Hidden behind an ornate feathered mask, immersed in fantastical bacchanalian delights, all while you explore one of the world’s most beautiful cities?
It’s indisputable that the Carnival of Venice is one like no other, offering a striking visual and musical feast for the senses.
In fact, it’s as close as you might ever come to seeing the line between dream and reality blur and disappear entirely, as fairy-tale fantasies of masked balls and mysterious beauties spill across Venetian bridges, while an utterly unrestrained spirit of adventure and pleasure effuses through the city.
Following a long and historic tradition dating back to the 11th century, this celebration began life as a generous festivity before the abstentious days of Lent. But it soon became known for dance, pleasure and a heady spirit of mayhem. And it has undergone plenty of transformations over the centuries – from rebellious hedonism under the cover of an obscuring mask – to voguish thrills for the city’s modern audience.
But that’s not to say that its modern permutation has lost any of its historic charm.
During Carnival, contemporary celebrants have the opportunity to step into another world – one that is shaped by colourful and ostentatious costumes, elaborately crafted and decorated. Each year, an official theme dictates the mood and style of the Carnival, but it is up to carnival-goers to determine how creative they’ll really be. Perfectly recreated renditions of historical outfits roam the streets in a strange array of confectionary colours, while no costume is complete without its essential finishing touch – a classic carnival mask, expertly decorated by local craftsmen.
Choose from mysterious Columbine half-masks, which cover the wearer’s eyes with a flamboyant pattern of feathers and glittering gem stones, or embrace a new persona entirely. Perhaps yours will be revealed through the lively Harlequin, or a coy and shimmering gilded Dama? Or will you choose the most distinctive and uncanny of all Venetian masks – the Medico della peste, with its instantly recognisable beak-shaped face?
For the lavishly ornamented festival goers, there are celebrations aplenty to choose from. Parties, public shows and lively street entertainment vie with each other to captivate and thrill. Take a stroll around St Mark’s Square to admire the incredible costumes of fellow revellers or simply soak in the atmosphere. As night falls, head to some of the grandest masked balls in the city – but book well in advance to be sure you don’t miss out.
Festooned with colour, decadence, surreal frivolity and an utterly unique spirit of celebration, the Venice Carnival is a truly iconic festival – however you enjoy it, it’s a chance to taste the real soul of this historic city. Of course there is only one fragrance that will live up to the carnival’s hedonistic heights – it has to be Atropa Belladonna of course…