How To Do Venice Carnival In Haute Style

Carnival at Baglioni Luna
Carnival at Baglioni Hotel Luna

In the “Floating City” of Venice, Italy, every day is a magical experience. But no time of year is more renowned than Carnival, when its small population doubles in size, opulent masks are rife, and the city seems to step back in time each February. Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter, on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It’s a bucket list trip for many to be sure.

There are parties every night throughout the city—big, elaborate affairs where every attendee looks like an extra in Eyes Wide Shut. We call this “making the rounds.” For a truly authentic Carnival experience, we headed to Baglioni Hotel Luna, one of the most well-respected, timeless and luxe hotels in the city, to join in the annual revelry and attend our first masquerade.

The hotel hosted a slew of Carnival-specific soirees, including “Casanova in Love,” a ball honoring one of the most famous Venetians, perpetual ladies man Casanova. “Casanova” himself led costumed guests through games of love and seduction in the hotel’s grandiose Marco Polo Ballroom, before a four-course Venetian feast prepared by Baglioni Hotel Luna Executive Chef Alberto Rossetti was served. Guests then danced the nighta way beneath original 18th century frescoes. The second gala—The Great Baglioni Party—enjoyed a cocktail hour in full costume before being taught the minuetto, among other classic dances, and were regaled by Venetian Carnival artists. The DJ who spun eclectic tunes into the wee hours was anything but traditionally Venetian, but there’s nothing quite like seeing guests in full period doing the Electric Slide! Last but not least, the hotel hosted its “Euphoria Masquerade Party,” which included all the trappings of a traditional Venetian Carnival, complete with a cocktail reception, a decadent four-course Venetian dinner prepared by Chef Rossetti in the frescoed Marco Polo ballroom, and hilarious entertainment with sketches and dance shows in the grand traditions of Commedia dell’Arte.


Exterior terrace at the Baglioni Luna
Exterior terrace at the Baglioni Hotel Luna

Please believe us when we say we could not have loved Baglioni Hotel Luna more. This hotel is next level luxury, but it’s so much more. Each of the dedicated staff members truly loved the property, and wanted to celebrate its history. In terms of convenience, its location couldn’t get much better: It is situated at the entrance to Piazza San Marco, the epicenter of Venetian history. In 1187, the Knights Templar were given buildings and land in Venice by the Archbishop of Ravenna. One of these properties was the present-day location of Hotel Baglioni Luna. Its completely frescoed Marco Polo Salon depicts its past by featuring allegorical scenes depicting earthly pleasures, executed by master pupils of Tiepolo, the foremost artist of the 18th century in Venice (the artist later went on toe decorate the Royal Palace in Madrid as well as the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg).  As such, the hotel is home to exquisite art, from French paintings from the 18th century to Murano glass and Limoges porcelain to find cabinetmaking from both the 17th and 18th centuries.  It’s exquisite.


San Giorgio Suite
San Giorgio Suite

All of the rooms at Baglioni Hotel Luna have a vintage, Venetian feel, though all, of course, have modern amenities. Our pick for the creme de la creme of suites would be the San Giorgio Terrace Suite. Here, you’ll find epic views of the lagoon and San Giorgio Island, which you can view from your private outdoor terrace. This suite includes a comfortable dining and living area, one elegant master bedroom and a second bedroom as well as two Carrara and Grey Stone marble bathrooms. The concept of the suite is enhanced by handmade craftsmanship and beautiful detailing, with Venetian and French precious fabrics, wood panelling, Murano glass lamps, handmade Versailles parquet and original Fortuny lamps by Venetia Studium. Antique furniture pieces are personally selected from the private collection of Commendatore Roberto Polito, President and Founder of Baglioni Hotels. Guests of this particular suite will also receive complimentary round-trip airport transfers by private water taxi (which we personally recommend, as the hotel has its own private water taxi dock); butler service; a private cooking class; private cocktail-making class where you’ll learn how to make traditional Venetian apertivos like an Aperol Spritz or a Bellini; a gondola ride; a huge, gourmet daily buffet breakfast in the Marco Polo ballroom; complimentary mini bar; unpacking and packing services; pressing of garments; welcome amenities; a welcome gift; Ortigia bath toiletries; and an Etro bathrobe. Although we suspect you’ll be too busy exploring and getting lost in the cities maze of alleyways and canals, should you decide to stay in the room, you’ll find stellar—and complimentary—entertainment available.


Canova restaurant
Canova restaurant

Make sure to start of your culinary Venetian journey in the Baglioni bar, where an experienced mix master will share the history of Venetian drinks and explain that any true Venetian begins serious sipping at 11 am. Then, try a heady Aperol or Campari Spritz before moving on to dinner in the sophisticated and supremely elegant Canova Restaurant. The hotel’s answer to all things gourmet truly deserves its Fogher d’Oro and Gambero Rosso awards for culinary excellent. The restaurant has an 18th century French vibe (so costumed folks will NOT feel out of place), where Executive Chef Alberto Rossetti and resident chef Daniele Zennaro whip up confections using Venice’s freshest fish in traditional ways. Expect to find dishes like scallops in a curry crust, egg yolk taglioni with black Tuscan kale and Mazara shrimp, and the Italian dessert of Bendolce.

Breakfast is also an elaborate affair thanks to both its fare and location—you’ll be served a  plethora of fresh meat, cheese, fruits and freshly-made breads all served with pitch-perfect Venetian espresso underneath the Tiepolo frescoes and vintage paintings from 19th century Venetian history, depicting significant events in the live of the Venetian nobility.

The hotel is also offering something unique with its Codega Dinner Experience. A codega is one of the most fascinating figures of the ancient Venice, a guide for those who wanted to wander during the night in the intricate maze of narrow streets and squares of the town. The hotel is now offering gets the opportunity to live like a local and absorb the beauty of Venice, by combining a stay in the Giorgione Terrace Suite and a one-hour tour by lamplight with a codega, followed by a three-course dinner in Canova.


A glass sculpture on Murano
A glass sculpture on Murano

In addition to tours by a codega, the hotels experienced team of concierges is able to offer experiences instantly, at your request. Make sure not to miss a factory tour of the nearby Murano island, the home of Murano glass, or a trip to the colorful, candy-colored island of Burano, where you can dine at legendary Venetian spots like Trattoria al Gatto Nero, which is known for its fresh fish and impossible-to-get reservations. But here’s the thing: thanks to the folks at Hotel Baglioni Luna, the impossible, as you’ll find, surprisingly always becomes possible.