Venice: A Tourist’s Guide

You’re so excited, this is your first visit to Venice, Italy and you can’t wait to see it for yourself.  You’ve only got one day to tour this amazing city and you start to ask yourself, what should I do? Where should I go? What’s worth seeing?  If you’re starting to ask yourself these questions this post should help clear your head on the pros and cons of the tourist side of Venice.

Now, lets start with the one of most popular attraction of Venice: Carnivale.  For those who don’t 1829736know, Carnivale is a celebration celebrated all through Venice for one week during the year.  During this week everyone dresses up in costume, including a famous Venetian mask (for more information on this festival please see one of my previous posts).  Weeks, even months before Carnivale hotels can be booked full, so it’s best to book your room nice and early if you want to get one, especially if you want a selection to choose from.  That brings us to our next topic: where can you find a Venetian mask?

Venetian mask workshops can be found all throughout Venice.  You can practically walk down any street to find one.   They are very beautiful workshops, so even if you aren’t planning on buying a mask they would be worth a visit.  All the walls are lined with hanging masks, it is quite a site to see. Just a little note, you can also buy costumes in mask shops too. Deeper into the shop you can see the workshop where all the masks were made.  Often there is someone working on a mask in there and it is very interesting to watch. If you are familiar with the classic Comido Del Arte, you will be able to recognize the familiar masks sold in many of the shops.

And last, but not least, there is one more thing you must visit if you visit Venice: the close by island of Murano.  Murano is famous for it’s glass industry.  Now I’m not talking about the glass in your windows and eye glasses, I’m talking about the art of forming glass to make beautiful shapes and colors.  It has taken years to prefect this art, and it is very interesting to watch (to learn more about Murano see my previous posts).  Even if you don’t want to buy any glass figures you should visit one of the shops.  It is just northwest of Venice and you can easily find a boat that will take you there.

I hope you have found this post helpful with your plans for visiting Venice, it really is a city you would never forget.

A Runaway Princess

Out from the sea’s depth she came

For the waves could not keep the princess tamesummer-waves-at-sea

Now she has the gift of flame

And has gained many names

One of water

One of light

One of courts and kings and knights

One of melting glass perfected

One of skillful art detected

But now her waters are running too fast

And her light isn’t going to last

Her time with us will soon come to pass

And she will have to reunite with the friends of her past

Murano: The City of Glass

For hundreds of year’s, small islands around the city of Venice, Italy has been forming glass into dazzling shapes and colors. The most well know Venetian island that claims this art is the island of Murano.  Murano is an island northwest of Venice.  Just like how Venice is known as the city of masks, Murano is known as the city of glass.  Murano has been practicing glassmaking since around the 8th century, and is still doing business to this day, making anything from vases to jewelry, from artistic figures to paperweights, all made of glass (below this entry, I will be putting more pictures of my favorite examples of Murano glass.  If you want to learn more about them just read the caption underneath the picture). After researching the island of Murano for a bit, I started to wonder why has the art of Murano Glass making still continued to this day and not toppled over like many other ancient arts.   Personally, I feel that one of the major reasons is because Murano has become such a tourist hot spot for such a long period of time, and that the tourists have kept it going.  I’m sure that there must be other factors, but that is the best I can come up with after my researching.   Despite its huge industry, Murano is a very small island, only about one square mile in size.  If you’ve ever seen a picture or even been to Venice you’ll see Murano is set up much like Venice with it’s canals, bridges, even the architecture is strikingly alike.

From the 8th century till now, Murano Glassmaking has been accumulating quite a history and a lot of economical ups and downs. Murano is constantly crowded with tourists visiting the glassmaker’s shops, but it wasn’t always like that.  A long time ago, glassmakers weren’t even allowed outside the region of Venice.  This was to protect the ancient art of glassmaking.  In fact, they were even threatened by death if they left.  All the same, some were willing to take the risk of leaving and to set up glass workshops in different countries of the world.  But, by the time of the renaissance this tradition was long gone.  Visiting travelers would come by Murano to see the workshops and how things were done, much like our modern tourists. As you can see, the beauty of Murano glassmaking has been appreciated for many years, and I sincerely hope that it will continue to survive for many, many more.


I love this one because it is so abstract while still being nature-like.

This is one of my favorate examples of murano glass (the beads), dispite the flowers

This necklace is one of my favorite examples of Murano glass.

