I had only set one foot out the door, and I was bombarded by photographers, all, professionals, amateurs, people of hobby, and, tourists. The lights flashed, and I stood, and I posed. It was exciting. I felt like a celebrity. I walked right through the city, with head held high; I made my way to the grand Piazza San Marco. I had heard it was the heart and soul of the festivity. The grounds at and, surrounding the Piazza was adorned with colourful confetti. I twirled around, in my beautiful green gown. It flowed as I glided across. I was in high spirits. I had wanted this for such a long time, and here I was, finally.
The bells on my gold and cream mask tinkled along as I moved around. The mask I had chosen was quite exquisite. No one knew who I was, and that thrilled me. There were lots of people around. They were also dressed in their finest. Some wore the most excellent gown made of velvet and adorned with jewels. They all pranced around the Piazza, in their extravagant outfits. Even if they weren’t dressed so gaudy, every face was hidden behind a mask.
The location itself was magnificent. On one side, was the grand St Marco’s Basilica, the beautiful cathedral with its domes and towers and gold assortments, standing proudly over the square. The Doge’s palace dominated the other side. The Doges, who ruled the Venetian empire, had built no ordinary building. It screamed of the power and wealth they held. I decided then, that the palace must be visited. Who knew what wonders were hidden inside?
A crowd had gathered at the piazza, and it was moving towards the winding alleys and lanes within the city. I followed, with Sunny right behind my heels. He was allowing me this space and extra attention that I was getting. He was also clever not to wander too far from me, always making sure I was close by. We soon found ourselves hemmed in by the buildings on both sides. Feeling a little bit claustrophobic, I grabbed Sunny’s hand. He gave it a gentle squeeze.
Eventually the crowd slowed. They waited to enter a grand building. There was also a crowd of people gathered by the windows; everyone was trying to get a glimpse of whatever was going on. Whatever it was, I definitely wanted to see it. With one hand, I held tightly onto Sunny and pushed myself through the crowd. We reached the tall windows and peered in. It was a sight to behold. A ballroom. The room had grand marble pillars and golden walls. Large crystal chandeliers were hanging from the ceiling.
It was like being transported in time, to the 1200s when this was such a lively and merry festival. The women and the men looked regal. They had powdered wigs on, some you could see had faces painted white. They all wore different types of masks.
I recognised the Bauta, the mask made famous by Casanova. There were lots of Colombinas as well; the most well known, half a mask, which only covers the eyes. Sunny pointed to a masked man, his mask had a really long hollow beak and round eyes “That one there, I quite like that, it’s kooky” he said. I looked at it, and informed him a bit smugly, “That, husband, is a Plague Doctor mask; they kept herbs on the beak during the plague. It got rid of the horrible stench.” Sunny looked impressed. He knew I was in my ‘zone’, amidst the surroundings that I loved and felt so passionately about. We continued to peer through the windows at the majestic party gathered inside, and then, something caught my eye.
There were hundreds of people with the most extravagant masks and costumes in the room, yet there was this one that held me mesmerised. A woman, with a beautiful maroon velvet frock, wore a simple mask that had a black face. Now, that wasn’t what enthralled me. What enthralled me was that there was no band or elastic or ribbon to hold the mask in place. As I continued to stare, it was evident that the only way the mask was in place was by a grip which was held on to by the mouth.
I continued to stare, until finally someone approached her and she took of the mask. How amusing, I thought to myself, why would someone go through the effort to hold a mask in place by her mouth? There was no way a conversation could have been made. Unless you spoke in sign language, but with all the extra accessories that was held, the fan, the purse, it would be quite a challenge to converse even in sign. And to always remember to keep that grip in your mouth. I shook my head; feeling a bit bemused, and made a mental note of this intriguing mask.
The crowd of people around us had seemed to increase, and I motioned for Sunny to move away. I still wanted to wander through the city in my exquisite Carnevale outfit though, and so we carried on wandering through the small alleys and into the quaint bars we came across.
Prosecco flowed like water in Venice. We drank to our fulfillment. Sunny even threw me the famous quote, be it a little bit altered, “I think I have had enough,” I said. “Don’t be silly,” he countered, with a fake Italian accent “you can never have enough of Prosecco.” We laughed. We turned a few heads. We threw them a magnificent smile and then carried on to the next bar.
The walk between each alleyway was also quite exciting; each alley seemed to have a concert of its own. We danced on the streets to the music that was, very honestly , not blasting at all, but played quite solemnly, yet vibrantly, that it made you want to dance. And so, I seemed to have had created a dance floor. Before we left, the alley was filled with men, women and children all moving to the sound of the music.
The next day, we visited the Doge’s palace. The palace was as magnificent on the inside as it was from the outside. I wish I could have visited the palace in my extravagant costume, but it was forbidden. No masks were allowed inside the palace. The history and the preservation of the palace were very impressive. After walking around and gaping at all the wondrous arts and sculpture for almost 2 hours, we were quite worn out. We decided to head to a cafe. After last night, neither one of us were keen on another alcoholic drink.
We had read not to wander into cafes in the tourist areas, people were known to have been charged as much as 100 Euros, just for sitting in and having a coffee. So we walked down the alleys again, looking for a decent place. We came across the most glorious pastry shop. We went in and took our seats. I ordered drinking chocolate, and Sunny ordered a Cappuccino. The chocolate was literally, just chocolate. It was rich, thick, creamy, melted chocolate. It was the most glorious hot chocolate I had ever had.
We sat and drank quietly, enjoying these luxurious hot drinks. Tonight was going to be another marvel for us, dressed again in our extravagant outfits and masks. This time, I had even purchased some confetti, from the merchants of Venice.
The sun began to set; we headed back to the hotel to get changed. Walking towards the Piazza was again a thrill in itself. The evening was cool and breezy. We reached the Piazza, and came upon lots of vividly, dressed up men and women who filled a temporary stage that had been set up. They had come from all over the world. They were partaking in the Festival’s Finest Competition, strutting around in their outfits on stage.
After the event was over, there was an explosion of confetti. I had my own confetti, I remembered. I threw it across the sky and swayed, in the colourful shower that fell back. We walked along the canals, spraying confetti at every festive merry maker we passed. There were boats in the canals, all decorated excessively. Some had masquerades and balls of their own. We sat by the canal, on the edge, with our feet dangling. An effortless push and we would be in the waters, yet we sat, enjoying the splendid sights and the sounds.
This was one amazing trip we had made together. “How incredible is this,” I said to Sunny, as a colourful shower of confetti poured over us.