Wherever you look in Venice, vendors and ateliers sell masks. Some are traditional, like the Plague Doctor or Casanova, while others are modern and purely decorative. In the old days, masks were made of paper mache, so that they could easily be worn for disease prevention, or to Carnival festivities.
I’ve always been fascinated with masks, and a few from Venice hang on my bedroom wall. Those masks are gifts from my aunt’s travels to the sinking city, so I was excited to pick up a couple and add to the collection.
While not very traditional, I fell in love with this black wire mask complete with gothic filigrees and rhinestones. Glamourous and elegant, the mask matched perfectly with the Venetian architecture and my purple and black rococo room in Toronto.
Once a year, the city is filled with masked crusaders as they celebrate Carnival. I had the chance to celebrate Carnival in Maastricht, Netherlands, but I would love to come to Venice to witness the costumed guests who line the streets in lavish costumes 40 days before Easter. But even when it’s not Carnival, where can you find authentic mask art amongst the sea imported goods?
Venice is romantic enough with the gondoliers and delicious cuisine, but there is something so beautiful and mysterious about all the masks adorning the city. I tried to avoid the tourist traps along the Ponte di Rialto, and searched for a more authentic shop.
Cà Macana has a few locations in Venice, where you can even decorate your own papier mache mask to your liking. The company designed masks for Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and have very reasonable prices for authentic work. There’s even an online shop if you’re looking to decorate your place or for a costume ball.
La Bauta (Campo San Toma 2867, Sotoportego de le Acque 5006, Crosera San Pantalon 3829) is another group of mask stores that sell authentic masks made in Italy. I picked up a paper mache harlequin cat mask featuring music scores by Vivaldi.
My biggest tip for purchasing a mask is to shop around. My boyfriend picked up the first one he saw at Leon d’Oro near the Ponte di Rialto, and ended up finding the same one at Cà Macana for half the price! As long as you fall in love with an artisan’s work.
It’s easy to spot the difference between a mass-produced imported product from an authentic Venetian mask. Look for irregularities in the underside and decoration, and make sure that your mask looks unique from other similar models in the shop- it should be one of a kind!