Unmask the Mask Makers of Venice

Kids of all ages will enjoy visits to shops in San Polo and Dorsoduro to watch craftsmen create elegant Carnival masks.


During Carnival, Venetians wander the streets night and day wearing masks. These can be simple, elegant harlequin eye-masks or fanciful creations that turn the wearer into a parrot or a prince. To keep up with the demand, mask makers work year-round in their studio shops in the narrow streets of the San Polo and Dorsoduro neighborhoods, where kids can watch these artisans work, buy masks and perhaps even try their own hand at decorating them.

San Polo Shops

Calle dei Nomboli, off Campo San Tomà in San Polo, is home to a number of craft studios, including paper artists and TragiComica, our kids’ favorite shop. The child-friendly staff patiently helps them add to their collections at each visit—not an easy decision given the shop’s quantity and variety. Craftsmen in the studio are equally friendly as the children watch masks come to life. If you are visiting the city during Carnival, this is the place to find out about parties and events, as well as where to rent or buy a high-quality costume that is historically accurate.

Also in San Polo, near Ponte Rialto, is La Bottega dei Mascareri (041 522 3857). The tiny shop/studio is filled with authentic masks made in the traditional way. It specializes in Medieval and 18th-century masks and those for the commedia dell'arte—Pantalone, Arlecchini and Zanni —as well as provides masks for Shakespeare festivals. The crowded shop is more suitable for older children than for really young ones.

Dorsuduro Shops

Dorsuduro, which adjoins San Polo, also has several mask studios. Mondo Novo, on the Rio Terà Canal, off Campo Santa Margherita, is at the same time one of the oldest and one of the most contemporary of Venice’s mask workshops. Lovato Guerrino’s masks have appeared in several movies, and he designed the papier-mâché ceiling decorations for the new La Fenice opera house.

Off nearby Campo San Barnaba is Ca Macana Mask Shop on Calle delle Botteghe (+011-041-277-6142). Old and new styles and designs hang side by side in the shop, where kids will like the abundance of shiny gold used in the decoration. What our children loved best about Ca’ Macana was the chance to finally get their hands into mask making, by attending one of their classes. Call ahead to see when they are offered and to reserve a place early.

Destinations: Venice, Italy

Themes: Family Travel

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