When Venice Live: It Looks Like This–Ottica Urbani

Fosca Urbani and I in front of Ottica Urbani, her eyeglasses shop on the Frezzaria

Dr. Fosca Urbani, proprietor of the family business Ottica Urbani, is a multi-talented creator. After attending school to study optometry, she also studied Literature at Ca’ Foscari and took her degree there with an emphasis on Art History. It is this creative approach to her craft of fashioning eyeglasses that makes her shop stand apart from others. Ottica Urbani offers glasses inspired by Murano glass masters, art, artists, and design icons. Many stars get their glasses at Ottica Urbani; in fact, Elton John has posted photos of himself in the shop sporting his Ottica Urbani glasses.

Fosca was born in Venice and continues to live there in the San Polo district with her husband and dog Papaya (who you’ll read about later in this interview). Fosca was featured in Monica Cesarato’s Live in Venice Week event, and you can see her interview here. In August 2021 I met this Venetian artisan and got a look into her shop, which was founded by her grandfather in 1953, and has been carried on for three generation. Here is our interview, in English and Italian. (Thank you to Luisella Romeo for translation help!) I was especially excited to hear that Fosca is inspired by Rosalba Carriera, a Venetian artist who I wrote about previously and whose work I love.

Fosca stands in front of the cases showing some of their designs.

When Venice lives most fully as itself, what does it look like?

Venice lives fully as itself when, in autumn, its citizens find themselves together, with not too many visitors, to enjoy the beauty of the city they love. They go to the Rialto market to do their shopping, chatting with each other, and in the evening they meet for an aperitif. The autumn season is very pleasant in Venice and offers an extraordinarily visual light portrayed by many painters.

How do you or your work bring life to Venice? What gift do you bring?

I and my work bring to Venice decades of experience in the field of eyewear, being the company Ottica Urbani, a historical activity born in 1953. In addition to solving visual problems, we offer citizens and visitors design products where research and experimentation come together to offer original, tailor-made glasses.

How does your work preserve Venice’s culture or history?

My work preserves a thousand-year-old culture in the field of eyewear. In fact, the first eyeglasses were invented in Venice in the late 1200s and revolutionized the world of knowledge forever, allowing scholars and writers to extend their cultural activity. Today, our experience allows us to create special glasses by creating, among others, glasses with Murano glass murine inserts, an exclusive technique that connects two high-quality manufacturers: that of eyewear and that of Murano glass. 

Fosca shows off glasses that are decorated with murrine, Murano glass canes of multi-colored glass. These are unique to her shop.

What are one or two aspects of Venice’s culture that are your favorites?

The aspect of Venice’s culture that I prefer is all the painting of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially the works by Giovanni Bellini and Veronese who are my favorite artists and who through their research into color are a stimulus for me and an inspiration for my work.

Which Venetians (living now or in the past) inspire you?

The Venetian I am inspired by is an extraordinary woman, the painter Rosalba Carriera, a woman who was able to revolutionize the canons of eighteenth-century portraiture, a woman who has shown sensitivity, artistic skills, and talent that has consecrated her to an unthinkable success for a woman in those times.

What is your favorite place in Venice to be alone? To share with others? That no one should miss?

My favorite place to be alone or in the company of my dog Papaya is San Nicolò dei Mendicoli. The church is located on the outskirts of the city towards Santa Marta, so it is a little-frequented and quiet place, where Papaya can roam free and safe. The church is a small jewel of architectural harmony rich in works of art of all kinds. The red benches in front of the church are perfect for reading and a little relaxation.

If you could ask visitors to Venice to do one or two things to be better visitors, what would you ask for?

To be better visitors, I would ask visitors to explore not only the most popular Venice, but also the less-known areas; to deepen the city reality with its characteristics and its difficulties. There is a whole set of social and cultural activities that are perhaps inconspicuous but alive and extremely fertile in creative stimuli in the artistic, food and wine, and artisan fields. A pulsating city life that the visitor normally fails to grasp.

The glasses are displayed with the art that inspired them.

Fosca Urbani per OTTICA URBANI 

1- Venezia vive pienamente come sé stessa, quando, nel periodo autunnale i suoi cittadini si ritrovano insieme a non troppi visitatori a godere della bellezza della città che amano, vanno al mercato di Rialto a fare la spesa, chiacchierando tra loro ed alla sera si ritrovano per un aperitivo. La stagione autunnale è molto piacevole a Venezia che offre una luce straordinariamente ottica ritratta da molti celebri pittori.

2— Io e il mio lavoro portiamo a Venezia un’esperienza nel campo dell’occhialeria pluridecennale essendo OTTICA URBANI un’attività storica nata nel 1953. Oltre alla soluzione di problematiche visive offriamo ai cittadini e visitatori, prodotti design dove ricerca e sperimentazione si uniscono per offrire occhiali originali,  fuori dall’ omologazione.

Ottica Urbani carries many brands besides Fosca’s original designs.

3- Il mio lavoro preserva una cultura millenaria nel campo dell’ occhialeria. I primi occhiali da vista  infatti, furono inventati proprio a Venezia sul finire del 1200 e rivoluzionarono per sempre il mondo della conoscenza permettendo a studiosi e letterati di prolungare la loro attività culturale.

Oggi la nostra esperienza ci permette di creare occhiali particolari creando tra gli altri, occhiali con inserite murrine in Vetro di Murano, una tecnica esclusiva che mette in connessione due manifatture di alto pregio : quella dell’occhialeria e quella del vetro di Murano.

Both glasses and a magnifying glass are decorated with murrine.

4-l’aspetto della cultura di Venezia che preferisco è tutta la pittura del quattrocento e cinquecento sopratutto le opere gli Giovanni Bellini e Veronese che sono i miei artisti preferiti e che attraverso la loro ricerca coloristica sono per me stimolo e ispirazione pure per il mio lavoro.

5- Il Veneziano a cui mi ispiro è un realtà una donna straordinaria, la pittrice Rosalba Carriera, una donna che, ha saputo rivoluzionare i canoni della ritrattistica del Settecento, una donna che ha dimostrato sensibilità, capacità artistiche, talento che l’ha consacrata ad un successo impensabile per una donna in quesi tempi.

6- il posto preferito per stare da sola  o in compagnia della mia cagnolina Papaya è San Nicolò dei Mendicoli. Questa chiesa si trova ai margini della città verso Santa Marta, è dunque un luogo poco frequentato e tranquillo, dove Papaya può scorrazzare libera e al sicuro.. La chiesa è piccolo gioiello di armonia architettonica ricco di opere d’arte di ogni sorta. Le  panchine rosse  davanti la chiesa sono perfette per una lettura e un pò di relax.  

7- per essere visitatori migliori chiederei ai visitatori di esplorare anche la Venezia più popolare, zone meno conosciute; di approfondire la realtà cittadina con le sue caratteristiche e le sue difficoltà. C’è tutta un’attività sociale e culturale forse poco appariscente, ma viva ed estremamente feconda di stimoli creativi in campo artistico, enogastronomico, artigianale . Una vita cittadina pulsante che normalmente il visitatore non riesce a cogliere.

I had a lot of fun meeting Fosca! She brings great energy to her shop and her craft.

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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2 Responses to When Venice Live: It Looks Like This–Ottica Urbani

  1. ELLEN YOUNG says:

    I love this shop / they made prescription sunglasses for me in one day, after I left mine on the plane!

    Sent from mobile

    >

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