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Between February 15 and March 4, Venice will cast off its mask of winter gloom and put on its most lavish attire for the annual Carnival. Hannah Fielding, whose new novel 'The Echoes of Love' is set in Venice, shares her top tips...

The streets will come alive with tourists, entertainers, stall holders and throngs of revelling people wearing elaborate costumes and fabulous masks. But you needn’t be lost in the crowd with these top tips for navigating the Carnival.

What to see:

February 15: Line the streets to see the opening procession – always a  fantastic show. You should also join in the Nordic Walking Carnival, a treasure hunt through  the streets and squares of Venice. Today's the day to don your mask for the Gran Ballo Delle Maschere, which rounds off the opening night; the most glamorous and typically Venetian event of the Carnival.

February 23: Head to St Mark’s Square to watch the Volo dell’Angelo (Flight of the Angel); a local girl zip-wiring from the Campanile bell tower, scattering flowers and confetti over the crowd.

March 2: Vote in the finale of the daily Best Masked Costume Competition at the Gran Teatro San Marco. This year’s costume theme is ‘La Natura Fantastica’.

March 4: Take in the most glorious procession of decorated boats and gondolas, carrying masked passengers slowly down the Grand Canal. This is the day to enjoy the Mardi Gras and the end of the Carnival with the procession to end all processions. Check out performances by artists and bands at the Arsenale shipyard, son et lumière water-borne pageants and historic re-enactments.

What to wear:

I definitely recommend you join in the fun and wear a costume. If you don’t want to go the whole way, at least wear a mask. The classic Venetian masks include: the Maschera Nobile, a white sculpted mask worn with a black tricorn hat and black silk cloak; the Colombina, the elegant domino mask; the Civelta is a flirty mask; or, for the daring, the Bauta, which covers the entire face with an over-prominent nose, a brow ridge and no mouth!

The best mask maker is Ca’ Macana; buy online in advance here or visit the shop in the Dorsoduro district.

Where to eat and drink:

Any of the stalls and eateries offering the Carnival ‘fritelle’ speciality – delicious doughnuts filled with cream.

Harry’s Bar, Calle Vallaresso, home of the Bellini cocktail and favourite haunt of Hemingway.

Caffè Quadri, St Mark’s Square, a grand café dating back to 1775 in whose sumptuous surrounding have dined the likes of Byron, Wagner and Balzac. Reservations essential!

Where to stay:

On a budget: Ai do Mori pensione, right off St Mark’s Square. The room at the top has a roof terrace.

Immersing in culture: Domus Orsoni Bed and Breakfast, part of the famous Orsoni mosaic foundry; rooms contain beautiful mosaic works.

Looking for luxury: Hotel Ca’ Sagredo, a beautiful five-star luxury hotel overlooking the Grand Canal and in the thick of the Carnival action.

If you can’t get away to Venice, check out Hannah’s new novel The Echoes of Love which is set in Venice during Carnival - it'll give you a real flavour of the city and is out now. To find out more, visit Hannah’s website or buy your copy online here.

Image credit: Thinkstock


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Making the most of the Venice Carnival
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