The Queen of Adriatic – written by A.H.W.

Dear Queen of Adriatic,

I’ve heard countless tales

of all your adventures

of the stirring of sails

and mystical treasures

You are a rare mystery

here in plain site

the stars seem to give you

your gift of strange light

You’re always wearing masks

of the strangest forms

hiding boldly in the flasks

of misty storms

you’re quite a merchant

I really must say

so many sailors

have passed by your way

Yet here you lie,

in these rising waters,

calling out your cry

as your land starts to totter

Your subjects truly want to save you

but they do not yet have the strength

to lift you through

the water’s risky lengths

Now the currents are thrusting

burring you beneath the waves

slowly rusting

into the myth of Atlantes’ grave

Now can the weak become the strong

before their home is all gone

Can they prove that fate is wrong

so they can sing their victory song?

Inspired by Venice


Venice has sparked the imagination of writers, play directors, and artists for centuries. Like I said before, Venice just cracks my imagination wide open. But, most recently a different kind of media has caught wind of this captivating place; movie producers and video game makers are now inventing stories and creating whole worlds based on the enchanting city of Venice. One such product is the Nancy Drew video game by Her Interactive, The Phantom of Venice. This classic Her Interactive mystery tells a tale of the exciting adventures that take place in the city of Venice. Venice may be a captivating realm, but does it’s inspired media do it justice?

Nancy Drew The Phantom of Venice Review:

Targeted audience: I’ve seen all ranges of people take a liking to Her Interactive Nancy Drew games, all the way from nine year olds to forty year olds. As long as you love getting knee deep in a mystery that only you can solve, this is the game for you!

Story Line:  You play as a spunky teenage detective named Nancy Drew (based on a book series by Carolyn Keene) going to undercover to Venice, Italy to solve the mystery of the Phantom of Venice. The Phantom is a thief who is into stealing precious Venetian artifacts most likely to sell on the black market.What’s weirder is that every time he steals something he is always wearing a full Venetian costume of a black cape and green mask. It is your job as Nancy Drew to find out who this masked culprit is before The Phantom has a chance to strike again.

Rating: Three and three fourths stars

My opinion after playing the game:  This was a very fun game to play, and I would suggest it to anyone who loves a good mystery. I would especially suggest this game if you particularly like those games where you get to go undercover with all the cool gadgets, sneaky secrecy, picking locks, stuff like that. I also liked the music that went along with the game, especially when you would ride the gondolas; it really set the mood well. I also liked how Her Interactive added onto their description of Soony Joon, letting us know bit by bit more about this wacky guy that Nancy seems to fallow by accident wherever she goes. My sister, who is also a big Nancy Drew fan like myself, wishes that we would finally bump into the guy in one of the games so we would finally know what he looks like.

Trailer for the video game, The Phantom of Venice – created by Her interactive, found on YouTube:

Venetian Carnevale


Carnevale is an ancient Venetian celebration that has gone on for centuries throughout Venice. Weeks, some times even months before Carnevale the hotels in Venice are completely booked for eager visitors who would like to take part in this festive tradition. Carnevale translated means carnival, and it takes place during a certain week of winter. Because this holiday is based on the Catholic Lint, it is also based on the Catholic calendar, making it take place on a different week each year.  For example, in 2011 Carnevale is going to take place from February 26 to March 8, but in 2012 it will take place from February 11 – 21. During Carnevale Venice goes into party mode and everyone dresses up in traditional Venetian costumes, masks and all. It is a week where you can dress up no matter your standing and pretend to be anyone you like. It is also a week where the most ancient of Venetian customs spring up and come to life. Customs like Comida dell’ arte, going to lavish balls, and hiding yourself behind a different face are the things that make Carnevale what it is; a breathtaking event you will never forget.


Here are some common costumes that you might see at Carnevale:

Soir Tonin Bonagrazia:

This is a costume based on the personality of a character from Commida dell’Arte called Pantalone (see History of Venetian Masks – Commida dell’Arte). Bonagrazia is a very unwise merchant who really just cares about making more and more money.


Medico was a plague doctor who liked to use big words, and doing so made everyone think he knew what he was doing. But in reality, he is a very foolish doctor, and very alike to the Commida dell’Arte character, Il Dottore (once again, see History of Venetian Masks – Commida dell’Arte).

Fantasy Costumes:

Fantasy Costumes are the costumes that aren’t based on a pacific character. Instead, they are based on something like an animal, a joker, or even something found in nature, like the moon. Personally, I like these ones the best because they require you to be creative in an abstract sort of way.

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The Architecture of Venice

Venice is a city decorated with grand architecture, not just with the buildings themselves, but the whole way the city itself was made to function.   This whole system has made Venice unquestionably unique and like no other.  Venice is now known for many enchanting names: The City of Water, The City of Light, The City of Canals, The City of Bridges, and Queen of Adriatic. Many of these names are due to the beauty of Venetian architecture, but what makes Venetian architecture so much more unique from the ones we see daily?

The Building of the City

Venice was originally built on a bunch of small, mucky islands and they were used for the base of the city.  They also used strong, but flexible wood to build the city up.  The reason that the wood hasn’t decayed yet is because the builders made sure that the wood was closed off from the air, keeping the wood from rotting.  Then they added some clay to start to build up the ground and the roads.  The base of houses was also sturdy wood with stone to build the walls of the building.  It may seem like Venice would very quickly collapse from using this method of construction, but the foundation was very strong and has kept up ancient buildings for years.

The Palazzos

Venetian houses, known as Palazzos or Ca’ (short for casa meaning house), are very extravagant. Translated, Palazzos mean palaces.  These Palazzos were often built around a small plaza, and each floor was typically used for something else.  The bottom floor was used for storage and business uses.  For example, if you were a shopkeeper that is where you would have your shop.  The second floor would be used whenever you were having guests over, and that is where you would entertain your guests.  Because of this, this floor often had very extravagant décor.  The third floor was used for things such as bedrooms or living rooms; this is basically the area of the house where the family lived and made casual, hence it usually wasn’t as finely decorated as the floor below.  And finally, the roof of the house where there were usually the chambers where the family’s servants would typically live.

The City of Canals and The City of Bridges

In place of bustling paved roads Venice has adopted something I like to call water-roads, better know as canals. In my opinion, this is the architecture that has made Venice the most famous.  If you look to the right, you can see how these “water-roads” act like small rivers twisting all throughout Venice, just like the typical roads we are more accustom to.  Replacing cars, Venetians also have elegant boats called gondolas.  These boats have the same shape as very narrow canoes with the ends of the boat curving upwards.  Now in days, gondolas are mainly a tourist attraction making it very expensive to go for a ride. Because of the canals Venice needs a lot of bridges, and the passing gondolas also calls for tall bridges, thereby earning the name of The City of Bridges.  Here is a really cool video of a boat ride in Venice’s canals:

The Sinking of Venice

This may sound strange but Venice has been sinking for many years.  Remember how I told you earlier about Venice being built on mucky islands and posts of wood? Well, those posts of wood have been slowly sinking into the mud of those islands.  It hasurl been doing that from the beginning, but very slowly.  Thankfuly, Venice has stopped this outrageous sinking, but that is no longer the problem.  This is what brings us to the topic of global warming.  You’re probably also asking, what does global warming have to do with anything?  Well, one of global warming’s effects is the rising sea level, and since all Venetian canals are from seawater they’ve begun to rise at an unusual rate.  In fact, scientists are now predicting that if the waters keep on rising like this than a significant amount of Venetian roads will be underwater by 2055, that’s only forty five years from now!  There is hope for Venice though; Venetian government has started a project to stop Venice from overflowing.  This project has been nicknamed, “Project Moses” and in a nutshell, “Project Moses” will try to keep Venice afloat by building underwater iron gates used to keep Venice above water.  These gates will become active whenever the water levels become too high to keep Venice afloat, but the project isn’t without its troubles.  “Project Moses” is a very expensive project, and the government doesn’t have that kind of money to use.  Plus, this is going to be a very big engineering challenge for construction workers.  Just like Joe Kissell said, “Project Moses may keep the floods out, but will it enable Venice to keep its head above water?”

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How to Make a Venetian Mask

Venice is a city rich with culture and ethos: festive fetes, picturesque architecture, and its meandering canals have made Venice famous.  The most famous tradition of all is the Venetian masks. Masks have been sprawled all across Venice for centuries.  With Mardi Gras, masquerade parties, and Commedia dell ‘Arte masks have become the core of Venetian culture.  After visiting Venice, you just can’t go home without one!  But not everyone can afford to fly to Venice and buy a mask, so instead, why not make one?

