Safer Behind Masks?

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We started our trip to Venice to attend Carnivale by screaming down the road in Randy's 3-squirrel powered car. I say screaming, but in reality I was very judiciously keeping my mouth shut, even though there was a good bit of AAAAAHHHHHHHH going on in my head.  Randy’s hurtling down the road at about 90 miles an hour with three fingers casually on the steering wheel (the only thing between me and total chaos), and the other arm draped over the seat I am sitting in.  I have found that cars here in the Naples area whether behind me, beside me, or coming at me, frequently want the same space on the road that my car is occupying.  Isn’t that a violation of a basic law of physics; two items of matter cannot occupy the same space simultaneously?  Proves yet again that I am glad I made my kids take physics because I failed to do so.  Anyway, Randy has more faith in his fellow Italian drivers than I.  And he has definitely adapted to the Italian style.  I do very little driving.  I have no sense of direction, which can be an issue, but I learned to accommodate this weakness, at least on this trip.  Anyway, me with absolutely no poker face, is sitting with a mask that hopefully displays a feigned calm and casual expression on my face, anticipating our trip to Venice.

We stayed in Mestre, the town just one local train stop outside Venice.  Our evening stroll took us up to the piazza where Friday evening was kid’s night for Carnivale.  It was Halloween without the candy, replaced by lots of confetti that totally littered the square; better for parents, worse for dentists and the local street sweepers.  For the kids in us that never grew up, there’s the real deal Carnivale, where you can play dress-ups adult style.  Venice at Carnivale is hard to describe, and can really only be seen.  Randy’s picture will give you a glimpse of the people that put on fantastic costumes and masks to parade for the rest of us gawkers.  Many may be trying out other personalities, or feeding their inner performer.  The best seem to pose not only for your picture, but for your entertainment.  Everyone in Venice at this time of year becomes a street performer.  Most of the masks do not have any mouths, so it is a silent tableau while they perform, with thousands, tens of thousands, of people streaming by them and around them.  

Trying to fit in with the crowd of revellers, rather than wear a mask, I had my face painted, or half my face, if you see the pictures.  Little did I know it really was just fish scales.  Because later in the day, heading back to the hotel on the train, even with just that one stop away, I was a sardine in a can.

Being in Venice during Carnivale makes it a little tough to see the sites. We had a great tour of the Doge's Palace, the tour guide explaining history, architecture, and the artwork surrounding us.  Stories that included the origin of the word salary that started with the trading of salt (sale), that plague was thought to come from bad air (mal air, viz malaria), and the mask with the long nose was just the plague doctor that had to have sachets of herbs to hide the smell of the dying from plague infested patients.  According to the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, Venice suffered from the plague more than any other city since it was on the trade route.  The caravans brought more than merchandise into the area.  So the start of masks is tied to bad things happening.  And I guess the start of Carnivale is the celebration that life is short.  Randy and I would add – Eat dessert first.

When we skipped over to Murano island the contrast of the throngs on Piazza San Marco to the few roaming around the famous site of glass blowers was dramatic.  Waiting for the water taxi to take us back to the piazza, a couple sat down beside me.  It was one of those not in Kansas moments, or at least my naive experience showed.  The couple finished their bottle of water and then took out their flask and each took a snort of whatever.  Definitely booze because they both smelled Iike alcohol after that.  I guess if my fellow water bus passengers had been young partners it would not have raised my eyebrows, but they were of the more mature bent.

A recommendation to avoid the water taxis and walk back to the train station sparked an extensive shuffle back to the train.  Shuffle because we were winding our way through the narrow alley ways with a good portion of the other thousands who were about to be smashed onto the trains with us.  It was a long "walk" that left our feet pooped, and our people watching appetites sated.

The next day, Randy was trying on his own alternate personality, Little Testy, based on sore feet.  So he wanted to minimize the amount of walking we did.  At the same time we were on a mission to find this little shop I'd located on line.  We wandered through the small alleys, people watching, and window shopping, ok, ok, there was some buying along the way.  We ended up in this lovely little shop where the lady proprietor made masks from antique fabrics.  We also visited the Scuola di San Rocco which is filled with fantastic Tintoretto’s, many that you view with the aide of a mirror that you walk around with so you can view the ceiling.  We stumbled upon a square (Campo since in Venice there is only 1 piazza) where a group of silent masked, pastel colored, performers formed a circle and danced with each other.  No sound, though by that point I seem to recall music, even if it was only in my head.  We found the shop.  It was closed since it was Sunday, but since we’d already done our fair share to try to re-spark the Italian economy, we started back towards the train.  At each turn Randy would look at me and say, " which way next?".  With his tired puppies still demanding some economy of steps, he was adamant in his Testy persona to make sure we did not wander around aimlessly.  When not in a car, I don’t seem to worry about being lost.  (In a car is a whole 'nother story!!)  Having gotten us lost in Corfu, Rome, London, and I’m sure a couple of other places, I finally learned to look at him experssionlessly and say, "Hmmm, what do you think?"  I didn’t dare offer up an opinion and then have it turn out to be the wrong way.   It wasn’t the most direct route back to the train, but he was easily distracted with some attempts at night photographs.  We found our way back to a much less crowded train.  And I managed to keep my mouth shut, even without a mask covering my face.
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Ed Iannuccilli on

Well done!

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