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;, 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; 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; 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 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;, 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;, 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;, 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; 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 (

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

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas