Any visit to Venice is filled with ornately painted masks. These are more than just colorful souvenirs — they come with a story. Throughout the centuries, these masks have always been a big part of Carnevale celebrations, the weeks-long Mardi Gras festivities leading up to Lent — and high-class people have traditionally put them on to hide their faces while they are out and about, doing less-than-respectable things.
Join me now at a mask shop in the heart of Venice for a peek at the history of these masks — from the 17th century, when doctors used them to treat victims of the plague, all the way to the 1970s, when local hippies incorporated them into their wild outfits.
I’m in here in Venice to do some guidebook research. If you’re heading this way too, you can pick up the latest edition of my Rick Steves Venice guidebook here. Happy travels!