How to Make a Venetian Papier Maché Mask

Paper Maché

1.Before you can start to form your mask, you’re going to need to make the papier maché!  First things first: mix some flour and water into a large bowl.  Keep adding flour and water till you get a mixture is a bit thinner then glue.

2.Get some paper towels (a news paper will be fine too, but paper towels usually make smoother masks) and tear them into strips.

3.Before you do this instruction, you may want to do Building the Mask steps one and two first.  Dip your paper towels/news paper strips into your newly made paste, and make sure to get them completely covered, otherwise your mask may get a bit sloppy.

    Building the Mask

    1. Buy a plain mask (you can get them at any party or craft store).  If your plain mask isn’t made of plastic, cover the face of the mask with plastic wrap.

    2. Then, add a layer of Vaseline to the face of the mask keep the papier maché strips from sticking to the plain mask when they dry.

    3. Start adding the wet papier maché strips onto the face of the plain mask to form the shape of your new mask.

    4. You ready? Here comes the artistic part! Once you have a few layers of papier maché done (enough to form the base of your mask), start adding the paper maché to form the face of the mask.  Maybe your mask has bulgy cheeks, maybe it has a long curvy nose, maybe it’s shaped like an animal, maybe you want to add a few cool designs on it, it’s all up to you, and be inventive!

    5. Smooth out any bumps left behind.

    6. Once your done designing the mask, put it somewhere to dry out of reach from pesky pets or siblings.  Your mask will take one to two days to dry, so put it someplace where it won’t get in your way.

    7. After waiting for two long days, you can now take off the plain mask from underneath and voila!  You now have your mask!

    8. Don’t distress, you’re almost done!  It’s time to get out your brushes and paint and be creative!  You can paint your mask however you wish, bright and vibrant, soft and plain, sparkly, whatever you want!

    9. Let your paint and or glitter dry and you are done.  Congratulate yourself, you just succeeded in making a mask! Hang it on your wall, show off to friends, wear it to parties, and be proud, you have just achieved making your very own Venetian Paper Maché Mask!

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      The History of Venetian Masks

      venice_carnivalThe Beginning of Venetian Masks

      During the Venetian Republic (late 7th century to 1797) Venice was a center of trade.  Many trade itineraries were made through Venice and a lot of business was done there, and so people started to wear masks in their daily outfit.  That way you could talk and do business freely without anyone knowing who you were.  This was a very useful way of doing business for Venice.  Despondently, as the years went on a lot of people started abusing this privilege they were given and it began to demoralize the city.  Soon enough, the problem became so bad that the government made a law saying that no one is to wear masks in your daily attire.   The only time that people could wear masks like they once did was during a choosen time for three months around December.  Later, this became shortened into the week that began the fete known as Carnevale, also know as Mardi Gras.

      Commedía dell’Arte

      commediaCommedía Dell’ Art was a very popular theatrical performance around the 15 hundreds to the 17 hundreds.  It began in Italy, but then spread all the way to France.  Commedía Dell’Arte translated means artistic comedy.  These artistic comities were also very famous in Venice and were preformed publicly in town squares.  These plays weren’t the ordinary memorize the script plays; instead the actors were given a scenario to build the plot on and the rest of it was improvisation.  In Commedía Dell’Arte there were usually seven men and three women making a total of ten actors. Every play consisted of the same characters: Il dottore, Pantalone, the lovers, Zanni, Il capitano, and Arlecchino. Each actor would pick a character that they would play for their entire carrier.  Each character would have their own personality, their own costume, their own mask, even their own way of walking.  That way the moment the character walked on stage the entire audience knew who they were.  Here are some examples of what the characters are like:

      Il Dottore is a high-class doctor who doesn’t know anything about being a doctor.  Instead he likes to babble on about the most random things, despite the lisp he has.

      Pantalone is a very rich old man who lives for getting more and more money.  Because of he is so abounding in riches; Pantalone is very high up the social ladder.  His worst trepidation of loosing his money would bring him down from his social class.

      Zanni is a character that is always thinking of two things: food and sleep.  He doesn’t really care about anything else.  This makes him bad at doing his job of being a servant, not to mention how inept he is too.  He is very low down on the social class.

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