Artisan Italian crafts make meaningful souvenirs

Aug 28, 2019 177

Long a city of aristocrats, luxury goods and trade, Venice has an amazing culture. Its fantasy-world atmosphere of elegant decay is like nowhere else in Europe. But with souvenir hawkers everywhere pushing cheap masks, glassy baubles and lacy doilies, it can come across as a tacky tourist trap. Look behind those tired cliches, though, and you'll get glimpses of Venice's history.

Venice's ubiquitous, ornately decorated masks are more than just colorful souvenirs — they come with a story. In the 1600s, masks were a practical tool in a physician's medical bag. When attending plague victims, the doctor crammed the beak-shaped nose of his mask with herbs, hoping to filter the air and prevent the spread of the dreaded disease. (Venice was especially susceptible to plague because of its trading links.)

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