By design, The Giovanni F. Mariani Museum of Glass and Wine reflects the alternate periods of darkness and richness of glass making, from the 15th century B.C. to present day.
These periods are on display in six rooms in the west wing of the fortress where the evolution of the art of glass making is retraced: from the ancient Egyptians to the Phoenicians; from Assyrian-Babylonians to Imperial Rome; from Venetian art to modern day.
But perhaps the museum's most significant display is of ancient Roman glassware, which is considered by critics to be the most comprehensive collection in the world: ampules, plates, goblets and pitchers of various shapes and styles are on display.
It was during the Roman empire (1st century A.D. to the 6th century A.D.) that glass arrived in Europe from the Middle East, where several "masters of glass" were innovating the blowing method of glass production. The works of these masters became so desirable to wealthy Roman families that the artists were called to Rome to practice their trade. In Rome, they flourished until the fall of the Empire. Glass production then fell into a 1,000 year dark period when virtually no objects were produced.
To illustrate modern glass making techniques, the museum boasts a collection of glass works of the masters of pictorial art, such as Picasso, Cocteau and Dali, and an extensive selection of glassware from Murano, Venice, where its production has thrived for centuries.
The Marianis acquired this entire collection by a series of fortunate coincidences. The most significant was the acquisition of a comprehensive ancient Roman glass collection from Mr. Pino Bianco by the Banfi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Mariani family. The acquisition of two other collections made the museum complete.
To complement this collection, the Banfi Foundaton published a book on the history of glassmaking written by Giuseppe Clinanti, an expert on the modern period of glass. The book, titled, "Il Fuoco, Il Vetro, Il Vino," (Fire, Glass, Wine) is illustrated with many of the most significant pieces in the museum's collection. It can be purchased at the Castello's Enoteca.
The Museum is open seven days a week from10:00 AM to 7:30 PM from March to October, and from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM from November to February. The cost of admission is € 4,00 (€3,50 reduced).