The Venice Carnival began in 1162 in celebration of the Venice Republic’s victory over its enemy: the Patriarch or Aquileia. The people of Venice gathered in Saint Mark’s Square to dance and celebrate their victory. 202tal1 is going to be a very different carnival however – Covid has obviously put paid to the event, but it does look as though there will be a digital version, being screened at 5pm over two weekends in February. Full details are on the official website. However, we have been incredibly fortunate to experience the real deal. Even though, when we booked our stay in Venice, we still hadn’t clocked it was Carnevale. (Therefore demonstrating that not all hotels hike up their prices, as we stayed in a 13th century palace, right in the centre, for a very reasonable price).

Apart from Easter in Seville – Santa Semana – we’ve not witnessed a spectacle quite as amazing as the Venice Carnival. We arrived in Venice on a cold, misty February morning, having booked two nights in Venice. Not even considering what time of year it was. We stepped off the water taxi, not really taking in what was happening around us, but something caught our eyes…

Mingled in with the tourists and Venetian residents rushing around, doing normal things, were figures like the one above. Some posing elegantly, clearly used to being a part of this spectacle. Some were strolling along in pairs, groups. Some had even been doing their shopping – I’ll never forget the sight of a Casanova type courtesan, carrying his evening meal supplies in a Conad supermarket shopping bag. And then it dawned on us – it was February. Carnival time!

As we headed away from the Grand Canal and further into the maze of streets and alleyways and bridges, more of these astonishingly beautiful beings appeared. We were utterly mesmerised. Initially, it felt a bit intrusive taking photos, but we quickly realised that the whole point of the promenading was to be seen and photographed, so a simple “Posso?” generally resulted in a very striking pose…

And, just to debunk the myth that Venice is prohibitively expensive, espeially over the Carnival, we also enjoyed an afternoon of free theatre and opera in St Mark’s Square. An absolutely exhilerating experience, and definitely one we won’t forget…