On this cloudy warm morning in Tuscany, we toured a crystal factory. A small factory, it produces crystal products that are faithful to traditional manipulation of the material, free from molds, presses, and other mechanisms used in mass production processes.

The main ingredients in crystal are silica (sand-like, front part of the picture below), lead (pink), and sodium dioxide. These ingredients are heated together at a high temperature, shaped, and gradually cooled.

Crystal varies from glass in the percentage of lead in the product. Only glass that contains at least 24% lead oxide can be labeled as crystal.

Tuscan glass workers demonstrated their craft for us today. Crystal is heated in a furnace:

A rod paced into the furnace will have a blob of melted crystal on the end and is then is cooled enough to touch by running it under water using a nifty contraption:

And is then shaped.

Yep. That easy. 🙄 He made this cat so quickly!

To make an olive oil dispenser, these men perform a delicate dance of timing, collaboration, and intricate knowledge of their craft.

First, one man heats the crystal, and begins to shape a tube.

He hands it off to his neighbor, who shapes the tube into a vessel.

He heats up the vessel with a blow torch to its base. A hot mass of crystal is connected onto the vessel by another worker and a base is shaped.

The handle and spout are applied in the same manner. A puff of air at the end of the rod creates an air bubble within the crystal, which provides its hollow spout.

Isn’t that amazing?! And all without protective clothes, eyewear and gloves. We were right in the center of it, feeling the heat! Wowza!

After exhausting shopping (LOL), we headed off to Colle di Val d’Elsa for lunch.

This town has a long, narrow layout as opposed to the circular layout of the town we visited yesterday.

Some of the shops were actually underneath the street.

This crystal store had beautiful lighting and a ceiling above that was reflective of its location beneath the city.

Shots between the buildings gave a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape.

As with any other medieval town, over the years, wall stones crumble, and are replaced using anything on hand. Windows and doors change and become filled in with various bricks and stones that may or may not match surrounding material. Stones may be covered with stucco, which begins to weather and disintegrate with age. It’s all part of medieval structure appeal.

What a place to live!

We wandered around the beautiful town, ate lunch, and had a group shot post-lunch, post- wine. Time for a nap!

Until tomorrow, my friends!