I visited Italy for the first time this April on a long weekend with friends in Venice.  Some subconscious part of my brain had expected the stunning architecture and beautiful views to extend only as far as could be seen from the Grand Canal; the rest of Venice dilapidated or modern-built, hidden behind a preserved façade for the benefit of tourists.  However, I was hard pushed to find even a single alleyway or building that looked out of place, even on the less commercial side of the island.  Tiny canals criss-crossed with walkways and bridges; sun-dappled courtyards hidden in a labyrinth of passageways, all barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast; trees growing from rooftops; and alleyway walls adorned with unexpected statues and paintings.

Canals of Venice

Even the graffiti was fascinating…

Plague Doctor Pigeon Graffiti in Venice
Plague Doctor Pigeon Graffiti in Venice

And of course, there were the masks.  Most shops were happy for us to take photographs, so we took full advantage to snap away.  I ended up buying a colourful horned mask to take home (how could I not?) which caused confusion at the airport x-ray machine where I was taken aside and asked to unpack the bag to reveal what was inside the many layers of packaging.  I’d like to think they were startled to see a devil grinning his way through the machine, but it’s more likely to have been the metallic outer bag of the coffee I was taking home!

Masks of Ca' Macana
One of the many beautiful masks of Ca’ Macana

I’ve experimented a little with pseudo-venetian masks in the past, but this trip has re-fired my determination to master the techniques.  Many of the masks shops also run workshops, and I’d absolutely love to return there someday for an in-depth training session.  In the meantime I’ll carry on pottering around with moulds and plasters and see where I get to on my own.

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