Mask Making in Venice

Venetian masks are world famous and a symbol and tradition of Venice. There is no avoiding them when in the city, as every street vendor and souvenir shop carries multiple versions, from the cheapest mass production piece, to the more expensive, unique and handcrafted version. Nowadays, masks are mainly worn during carnival. However, as long as the Venetian Serenissima Republic lasted, until 1797, they were part of the everyday Venetian life. During those days, Venetian nobles put on the masks to be whoever they wanted to be and turn their life into and aventure, gamble, and add a little bit of spice and risk to the everyday life.

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A few of today’s mask artisans open their workshop doors and offer classes. They can range from the actual making of the mask with paper mache, to learning the decoration techniques used. It is a wonderful experience for both old and young.

I wanted to do something special, memorable and had setup such workshop for my children and myself. We had picked a small mask making shop owned by Giorgio Galasso who has been making masks for the past 20 years.

Arriving at his shop is like stepping back in time. Instructions say find the San Zulian church, follow the wall, turn into a small square, and there you are. No street name, number, and most definitely not a place Google Maps knows how to find.

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The artist’s workshop is tiny and although Giorgo says he accommodates up to 5 people in the summer, it seems like 3 are plenty. Giorgio is an older man, long black grey hair, the features of his face almost like a mask. He wears a black framed set of reading glasses, and you immediately feel like you are working with someone who truly knows his craft.

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In broken English he explains that before you start, you have to make a plan. You start with a vision of your mask which you then complete in several steps. He works with my two children, aged 10 and 12, as well as myself, and easily succeeds in making us feel confident in our abilities. We spend a good hour decorating our masks, learning about the different techniques, and materials used. One of my daughters works in the window and becomes the attraction for many passersby, who oftentimes end up entering the small shop, and buying one of Girogio’s masks.

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Once done the masks have to stay in the shop for about an hour to dry. We head for lunch and pick them up on our way back to the hotel.

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We were truly pleased with the result. It is a unique and memorable souvenir to take home from Venice. The masks will always remind us of  the experience which is one we will never forget.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner and travel consultant at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm customizing travel itineraries for discerning customers. With her extensive travel experience in Italy she can help you create a wonderful trip. Contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

 

When is the best time to travel to Italy?

Thinking of visiting the Amalfi Coast? Or going on a romantic getaway to Venice? And you want to visit the largest amphitheatre in the world? Italy has and always will be a popular tourist destination; with Rome being ranked 12 out of 100 top city destinations in the world. While in the midst of dreaming and planning out your vacation, you might wonder, when is the best time to go Italy? There are a few factors that likely influence your decision: The weather, the crowds, the time you have available, and your budget. Amalfi Coast Italy aavtravel The Seasons
Just like any destination, there are high and low seasons for travel–high season meaning cities crawling with tourists, and long wait lines for popular attractions. Low season on the other hand can mean you encounter closed shops or restaurants and the weather might not be as nice.

High and low season influence cost, particularly airfare and hotel pricing. Train tickets, transfer and sightseeing tours & tickets are usually not affected by the season.

High Season
Italy’s high season generally starts in May, it runs through to Mid-July, slacks for a month and picks back up in September through October. Easter is also a very popular time for tourist to flock to Italy, so depending on when Easter falls, high season could start as early as April. This applies to just about majority of the very popular destinations throughout Italy, such as Rome, Venice, Tuscany, The Amalfi Coast, The Lakes, Milan and Sicily.

One exception are parts of Northern Italy where skiing is one of the major tourist attractions. Prices in those places peak throughout the winter months.

Tuscan Hill Italy aavtravelMay 1 is Italy’s Labor Day. Many shops, restaurants and some tourist sites will be closed since it’s a national holiday.  This is the first big month for travel, so if you think you’ll be crowd-free, think again. However, crowds are nothing like June, July and August. May is about as good as it gets weather-wise, it’s not too hot, and not too cool. It’s a beautiful time to visit, clear skies, very little rain. It will be perfect for a walk on the beach, however it will likely be still a bit chilly for swimming in the Mediterranean. Generally you can expect the weather to be in the 70s, and it only gets warmer when June rolls around. July tends to be very packed and it’s not unusual to wait hours at ticket lines to attractions. The weather gets hot. You can expect temperatures to soar to the 80s and 90s. Restaurants and hotels do not necessarily have air-conditioning so if you have a hard time with heat, it is something you will want to pay particular attention to.

assisi italy aavtravelCome August most people can’t take the heat, and leave for the beach. Availability is much better at that time, however pricing might still be up. Most Italians are headed to the shores in August for the Italian holiday Ferragosto, so a lot of family owned shops, restaurants, cantinas and cafes will be closed, although the big attractions will remain open. August can make cities like Rome feel like a ghost town, so if you’re the type to enjoy big crowds and people watching, this is not the time to go.

Portofino Italy September is also one of the busiest month for travel, particularly for European tourists as they usually have a long fall break. Popular destinations will book up quickly, especially Tuscany. September doesn’t seem like it would be a contender for the most desired time to go, but why? The weather. It’s still summer in Italy, and September still has beautiful 70 and 80 degree days; it’s pretty much like June. September is a really great time to go in terms of weather but remember, make sure to book well ahead of time, AAV Travel recommends at least 6 months ahead of time.

Low Season
The rest of the year is pretty much considered low season in Italy, though there is a rise in tourists around holidays such as, Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day. November marks the start of the low season, which goes up till the end of March. For most Italian cities, you can expect to get a lot of rain, about 4.5-5 inches of it during the month. The weather will be quite mild, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s with grey skies. Keep in mind that there are other Italian holiday’s that may have closures for some of the sites, especially the Vatican; Nov. 1 (All Saints Day), Dec. 8 (Feast Day of the Immaculate) and Dec. 26 (Santo Stefano).

Although it will be busy in the major cities come New Years, it will quiet down by the second week of January. Hotels and airfares will be cheaper, so if you want time to wander around sites minus crowds and can handle the cold, January is the time to go. January is the coldest time of the year in Italy (30 degrees), so pack warm clothes, though the more south you go, the milder it will get. It is a great time to experience an authentic Italy with less tourists. However, you will also miss out on the people watching while sipping on a coffee in the piazza. Lago Trasimeno aavtravelOther things to consider is though January and February are in the low season and there tends to be a substantial drop in tourists, places like Venice and Viareggio will be busy with celebrating Carnevale, so they’ll have higher prices compared to other Italian cities such as Rome and Florence. If your prime reason to visit Italy during the winter is to ski the Alps–which is the best time–it is also the most expensive.

 Shoulder Seasons
In-between the low and high seasons are a few months of time called the “shoulder seasons.” Typically, the shoulder seasons have reasonable weather and prices. March and October are considered those sweet spots between the high and low seasons. Though weather can be unpredictable and it’s mostly mild, you can still get fairly beautiful weather that ranges from  40 to 60 degrees, with chances of little rain.

This is considered to be one of the best times to visit Italy  if you’re willing to take a chance on the weather, or you want less crowds so you can roam freely and take your time at tourist destinations.

tuscany italy aavtravelThe Vatican
If Rome and the Vatican are on the top of your list make sure to check the Papal city’s schedule of events. A canonization for example can mean an invasion of people for the time you are there. This will affect your sightseeing as well as availability in major ways.

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stephanie jellett aavtravelWritten by STEPHANIE JELLETT
Stephanie Jellett is interning as a travel writer and social media manager at AAV Travel. You can contact her at stephanieljellett@gmail.com

 


in conjunction with AAV Travel’s Italy Expert
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Italy Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com