Luisella Romeo
Article by Luisella Romeo

Tours in Venice for the blind and visually impaired visitors: the Carnival tour

 

Visiting Venice with blind people

Blind or visually impaired visitors can enjoy a city of Venice at its best. This is what I learnt during a course run by the Unione italiana dei ciechi e degli ipovedenti (UICI, Italian Association of the blind and visually impaired). Venice is a city that can discourage these visitors as there are bridges to climb, waterways and no parapets preventing you from falling in the canals, but also the uneven paved streets can be disheartening. It is also true, though, that with a particular technique and sensitivity, guides and visitors can arrange memorable and fun tours, which you can only enjoy in Venice! In particular, I thought of two tours. One tour is about rowing and the boat building, even gondolas (click here for the link) and one is about Carnival, masks and chocolate!

A tour for the blind in Venice: the Carnival tour and chocolate tasting

Carnival in Venice is a tradition that became really wild four centuries ago. Venice was a capital for entertainment: casinos and theatres opened everywhere, the whole city became a stage where actors, musicians, charlatans and acrobats in the campi and campielli of the city attracted and distracted you. Can you imagine partying for several months in a row? The Commedia dell’Arte with its different characters and even marionettes and puppets entertained grown-ups as well as children.

In this photo Eliana is painting a mask in papier-mâché to hang on the wall; she is surrounded by brushes and colours. Behind her there are more works in papier-mâché, some are masks, some are in the shape of fish and many other forms.

The 18th century in Venice: Mardi Gras

We will start our tour learning about the age of the 18th century, the hey-day of Mardi Gras. Learning the history of the masks and how the tradition developed.

Nowadays Carnival has become more of a touristic attraction and several residents do not feel involved. But in the late 1970s when some mask makers re-discovered the past tradition, it was quite exciting and challenging.

The art of mask making and the historical tradition of masks in Venice

Masks used to be worn for several occasions. There were masks for the actors and each mask corresponded to a specific character. Servants and masters, doctors and captains, maids and rich merchants peopled the stage and made fun of the social rules, with a strong, satyrical and subversive approach. But masks were also used by everyone to keep hidden and thanks to anonymity you could get more attractive, safeguard your moral reputation and enjoy life without being controlled.

In this photo there are two large moulds in resin lying on the floor. It is in these moulds that paper and glue are laid to become masks in papier-mâché. One has the form of a face with rays and the other one shows a face half like a moon and half like a sun

It is quite fascinating to learn how masks are made nowadays, using paper, glue and plaster. At first you need clay to make the form. This is a true sculpture from which you get the plaster cast. In this cast, paper and glue will be cleverly laid to become masks. The work requires patience and a lot of time or expertise and the result is something which you do not necessarily need to wear, but also hang on the wall as an art work.

Chocolate, an exotic drink to enjoy in Venice

In Venice in the 18th century, pleasure was indeed a must and if you could afford it, entertainment would go beyond theatres and parties. In fact, it was in those years that an expensive drink started being very appreciated: chocolate. Imagine the drink had been known since the discovery of America, but because of its origin in south America, a land considered uncivilised, and because of its dark, not too inviting colour, it was for long considered a drink “good for the pigs”. Well, now we know pigs have a great taste! Chocolate was very expensive, it would be served in special occasions and would be prepared very differently from what it is normally today.

Mariangela in her chocolate shop holds in her hands some cacao fruits, within which you can find the cocoa beans, hence what one uses to create chocolate. Behind her, her pralines, biscuits and more of her creations.
Mariangela in her chocolate shop holds in her hands some cacao fruits, within which you can find the cocoa beans, hence what one uses to create chocolate. Behind her, her pralines, biscuits and more of her creations.

How chocolate is made and tasted: a Venetian experience

We will therefore meet a master chocolatier and enjoy an articulate chocolate tasting. You will touch cocoa beans and understand where you pick them up. They are in fact kept in a fruit shell of different sizes and we will learn the difference between the original fruit and the hybrid one, developed for industrial uses. You will taste what the chocolate drink would be like according to the recipe written by the famous Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, with no use of milk, but rather water, delicious spices such as chili, ginger, cardamon and cinnamon. We will then understand the different taste and feeling of milk chocolate, bitter chocolate and fruit chocolate. As they say, it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it!

In the photo there are some chocolate bars with Italian hazelnuts from Piedmont; chocolate is still soft and the hazelnuts are not covered with chocolate yet.
In the photo there are some chocolate bars with Italian hazelnuts from Piedmont; chocolate is still soft and the hazelnuts are not covered with chocolate yet.

Ready to dive in this world of phantasy, pleasure and entertainment? Venice could not be but the city where theatre, gambling and exotic, voluptuous drinks would happily mix together. An explosive mishmash, just before the fall of the Doge’s Republic: the Serenissima and its “sweet” swan song.

Luisella Romeo
Best Venice Guides
www.seevenice.it

note:
on the cover of this blogpost you can see the painting by Pietro Longhi, The Morning Chocolate, ca. 1775, part of the collection of the museum Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice.

if you wish to book this tour with Luisella Romeo please send her an email to luisella.romeo@gmail.com