The City of artisan showrooms, bohemian-chic fashion, serpentine architecture, murano glass jewellery, masquerade balls, renaissance masterpieces and historic waterways. Venice is a city once visited and never forgotten. In February 2008 I embarked on a city break to Venice with my family, where we stayed four nights in the height of the worlds most renowned masked extravaganza the Venice Carnival; and ever since then I have been more than desperate to return. The Venetians have been celebrating the Carnevale Venezia since as early as the 15th century, proving that the carnival is not just any festivity, it is a Venetian extravaganza. It began as a rather secret affair soon grew ten-fold, promiscuous parties in private clubs and lavish organised balls with the carnival spanning over two whole months, for a duration of the 18th century! Now that is the definition of a party.
The Festa delle Marie commenced with a parade through the city on the first Friday of the fiasco. The entire period sees the cobbled streets and thriving waterways of Venice filled with ornately gowned Venetians, masked by the most elaborately decorated facades, adorned in the most regal of embellishments. The flamboyant baroque costumes light up the streets with blossoms of colour, and those with the best attire enter a parade in Piazza San Marco during the latter end of the celebration. The Grand Canal hosts a procession for best decorated gondolas and of course, passengers.
Brooke’s tips for surviving the Venetian Carnival:
Tip 1: Embrace the weird and wonderful by donning a mask to fit in with the locals.
Aside from the main event, Venice has a wealth of other treasures on offer. Admire the bizarre mechanics of the city, along with the awe-inspiring architecture. Drink coffee whilst people watching in the bustling Piazza San Marco and visit the back street art galleries filled with contemporary paintings and sculptures.
Tip 2: Acquire a map. This is essential in order to navigate around the maze of streets, unless you would rather loose yourself in amongst the crowds.
Tip 3: A visit to St Mark’s Basilica is a must, as taking a photograph on the Rialto Bridge (Tourists eat your heart out). Follow this by a relaxing meander down the waterways (the good thing about visiting in February is that the canals don’t smell half as bad as the summer).
Tip 4: If you fancy branching a little further afield take a boat trip to Murano Island. Here you can witness the Venetian merchants producing Murano crystal and glass first hand (be sure to wrap up warm in winter for this one).
The climate in Venice in February resembles that of the Arctic!
We stayed in a charming hotel, the luxurious Luna Hotel Baglioni. It is a stone throw away from Piazza San Marco and the plethora of designer stores and boutiques Venice has to offer making it the perfect location. However there are hostels if you are on a tighter budget.
Tip 5: Never trust a gondolier with your camera! Unfortunately we had fiasco with our camera which involved a gondola, a big splash, and dad almost falling into the Grand Canal (need I say more..) so whilst my original photographs are lost to the Venetian waterways, Spark* Travel came to the rescue with their travelling photos!!