Party time in Venice! – Frederic & Annick’s Favourite of the Year. World Meanderings (n°41)
By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Once again the carnival has turned Venice into a whirling of excitement during eleven joyful days, and once again thousands of tourists, Italians and foreigners alike, have invaded its piazze (squares), calle (small streets) and canals to celebrate winter’s funerals. Many of them have been preparing this annual event for weeks, even for months, carefully creating their masks and costumes in order to be ready to proudly parade on St. Marks’s Square. The luckiest ones even had a precious invitation to one of the private balls and dinners that take place everyday during this festive period.
The Venice carnival dates back to the Midle Ages and has been a vivid tradition for centuries. For a short period of time people from all social classes were able to mix and have fun together hidden behind their masks. Rich people were not allowed to wear their jewels in the streets during the carnival and melt into the jubilant crowd.
Everyone could speak freely and even criticize the Doges (the rulers of the Venetian Republic) without fearing any punishment. The tradition was lost for ages after the invasion of Venetia by Napoleon’s army. It was a sad period during which the carnival was banned and it was not until 1979 that the carnival rose from the ashes.
Although we’ve seen it many time on TV, being there is a complete new experience. Even if the streets and St. Mark’s Square are overcrowded, people never lose patience or become aggressive. They look for the figures in costume that strike the pose in front of all these tourists waving their smart-phones to take pictures. Believe me, they are a lot nicer than the Venetians pigeons that beg for food all day long!
The more enthusiastic tourists throng in front of the windows of the famous Florian Café where costumed people have an espresso or a caffe latte in this beautiful 18th century décor, having their “15 minutes of fame” as would have said Andy Warhol!
One of the most exclusive and elegant balls taking place in Venice during the carnival, certainly is the Ballo del Doge. It is said to be the most sumptuous, famous and sought after social event in the world. This unique event was created 24 years ago by a Venetian lady, Antonia Sautter. After working several years for the fashion industry worldwide, she came back to her native town to create luxury events. The Ballo del Doge certainly is her masterpiece. It is set in a beautiful palace, the Palzzo Pisani Moretta, right on the Grand Canal. Beautifully dressed in tailor made costumes-many are designed by Ms Sautter’s work-shop- the guests arrive to the palace aboard a gondola or a taxi-boat. They have paid thousands of pounds to be part of this unique party and celebrities as well as rich unknown persons carefully hidden behind their masks expect to be surprised and magically entertained. They never are disappointed! After a candle lit gastronomic dinner a big show begins and later the guests dance till dawn. What a night! http://www.antoniasautter.it/il-ballo-del-doge/
Even if you don’t go to Venice during the carnival period you will feel the magic of this amazing city. It might not seem to be an inventive thing to do, but a city-break in Venice will always be a good idea. The best way to visit it is to sail on its canals. Whether on a gondola that are unfortunately pretty expensive (80 Euros for 30 min and 40 more for every extra 15 min) or aboard a vaporetto, you will truly feel the beating heart of the city. The vaporettos are like bus-boats and you can get a touristic ticket for 1, 2, 3 or seven days and travel as much as you like on the canals and on the Venice Lagoon and its islands, including Murano and Burano. Take the N°1 line of the ACTV vaporetto and you will go up and down the Grand Canal among all the other boats of Venice (gondolas, police’s boats, fire brigade’s boats, boats carrying all kinds of goods and even garbage-boat!) while admiring all the beautiful palaces built along this winding canal. http://actv.avmspa.it/en
The 5*-Hilton Molino Stucky is a very special place in Venice. The buildings used to be flourmills built by a Venetian entrepreneur, Giovanni Stucky in late 19th century. It was and still is considered as one of the most beautiful flourmills in Europe. It was turned into a luxury hotel 10 years ago and even if it’s not a palazzo it surely has a Venetian soul. It’s located on the Giudecca Island and a free shuttle boat service takes the hotel guests to St. Mark’s Square in a few minutes. The hotel is famous in all Venice for its rooftop swimming pool and bar from where you get a unique view onto the Giudecca Canal and the Venice skyline. It simply is gorgeous. The two restaurants, the wine bar Bacaromi and the gastronomic restaurant Aromi, serve a tasty Venetian cuisine and both have an outside terrace. In summertime they are the perfect place for a romantic dinner. The rooms are big with an elegant Venetian touch and if you choose an Executive room you will have access to the Executive Lounge and have complimentary drinks and snacks all day long. There even is a Nutella Bar, the Nutella Piazzetta, where a chef makes sinful desserts for all gourmets! And if by chance one day you feel a bit tired, let be pampered at Eforea, the hotel’s wellness and fitness centre.
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & ©Annick Dournes