Unusual Venice? Let’s visit Pinocchio’s Island!

Amazing Venetian artisan... During our guided tours in Venice we normally mention the fact that Venice rests on 118 islands. But does each island have a name? Actually, islands normally get their names from their main church… However, there’s one particular island that we would not expect to find here, a place where time seems to be suspended, where children widen their eyes with surprise, and where adults become children again…

Pinocchio’s Island

Pinocchio’s Island is a workshop where Master Roberto, an exceptional puppeteer, creates wonderful marionettes entirely by hand.

The workshop

Master Roberto was born in Venice, in the area called Misericordia. After high school he started his courses at University to become an architect, but a few years later he moved to Tuscany, to follow the girl he loved. In Tuscany, by chance and by destiny, he met an artisan who unveiled for him all the secrets of marionettes. Roberto literally fell in love with this unusual world and decided he would make a real job out of this new passion.
A few years later he came back to Venice and opened his marionette workshop in the district of Cannaregio, two steps away from Misericordia…
In this place still nowadays his marionettes literally come to life. They can be traditional marionettes, or marionettes created out of Master Roberto’s imagination, or even done on particular commission, following his customers’ tastes.

Pantalone (character of Commedia dell’Arte)

The Devil

How does a marionette come to life?

In order to create a marionette, first of all Master Roberto gathers quite a lot of information and documents on the peculiarities of the particular character he wants to represent, on its historical period, on the way it would be represented in the past in different Countries. For each character he prepares a file with all the documents, also adding his own personal interpretation of it.

Roberto’s table with sketches and projects

Then Roberto will carve the figure out of wood, while Lady Manuela, a tailor and costume designer for theater plays, will saw the costumes and will create the accessories for each marionette, taking into consideration even the smallest details.

Veronica Franco, the famous Venetian courtesan 

Veronica’s high wedge shoes

What does a marionette consist of?

Master Roberto’s marionettes are normally made out of pine wood, or other kinds of soft wood. The different parts of the body are then attached to some strings connected to an instrument called cross, which will allow the master to move the character. Normally up to 8 or 10 strings are necessary to give life to a marionette, to give it a soul, to make it move with expressiveness.

The oblique cross

Another cross

A relevant part of the marionette is of course the head. Roberto does not sculpt it in wood, he creates it with wood paste, using the procession waste of his marionettes, namely sawdust. The sawdust is first sifted, as to separate only the finest, almost impalpable, part. Then glue and water are added, to obtain a paste which will be placed into a plaster mould, previously created by Roberto from a sculpted head.
When the paste becomes hard, the head is smoothed and finally painted with tempera colors.

How a head is created

The same procedure can be used also to create different accessories, for example the shoes.

How head and shoes are created

Can a marionette have a soul?

Well, we sure think it can! Click here and watch our short videoPantalone comes to life. 
Obviously, the soul is inflated into the marionette by the person that makes it, by the one that moves its strings and by the one that lends it his or her voice. In our case, it is always Master Roberto!
Let us tell you a secret… Roberto actually talks to his marionettes! The dialogues that come out are frequently exhilarating, but sometimes also very intense and intimate…
Come and meet Roberto and his marionettes with us in their Island: we will be more than glad to lead you into this timeless world!
What are you asking? You want to know wether you can try to move the marionettes? Of course you can!
Children and grown up children, you can all try this art guided by Master Roberto!
We’ll be waiting for you!

Roberto talking to his marionettes

If you would like to know more about artisans in Venice, you can also read the following posts and tours:

Arts and crafts in Venice (section: Specific tours of Venice)

Experience tourism in Venice: the carnival grand ball (section: Experience and inclusive tourism in Venice)

The regatta vogalonga (section: Experience and inclusive tourism in Venice)

Visit to the island of Sant'Erasmo (section: Experience and inclusive tourism in Venice)

Venice arts and crafts: Paperoowl and Stefania's magic made out of paper (section: Blog)

Venice and Martina's ceramics Questoequeo workshop (section: Blog)

Venetian artisans: Luca and Michele's typography (section: Blog)

Experience tourism in Venice (section: Blog

Exceptional Venetian artisan: Alessia Fuga and the art of glass bead making (section: Blog)