The Hedonist: Behind the mask in Venice

What to see and where to be seen

After checking in to the gilded Hotel Concordia (00 39 041 520 6866; hotelconcordia.com), I head up to my room to drop my bags. As I walk through the door, I feel as if I've time-warped back to the 18th century. A glance out the window, which overlooks St Mark's Square, reveals a busy throng, dressed in costumes and masks.

After getting my bearings – the hotel is a lavish concoction of 18th-century decor, authentic furnishings and beautiful Venetian glass – I decide to hit the town.

I dash through labyrinthine streets before rocking up at Harry's Bar (00 39 041 528 5 777; harrysbarvenezia.com). Founded in the 1930s, this snug little corner maintains its original decor. Its list of famous patrons includes Ernest Hemingway, who made it one of his haunts in 1949. After sampling a bellini (prosecco and peach juice), I return to exploring the streets.

Just off St Mark's Square, I drop into Loro Piana (00 39 041 277 0695; loropiana.com) and peruse the clothes with an eye on a gorgeous suede coat with cashmere sleeves. I also stop in Murano Vitrum (00 39 041 522 5067; murano vitrum.com) and marvel at beautifully crafted glass vases, before eventually succumbing to a Venetian glass fountain pen.

Shopping, I find, is thirsty work. Happily, I stumble upon Caffe Centrale (00 39 041 887 6642; www.caffecentralevenezia.com), a stylish bar overlooking a pretty side canals. I bag a table by the window and sit, passion-fruit daiquiri in hand, to watch life unfold. Then, after a mouthwatering light bite of prosciutto crostini, I decide to explore more of the backstreets. I take a meandering route towards the Rialto Bridge – a chance to absorb the city's culture and beauty.

I discover a quaint little wine bar: Enoteca Al Volto (00 39 041 522 8945; alvoltoenoteca.it), which has more than 1,000 bottles to choose from. I make a modest attempt at some of the vintages on offer, then wander out to the Rialto where gondolas (and their loved-up occupants) float down the Grand Canal.

Joyfully, I discover that it's the start of happy hour at Bacaro Jazz (00 39 041 528 5249; bacarojazz.com), so I manage to splash my way through, ahem, several cocktails, including a very strong Long Island iced tea.

I make friends with a group of American tourists; we opt to stay for dinner at Bacaro Jazz. (My filet mignon with cognac and mushrooms is divine.) Then, somehow, I agree to accompany my new friends to the Carnival festivities. After a quick stop to purchase a semi-tacky mask, we head to St Mark's for the Carnival Grand Ball. We party through the night, mingling with locals and tourists in the carnival spirit. The masks, I feel, add a further dose of heady glamour.

Then again, after a late start to the morning, my head requires refreshment of a different variety and the outdoor seats at Caffe Florian (00 39 041 520 5641; caffeflorian.com) are the perfect place to restore my equilibrium. Biscotti and a rich espresso bring me back to life and soon I'm good to go.

Later, I spend a few hours mulling over the endless carnival shops which, even in the light of the morning after, are as entrancing as the night before. I splurge more cash on another glittering mask (last night's one having got lost somewhere en route to the hotel). Suddenly, I'm once again transported back to 18th-century Venice, joining the carnival for more magic.

This year's Venice Carnival runs from 26 January to 12 February (carnevale.venezia.it)

A Hedonist's Guide to ... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com

News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reception Manager

    £18750 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Hotel in Chadderton is a popular ch...

    Guru Careers: Marketing and Communications Manager

    £Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing and Co...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence