The Glass Cathedral: Reviving Venice history with passion
From Hobby To Business / 21.11.2023
A decade ago, the Belluardo family had a dream – to restore a 13th century cathedral, which carried the rich history of Venice, but was left in ruins. Despite the horrible condition of the church and bureaucratic hurdles, the family persisted and turned it into a one-of-a-kind, glorious event centre – the Glass Cathedral. The cathedral not only offers an extraordinary ambience, but also presents glass-blowing shows and marvellous masquerade balls, celebrating the history of Murano island and glassmaking.
Let’s take a look at how the Belluardo family set in motion the notoriously slow Italian courts, bought and restored the church and grew a business that survived the pandemic. This is a story about the family’s remarkable passion and business growth, and, of course, the role digital payments play in helping the small business thrive.
When skill and determination meet love for Venice
The Belluardo family embarked on its journey in 2012 when the four of them seized the opportunity to acquire the dilapidated former Church of Santa Chiara. What may have seemed like a daunting undertaking to many was perceived as a once-in-a-lifetime chance by the Belluardos, who describe the process as bringing back to life an important social establishment in their dear hometown.
With a background of over three decades in tourism and hospitality, the family was well-equipped to take on this ambitious venture and by 2016 the Glass Cathedral was up and running.
Soon the cathedral became the go-to venue for customised events in Venice – from extravagant banquets to lively disco parties, the Belluardos plan it all. The event centre’s reputation was further solidified by its collaboration with prestigious companies, including Nissan, Vogue, Aspen Institute, Google, and many more.
Using the right tactics to craft success
The Belluardo family sought the advice of historians and architectural experts, and, with a lot of work over four years, managed to reconstruct the building using the original materials.
A key factor in its success as a new business was the family’s extensive background in the tourism industry.
“My family comes from the hospitality business, so it was more logical to start an events space and glass-blowing demo area than a glass-selling business. It fills our hearts having beloved couples getting married in the venue or hosting top international companies for their events,” shared Giuseppe Belluardo.
The Belluardos offer glass-blowing shows daily and have a glass master. To become a glass master you must work 10 to 15 years next to a Maestro Vetraio or Master Glassmaker, Giuseppe explained.
Online marketing and promotion were also instrumental to their success. Leveraging social media platforms and collaborating with major online tour operators like TripAdvisor, Eventbrite, and GetYourGuide helped the Belluardos reach a broader audience.
Another creative way in which the family attracts visitors is the annual Glass Slipper Ball. It invites guests to dress up in costumes and immerse themselves in the historical environment of the cathedral, evoking the spirit of old Venetian aristocracy.
The ball occurs during the Venice Carnival and, in line with local traditions, it has a master glassblower, who creates a slipper that’s gifted to the person with the most beautiful mask. In addition to the ball, the Belluardo team also honours the cultural heritage of the region by organising various glass blowing demonstrations.
However, the Glass Cathedral’s journey wasn’t without challenges. Navigating Italy’s bureaucratic processes was a significant hurdle, requiring a plea to a former minister of cultural heritage to get authorizations. Additionally, running a family business comes with many difficulties; that’s why effective communication and collaboration are vital to success, the family shared.
“Each and every one of us does their best. You must try and see the others’ point of view. As we say in Italy, and especially in Venice: ‘We are all in the same boat’.”
Giuseppe added: “Handling my own business is challenging because we have to be flexible and constantly adapt but myPOS helps me with a convenient and fast way to process our guests’ payments.”
Using digital payments to grow the business and support the community
Growing the business required modern payment solutions and that’s why the Belluardo family turned to myPOS. Their chosen device is the portable myPOS Go 2. Being able to easily move around the business areas with myPOS, which always has a fast connection, helps a lot, shared Giuseppe.
According to him, using the myPOS platform not only streamlined the venue’s payment procedures during events but also ensured a hassle-free experience for the clients. The portable myPOS Go 2 has a free, integrated Data SIM card, so it ensures mobile connectivity at all times.
The cathedral’s team is very mobile and flexible itself. The crew seeks the best tools, adjusts to the trends and was even able to survive the pandemic. They support each other and the other small businesses in any way they can – by sending tourists to other local venues or by being part of Promovetro, a merchant consortium safeguarding Murano’s glass industry.
For the Belluardos, the small business is at the heart of the community. Supporting it is a way of life. It’s essential to get your bread at the bakery, buy your meat at the local butcher and get your coffee at a local shop where someone greets you with a smile, Giuseppe explained.
Giuseppe and his family are the perfect illustration of how the small business builds the community up and makes the locals proud. The Belluardos not only encourage innovation and growth, but also create a more diverse marketplace and give the neighbourhood a vibrant personality. It’s businesses like the Glass Cathedral that are the soul of our cities and the backbone of Europe’s economy.