An excerpt from an article I wrote a few years ago for a Canadian travel magazine…
Reflections of the Venetian Carnival
A regal gentleman sweeps by, the tails of his velvet justaucorps flying out to reveal silk-embroidered breeches. Dark eyes flash at me from beneath the ‘Bauta’ mask and tricorn. His obscured face is irrelevant. At this moment, he’s the most beautiful creature on earth.
Venice’s carnival was at its height in the 18th century – a chance to don a mask, abandon social mores and live decadently. Today, the annual escape into fantasy and libertinage lives on. In the days before Lent, the jade reflections of the canals are set awash with vibrant colour as thousands of costumed revellers promenade along the lanes. Couples choose matching coats and gowns. Children portray their favourite fairytale characters. Anyone with a hint of theatrics cannot resist hiring an outfit or purchasing a mask and joining the peacockery.
The festive tide spills into St Mark’s Square from all sides. Masked figures, ranging from the bewitching to the bizarre, adopt balletic poses for the jostling mass of photographers. Tourists sip Bellini cocktails (Prosecco and fresh peach juice), watch dazzling spectacles on the main stage, admire the detail and effort in the costumes and chortle at the antics of Harlequin and Pantalone in traditional Commedia dell’Arte performances.
At sunset, elaborately costumed couples mount the piers of the Grand Canal against the backdrop of San Giorgio Maggiore as the last of the day’s light melts into gold. When evening sets in and darkness spreads its clandestine blanket over the city, revellers indulge their tastebuds in the restaurants or swan their way to one of the flamboyant (but gaspingly expensive) palazzo balls. I’m content to simply stroll along the sinuous streets, wondering if another dashing Casanova will be waiting around the next corner.