“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty — this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.” – Thomas Mann
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The Venetian Carnival is one of the most famous carnivals in the world portraying the long history of wealth and aristocracy, as well as mystery and playfulness. The 11-day long carnival starts two Saturdays before ‘Ash Wednesday‘ and ends with ‘Fat Tuesday“, i.e. 40 days before Easter. In the Carnival time whole Venice becomes a stage of theatrical joy embodied in lavish masks and extravagant costumes. The overall ecstasy is spiced with Venetian delicious pastries and tasty wine.
Also called Larva (meaning ghost in Latin) is an iconic mask of the Venetian Carnival. It covers the whole face and depicts basic fascial features (usually nose and lips) ensuring complete anonymity. If someone wants to enjoy in absolute anonymity with a touch of mystery, then they wear the Volto mask.
The Baùtta is another standard mask of the Venetian Carnival that covers the whole face. It has square jaw, large chin and no mouth. Usually it is white or heavily gilded and often comes with tricorn hat. Historically men wore it at political decision-making events, since it guaranteed complete anonymity.
Opposite to the Volto and Bauta masks, the Colombina or Columbine is a half-mask. It covers only cheeks and rarely nose. The Colombina is richly decorated with precious metals, feathers and crystals. It was named after a Commedia dell’ Arte character of maid servant. Historically women who didn’t want to hide their natural beautiful faces wore the Colombina. Later during the time, men started wearing it also.
The Medico delle Peste
or Doctor of the Plague is a bird-like mask of the Venetian carnival with extremely long hollow beak and round eyes. Historically plague doctor used to wear it for preventing spreading the disease. Usually those who are, or just want to pretend to be, kinky or hypochondriacal wear it.
Another half-mask is the Pantalone or Pantaloone. It is similar to the Doctor of the Plague for its beak-like nose. It was named after a Commedia dell’Arte character of old man with bushy eyebrows and slanted eyes. Historically it depicted witty and intelligent, but arrogant and greedy personality of the Venetian merchant.
The mask holds the Venetian version of the name Gianni. It has short forehead and long nose reversed at the end. Named after a Commedia dell’Arte character, it depicts stupidity. The longer nose is, the stupider character should be.
or Servetta Mutta is an oval mask with black veil and no lips or mouth depicting a mute servant woman. Historically aristocratic women wore it wanting to make themselves mysterious to seduce men, but to stay anonymous by hiding their lips.
or the Harlequin is a colourful joker-like mask with short nose and arched brows. Sometimes it has a large collar and bells on. It was named after a Commedia dell’Arte character depicting servant of the more intelligent Pantalone. Often it is known for his irregular colored patched outfit and big smile. During the Venetian Carnival usually those who wish to behave themselves as pranksters and bon-vivant people wear it.
Galani are sweet fried crispy thin pastry strips prepared traditionally during the Venetian carnival. The Venetian Galani are large rectangles with slits in the middle, made in a such way that you can’t stop eating them once you started.
Frittelle are another Venetian highly addictive pastries. The original Venetian frittelle are fried doughs with raisins inside and sprinkled sugar powder from the outside.
Finally, when in Venice you should try Vino ombre. It is generic, ‘on tap’, white or red wine from the Veneto region, ordered by glass and drunk between the meals. Un’ombra means the shadow in Italian. In Venice, phrase ‘Andiamo a ombra (Let’s go in the shadow)’ means let’s have a glass of wine.
Have you ever been in Venice during the Carnival? Which one is your favourite mask? Have you tried some of the Venetian pastries? And the wine?
Have you seen beautiful Venetian ladies?