The art of Glass-making
The tradition of glassmaking in Tuscany dates back to the medieval period. In the territory of Montaione, a document dating back to 1279, attests the presence of furnaces for the manufacture of glasses and glassware.
Other historical sources show that in the year 1337 the town of San Miniato granted the men of Montaione the possibility of opening furnaces for working glass throughout the district of San Miniato, which at that time included, in addition to Montaione and San Miniato, also Santo Stefano, Tonda, Barbialla, Corazzano, Collegalli, and other neighboring localities.
This confirms that between 1200 and 1300 the art of glass in Montaione was spreading thanks to the possibility of obtaining large quantities of wood for the furnaces in the nearby forests, particularly near the Selva of Camporena.
In the following centuries Montaione glassmasters continued to expand their business throughout Valdelsa, to Empoli, where glass-making factories also play an important role in the local economy today.
Although it was a largely a tools production (glasses, mugs, bottles and flasks), the appreciation expressed many times by men of culture regarding the quality and beauty of vitreous objects produced in Montaione, mean that craftsmen gained great respect. In fact, their professionalism was also officially recognized by various announcements during the eighteenth century by the Grand Duke of Tuscany by whom Montaione glassmasters were explicitly protected.
In 1738 an announcement of the Grand Duke of Tuscany prohibited the glass masters of Montaione from working outside of Tuscany. In spite of the ban, many glassmasters went to north of Italy and probably to Murano.
In 1754, some furnaces, where bottles and flasks were produced, were located right inside the walls of the village of Montaione, probably near Via Chiarenti, which today corresponds to a street in the historic center.
Today, in Montaione, glassmaking has been supplanted by other economic activities; that’s why some of the old factories and glass furnaces have been transformed into farm houses and holiday houses. However, it is still a memory of a rich and flourishing past that once again confirms the ingenuity and workmanship of the Montaionese people, which one can easily sense walking through the streets of the old town of this ancient Tuscan hamlet.