As many of you know, when I travel the only souvenirs I require are my memories and my photographs. However, now that I’m traveling with a spouse, things are different. Jen loves herself some souvenirs. She wants to put them on shelves and hang them on the walls to remind her of all the wonderful times we’ve had traveling together. At first, I thought it was a waste of money. But… it brings a smile to her face and after all, what is marriage if not compromise?
The single souvenir she decided she wanted from our week in Italy was a Venetian mask. If you don’t know what they are, I guarantee that you’ve seen them at one point or another. Films such as Amadeus, Eyes Wide Shut, or any other movie that features a masquerade ball or party shows them off. Essentially, the masks are paper mache which are hand-molded and hand-painted. The process is very extensive and was explained to us by the shop-owner of Ca’Macana – the place Jen hand-picked off the Internet before we had even taken off.
The major pitfall of souvenir shopping the world over is the cheap imitations. It doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll find crappy goods manufactured in some Chinese factory, bought in bulk, and shipped by some third-party vendor to be sold in tourist destinations all over the world. Venice was no different. There are kiosks up and down the Grand Canal with chintzy, plastic masks – some of which appear to be the genuine articles. Please don’t be fooled. They’re not.
If you truly want the full experience of trying on and purchasing an authentic Venetian mask, please visit Ca’Macana. There are two locations as well as a workshop owned by a husband and wife team (though not the inspiration for Shakespeare’s play), who employ dozens of different artists to make the masks in a variety of styles. You can browse, take photos, and try on the masks – which number in the thousands. Additionally, they offer classes where you can make and paint your own. Fun for the whole family!
Jen and I had a ton of fun looking around and finally choosing our mask. Someday when we move back to the States, come over and take a look. I’m sure she’ll have found a prominent place to display it, either on a shelf or a wall.
Hasta La Proxima…