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

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
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
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home