see the effect?
The question is bound to remain unanswered, but the vitrum flexile, despite its unlikely existence, remains a "lost invention of the Romans".
Da Vinci and the invention of the filler cap
a tool that has to do with the scientific experimentation of centuries ago and that is part of our tradition: the filler cap.
His is a rather mysterious origin, there are conflicting theories about who invented it and when it became part of the common use in wine production, but there is no doubt that this incredible device has revolutionized the work of the wine producer.
Thanks to this system it is possible to fill the vats without opening them, limiting the exposure to oxygen. Thanks to a floating bubble it is possible to understand if the wine contained is shrinking or expanding, suggesting if it is necessary to remove or add more.
It also acts as a "bubbler" during fermentation.
There are theories that trace the invention of the filler cap to Leonardo da Vinci, we can not deny. Considering the great knowledge that the maker of the filler cap had to have about the physics of liquids and the manufacturing capacity necessary to achieve it.
Were you aware of these extraordinary stories related to Tuscan glass? For us at Amarzo the artisan tradition is important and in all our 100% recycled glass products we put all the passion written in our history.
Article by Renato M.G. Sarlo