**NEW: Art Classes in Italy: Study at a Mosaics Workshop in Venice (Free Italy Travel Advice)**

is an excerpt from the <a
target=”_self”>April 2009
issue of
target=”_self”>Dream of Italy

|image1| The Orsoni
Mosaic Studio
is a hidden gem
in <a
. It’s tucked behind high walls in the <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Canareggio
off a fondamenta
that wasn’t even on my <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Streetwise Venice
map. Since 1888, the family-run foundry has been producing <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>smalti
(colored opaque glass) and gold leaf mosaics that are used to restore
the world’s most beautiful churches, such as <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Basilica San Marco,
and shipped off to provide materials for renowned buildings such as
Gaudi’s Sagrada Church in Spain and the Golden Room in
Stockholm where Nobel Prizes are awarded.

In 2003, Maestro
Lucio Orsoni
, the
great-grandson of the company’s founder, and a world-famous
mosaic artist, decided to open the curtains of this secret place. He
initiated workshops to teach what he calls “a divine
art.” Classes here are kept small (six maximum), so
there’s lots of individual attention given by
instructor/artist <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Antonella Gallenda,
who’s been working by Lucio’s side for 30 years.

Students come from all over the world for one- or two-week sessions to
learn basics, micro-mosaics or portraiture. There are also three-day
classes for those who simply want to have a taste of the craft and make
a small mosaic—adding a cultural zing to their stay in

When I visited last fall, I got to see the fascinating work of the
foundry, where men gather around a blazing furnace, scooping molten
glass onto a rotating metal belt where the goo flattened and
transformed into iridescent pancakes. There’s a huge color
library—rickety wooden shelves stacked with 2,000 hues of
smalti, which are cut into pieces to make mosaic tiles. Everybody from
the workers in the foundry to the staff and students who I met were
especially upbeat, I’m guessing because they’re
surrounded by all this beautiful sparkly stuff all day.

Stopping by a two-week portraiture class, I found students hammering
and gluing away, with a fun, creative spirit in the air. Though all the
work looked like it came from pros, the gal from Chicago whose portrait
of her adorable five-year old son I admired told me she’d
never done mosaics before.

|image2|And there was Connie Giacobbe, a former Kansas City hairdresser who
told me she’d come here as a beginner three years ago and now
was back for her third time. Her technique has advanced so much
she’s gotten commercial commissions for her creations.

A fab feature of the program is that in the same renovated Orsoni villa
as the workshop is <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>Domus Orsoni,
a bed and breakfast designed by mosaic artisans where students can stay
during their course. It’s the only <span
style=”font-style: italic;”>arti-turismo
I’ve ever seen, and when it’s not filled with
workshop participants it’s available to visitors looking for
bargain digs in an under-touristed Venice neighborhood.

Connie told me she loves staying there and waking up to the sounds of
the foundry workers singing as they begin their day. Through her stays
here taking classes, she’s made friends with mosaic artists
from all over the world. She told me, “A lot of nights after
dinner, we’ll go back into the workshop with a bottle of wine
and some cheese and get to work. Sometimes we’re up until
three in the morning. It’s completely relaxing.”

Susan Van Allen
style=”font-style: italic;”>

href=”http://www.orsoni.com” target=”_blank”>Orsoni
Via Cannaregio, 1045
(39) 041 24400023

Foundry tours can be arranged by appointment. Week-long mosaic master
classes are offered at least once per month throughout the year, except
August. Thematic workshops (micro-mosaics or portraiture) are offered twice a
year, so it’s best to reserve well in advance. Three-day
workshops are offered this year in April, June and July. A master class
costs 750 euros for one week, 1,400 euros for two weeks. The thematic
class cost 1,800 euros for two weeks. The three-day workshop is 480
euros. Prices include use of all equipment and materials (including
2,000 Orsoni smalti), art instruction and  one or two guided

style=”font-weight: bold;”>Domus Orsoni

Sottoportego dei Vedei, off Fondamenta
(39) 041 2759538
Singles rooms start at 80 euros  per night. Doubles range from
100 to 250 euros and triples range from 120 to 280 euros
per night, depending on the season. Includes breakfast.

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