1. Carnival masks are documented in Venice as far back as the 1200s, but the 1500s was the heyday of the art.

2. Traditional mask-makers craft a model from clay or stucco, which they can use again for future creations.

3. Many masks are made from papier-mache, which is molded over the clay form and left to dry, then sanded and hand-painted.

4. Formulaic characters like Harlequin and Zanni trace their origins to the once-popular Commedia dell’Arte theater troupe.

5. Today, a handful of artisans make masks in the traditional way in hole-in-the-wall studios clustered in the Venetian neighborhoods of San Polo and Dorsoduro.

Laura Morelli's 5 Things to Bring Home from Venice

Download my free audio guide and come home from Italy with a souvenir you’ll cherish.