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St. Mark’s Basilica (above) reflects the apogee of Venetian influence: gilded ornamentation, including equine figures looted from Constantinople in 1204, caused it to be known as the Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold). (Rick Steves)

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

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(Continued from page 3)

"My god," says Benito, "they can make €550 [$750] a day. And this is clean money—no tax."

I ask Benito how the old-time art of Venetian glass blowing survives.

Like a painter studying his canvas, Benito si es me up in the mirror. Then, as if he dipped his scissors into just the right corner of his palette, he attacks my hair. "Glass blowing is like a mafia," he says. "Ten years ago the business was very lucky. Rich Japanese, Americans and Arabian sheiks made this industry big in Venice. We Venetians like glass, but not those red, green and blue gilded Baroque teacups. Those are for the tourists.

"We like a simple, elegant, very light glass." He stops to take a floating- pinkie sip from a sleek champagne glass. "This feels light. It is very nice. In Venice you can count the masters on one hand. All the other glass people, they are sharks."

Benito snaps the cape in the air, sending my cut hair flying as I put my glasses back on and check his work.

As is our routine after each haircut, he says, "Ahhh, I make you Casanova." And

I answer, as always: "Grazie, Michelangelo."

About Rick Steves
Rick Steves

Rick Steves is a travel writer and television personality. He coordinated with Smithsonian magazine to produce a special travel issue Travels with Rick Steves.

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