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Our Venice

Carnival starts on January 27th and ends on February13th.Most of the masks, you will meet on the streets and squares in Venice, are very different from the old-fashioned ones thatcharacterized the past.  However, a distinctive feature of theVenetian mask is still present, the ability to conceal the owner’s identity. For this reason, the wearer was greeted in the followingmanner: ‘Good morning Siora Mascara’, that is ‘Good morning Mrs Mask’.


Different masks you can find in shops

 

People dressed up and pretended to be someone else duringCarnival. People had fun, broke rules and reversed their roles in society. Because of this, in 1268 the Republic of Venice decided to limit and control the inappropriate and excessive uses ofmasks. Many other laws meant to protect public order were passed, and were modeled on that law. For instance, both men andprostitutes were not allowed to wear masks when enteringbrothels.

 

The’ Bauta, Gnaga, Moretta, and Volto’ masks are the most significant and traditional ones. They are different from masks representing theatrical figures like’ Pantalone, Colombina, and Arlecchino’, that emerged later with the ‘Commedia dell'Arte’.

The ‘Bauta’ was the only costume that could be worn at all timesin Venice. The term itself implied identity protection and it was formed by four pieces: a tricorn hat, a white mask, a veil and a mantle. The white mask known as ‘larva’ completely hid the wearer’s face and preserved his identity, while he was speaking,eating and drinking. The tricorn hat or black hat was worn on thehead, which was covered by a black veil called ‘zendale’, and a black cloak, a ‘tabarro’, served as an accessory especially when it was cold. Regarded as the queen of Venetian masks, the ‘Bauta’was an extremely elaborate costume, made with different materials depending on whom bought the outfit.


The bauta costume

 

Women used to wear the ‘Moretta’, an oval black mask, usuallymade of velvet. At first, women who visited nuns would wear it,but later in time it was also worn during Carnival. It was a silentor mute mask because ladies had to keep a button in their mouthto hold it. During balls they danced without speaking. Women were supposed to play a traditional Venetian game of seduction,during which they revealed their true identity to their admirer, when they decided it was the right time.


The Moretta

 

If you wore a mask you couldn't be arrested for acting. Mendressed like women and wore masks depicting cats. This type of mask was known as’ Gnaga’. Men, who put on this mask posedas an ordinary woman, meowed during a conversation andmocked passers-by, and   usually carried a basket with a kitten.


The Gnaga

 

On the other hand, the ‘Volto’, a traditional Venetian’ papiermaché’ mask, was shaped like a face and covered the wearer ‘sentire face. Even today itis still the most popular mask to wearwith an outfit.


 

The Volto

 

To find out more or to arrange a tour with us, email us at enjoyveniceataslowpace@gmail.com












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From April 6 to September 29, 2024, the Doge's Palace in Venice will host an exhibition honoring Marco Polo, who died 700 years ago. The exhibition, entitled Marco Polo’s Worlds’ will center on the growth of Venice as a major trading metropolis in the 1300s. You will be able to follow the main stages of the illustrious explorer and trader's voyage to Asia, tracing his interactions with various ethnicities, languages, and religious beliefs. There will be a whole section devoted to his novel, ‘Il Milione’The book, a huge aid to the cartographers of the day in updating their knowledge of the new land and sea routes, was already a bestseller at the time of its publication.

 

After a protracted voyage to Asia, Marco Polo's merchant father and uncle arrived back in Venice when he was fifteen years old. Marco accompanied the two brothers on their 1271 expedition, having been captivated by their tales, when they decided to revisit those same locations.

 

The Polo family traveled by land and sea, making several stops before returning to the Great Khan's court, reaching   well-known cities such as Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand. They first traveled to Acre in 1272 and then moved on to Anatolia, Armenia, and Iran before arriving in China. One of their hardest tasks was to traverse the Gobi Desert and the Pamir Chain.

 

During his time at the Mongol monarch ‘Kublai Khan's court, Marco Polo participated in a number of diplomatic missions. He had the opportunity to see some incredible locations and discover other cultures. He was able to return to Venice and depart the Khanate thanks to one of those expeditions.

 

After coming back to Venice, he was imprisoned in Curzola and was incarcerated. He met Rustichello da Pisa, and dictated him his memories of his travels to Asia. The book's title, 'The Description of the World,' alludes to its exhaustive portrayal of the Asian nations, cities, and people that the explorer had experienced. As it turned out, the book was an accurate depiction of the locations visited, complete with pertinent information about the times between locations, the safety of the routes taken, the type of government in place, the languages and faiths of the local people, the food consumed by them, the currencies they used, etc.

 

The novelty of this book and its capacity to showcase the various worlds that Marco Polo explored were crucial to its success, especially at a period when fifteen thousand kilometers round trip were unthinkable.

 

Please email us at enjoyveniceataslowpace@gmail.com if you would like to check out the exhibition or go on a city tour.

 

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In the eleventh century in Venice candles were used for night lighting. Later they were replaced with lanterns lit with oil lamps because the risk of fire was high.

Santa Marina tabernacle


Tabernacles with votive lamps were placed in the squares, near bridges and close to canals so that one could move around more easily at night.

Gondoliers had their lamps for their working place


In the mid of the 1400 the Republic of Venice decreed that it was necessary to bring a lantern if one went out at night. Light bearers called ‘codegas’ were hired above all by aristocrats to accompany them to theatres, gambling houses and places of entertainment. In the late 1700s public lamps were nearly one thousand, and the ‘codegas’ were no longer needed. Some were employed as lamp lighters and some lost their jobs. During the Austrian domination lamp posts were lit with gas and from 1922 with electricity.

A three arms lamp post


Their screens, amethyst coloured acrylic sheets, are replaced from time to time and were initially made in Murano glass.

The three lights lamp posts with a green coloured stem , cleaned and repainted in the 1980s, are the most common ones you can spot out while you walk around the city. There are just one hundred pieces left of those prototypes.

A four arms lamp post in Saint Mark’s Square during a day of fog


In St. Mark’s Square the lamp posts are adorned by four lights. Unfortunately there are just ten pieces of those as many were damaged by high water over the years.

Base of a lamp post at Riva degli Schiavoni


Along the quayside a few bridges away from the famous square, there are four French-made lamp posts that were full of rust and were also recently cleaned. Their base is animated by four winged lions and their columns are finely decorated with branches and leaves.

A lamppost in a narrow street


In the backstreets you will see the one light lamps with no stems positioned above on a higher level to illuminate streets at night.

A lamp post near Mary and Jesus sheltered by an umbrella

Be careful that pigeons perch on any street lamp, so do as the Venetians do. We advise you to look up sometimes!


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