There are gondolas with enchanted passengers return for the evening — there are no cars, but vaporetti. Traditional melodies trail through the waterside streets, through the buildings, and over the rooftop terraces, creating such an impossibly beautiful mix of sights and sounds, and the night has just begun . . .
Masquerade balls, which date back to roughly the 11th century, were extravagant and lavish affairs in which attendees would dress in costume, accompanied with an intriguing mask for disguise. These balls were often associated with the tradition of the annual Venetian Carnival in Italy, and were said to be the highlight of the festival.
Carnival, meaning, ‘farewell to meat’, is a pre-Lent festival that is celebrated throughout all of Italy, with the Carnival itself, being first held in Venice in the 11th century. As for the masks, they were initially seen on the streets of Venice in the 15th century; some were rather simple in design, while others were much more elaborate, constituting incredible works of art.
In the 18th century, however, masquerade balls were no longer, and it wasn’t until the late 1970s/1980s that the fun of such ballswas realized and re-interpreted for modern times. For modern day, masquerade masks may be designed with plastic and fabric, or traditional elements such as clay and papier maché. Not only do they continue to appear at the Venetian Carnival each year, adding an element of fun and history to the event, but throughout the world, at numerous celebrations and occasions such as New Year’s Eve.
Carnival in the 18th century actually began with a series of balls located in St. Mark’s Square, which can be seen on the fresco on the walls of the famous Caffè Quadri. [more about the restaurant just below]
So take your finest jewels and accessories—[perhaps a few feathers]—and your most glamorous gown, and slip on the mask of your choosing—you are no longer yourself, but whomever you wish—if only for just one night . . . and away we go for a most unforgettable evening in romantic Venezia . . .
WHERE TO STAY | WHERE TO EAT | WHAT TO PACK
01 | Villa F
Villa F only recently announced the exciting unveiling of 11 well-appointed suites — marking a true boutique hotel — in May 2011. Situated on the beautiful island of Giudecca, Villa F faces the Grand Canal and San Marco, and is only a few minutes away, by boat, from the heart of Venice.
Originally built as a home for noble Venetian families, in the early 20th century it became a luxury pensione for artists, actors and writers of the era. Located in an historic palazzo from the Renaissance, the hotel has been restructured with modern conveniences.
The grand villa, with its soaring ceilings, has been separated into private residences, some with one bedroom, an ensuite and a lounge, while others are two bedroom ‘residenza’ with ensuite bathrooms, terraces, large living rooms with fireplaces, separate, custom-designed kitchen, and views overlooking the private gardens.
There are 225 guestrooms and suites, decorated in carefully chosen materials quite indigenous to the very heritage of Venice. Guests are welcomed to sumptuous and elegant surroundings, some of which feature antique furnishings, precious fabrics and luxurious marble bathrooms, many of which look out onto the dreamy Venice lagoon; a stay here would be easily considered one of the most elegant of hotel experiences in all of Italy.
03 | Ca Maria Adele
A rather unique and intimate hotel, Ca Maria Adele is located in a tranquil corner of Venice’s Dorsoduro district. Famed for its grand gestures, modern touches and impeccable service, the hotel offers 12 rooms to to accommodate guests.
Beyond the inspiring rooms themselves, the more communal spaces have been decorated in an eclectic manner, with an intriguing mix of antiques and contemporary pieces, selected from around the world. Though quite professionally put together, this boutique hotel seems to welcome guests just as a home might, with every space very much like a new discovery, and yet remarkably comfortable.
And as a fun & unique concept, each room in the Ca Maria Adele has its own title, description, mood, colour, dress code, sound, and so on. Such details beautifully add to the experience of this unique slice of Italy.
Above : Natalia Vodianova in front of St. Mark’s basilica in the Piazza San Marco / St. Mark’s Square, where the Caffè Quadri is located
Words such as “breathtaking” and “magnificent” certainly come to mind when first taking in the sheer grandeur of Gran Caffè & Ristorante Quadri, overlooking St.Mark’s Square. Many claim that this is one of the few places one can visit in the entire world that has attained its original allure and character through the past centuries.
Indeed, when the restaurant first opened its doors in the later 1700’s, it was quite fashionable to drink coffee, but there were already, unfortunately, 208 coffeehouses operating in the city, 34 of which were located in close proximity. However, the establishment was said to have introduced an entire new angle – Turkish coffee – to the city, and thus, Caffè Quadri was an instant success, all thanks to the novelty of the way in which the coffee was prepared. This beautiful spot called locals and visitors alike to visit, and today, holds a strong reputation for the highest standards of excellence.
02 | Birraria la Corte
For an authentic experience and a taste of genuine local flavor, one must stop in at Birraria La Corte, particularly for a taste of their irresistible pizza. Authentic ingredients, completely free from preservatives and such, only add to the strong reputation that they have built.
Originally a barn in the 16th century, the look now amalgamates both rustic sensibilities with a slight flair of elegance – a place of character and a lively, friendly feel — the cozy courtyard is a particularly charming spot. Though apparently a bit away from the tourist-frequented areas, which is often such a nice treat, Birraria la Corte is worth every bit of the extra trip.
03 | Antico Martini
At Antico Martini, there is the belief that great quality fresh food can be a “voyage of the senses“, and with 300 years of history backing this lovely and welcoming establishment, there are no doubts. Certainly an elegant choice and considered to be one of the most romantic restaurants in the entire city, apparently, not only do they create season after season of amazing menu items, but they are also recommended for those who wish to eat gluten-free.
There are three dining rooms, on the terrace or in the courtyard – though in particular, the Antico Martini terrace has a most spectacular view overlooking the theatre square and provides a wonderful ambience for lunches, dinners or perhaps after-theatre drinks. The Antico Martini is considered one of the premier dining experiences in Italy.
WHAT TO PACK
When attending a masquerade ball, whether one chooses a more traditional or modern attire, one thing is for certain — glamour and opulence is key to achieving your look for the evening. And whether you are heading to Venice for this New Year’s Eve or perhaps would like to plan on a trip one day, we suggest glittering nails and shimmering accessories, elegant lines for an evening of flirtatious fun . . .