Italy has been home to legendary artisan work for thousands of years – it’s one of the strongest cultural heavyweights in the world. Love pizza or gelato? What about colorfully decorated Venetian masks? They have it in Italy. And when you visit on our Italy: Rome, Florence & Venice adventure, you do more than buy souvenirs – you make them.
Venetian citizens started regularly wearing masks as a practical decision about a thousand years ago – in case they were up to something mischievous, the mask would protect their identity. Soon after, everyone was wearing masks so they could get away with anything at any time. The city of Venice outlawed mask-wearing and only allowed it during certain months of the year. This time period evolved into the Venetian Carnival, which made mask-wearing and masquerade balls especially famous.
For centuries, these paper-mache masks have been dazzlingly decorated with fur, fabric, gems and feathers. When you’re in Venice, you’ll join an artisan in their shop, where you’ll get to decorate hand-crafted Venetian masks of your choice and learn about the history of this fascinating, one-of-a-kind art.
Pizza has been a staple of Italian culture since the late 18th century and has its root as far back as the Bronze Age, between 3000 and 1200 B.C. The Greeks and Phoenicians used flatbread as an edible plate when eating stews or thick broth, called plankuntos. This early pizza was popular from Rome to Egypt.
In the Middle Ages, Italians started using mozzarella cheese from an Indian Water Buffalo in their pizzas. It remains an Italian standard to this day – no Florentine pizzeria would dare use anything else.
While you’re in Florence, stop by a local pizzeria to learn how the process works. With a chef leading the way, toss dough in the air, spread tomato sauce and sprinkle cheese to create your pizza masterpieces.
Is it a trip to Italy without gelato? While in Florence, you’ll learn the ins and outs of making this tasty treat, which has existed in some form for over 2,000 years.
Why bother with gelato when the kids love ice cream? Well, there are some key differences:
- Gelato uses more milk than cream, resulting in lower quantities of fat.
- Gelato is turned much slower than ice cream, introducing less air into the base and concentrating the flavor.
- Gelato has no artificial sweeteners, unlike American ice cream – this creates smaller ice crystals, resulting in a noticeably smoother and creamier texture.
You won’t just take one gelato class while you’re in Italy – you’ll take two! While you’re in town, check out the other artisan crafts nearby. Locals specialize in marble papercraft, painting and many other crafts – few other places in the world let you window shop the works of mastercrafters.