Hannah Fielding is the author of The Echoes of Love, a romantic novel set in Venice. Hannah knows Venice like the back of her hand and here she gives TripReporter her own recommendations on enjoying the Venice Carnival.
To one side of you stands a cloaked man, cheering jovially, to the other a woman resplendent in sequins and satins and feathers, dancing to the beat of the music; and beyond – thousands of similarly masked revellers. Where are you? Venice, of course, at its most vibrant and theatrical and romantic of world carnivals.
This year the Carnival takes place from 15 February and 4 March. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the event, here are ten Venice Carnival experiences to add to your ‘must do’ list:
1. Book tickets for one of the many Carnival balls – with themes from burlesque to masquerade to enchantment, there’s a party to suit all tastes.
2. Visit Ca’ Macana, the shop of the best mask maker in Venice. All masks are handmade, and the artistry is exquisite. Buy for yourself one of the classic Carnival masks, such as the Colombina or the Bauta.
3. Sample a Carnival specialty from one of the street vendors whose wares perfume the air such to make your stomach rumble. The cakes are divine, especially the warm and sweet frittelle Veneziane filled with zabaione cream.
4. Watch a local beauty pageant winner zip-wire from the Campanile bell tower in the traditional Volo dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angel) on 23 February.
5. Visit the Arsenale to take in a historical show, live music concerts, street artist performances and, it’s promised, ‘dancing fountains’!
6. Head to St Mark’s Square to see the parade for the daily Best Masked Costume Competition (enter yourself, if you’re so inclined; the theme is ‘La Natura Fantastica’).
7. Drink in the romantic atmosphere in St Mark’s Square as you watch sultry tango dancers perform on the Gran Teatro stage – 2 March at 8 p.m.
8. Brush up on your art history with a free guided tour and talk at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection art museum. This year’s Carnival exhibition is ‘The Empire of Light’.
9. Embrace the last vestiges of winter with ice-skating in the Campo San Polo. Costume optional!
10.Join the throngs alongside the Grand Canal for the closing event of the Carnival: a water-borne procession of costumed Venetians on decorated boats and classic gondolas. Be sure to take a camera – this is one spectacle you’ll want to record.