We had been to Venice during the carnival once before and knew we’d love it. However, this was going to be the first time that we’d attend one of the famous mask balls.
We had started our research half a year ahead of time. It turned out that many of the most famous mask balls are invitation-only. The next best (public) mask balls cost €700 or more per person. Even if you were willing to splash out big, it is still not a given that you’ll end up on the guest list, as it’s all very competitive.
We finally ended up choosing the ball at the famous five-star Baglioni hotel just a few yards off St. Mark’s Square for €290 per person via VeniceEvents. Initially we had had best intentions to do the proper thing and spend another €500 to €1,200 per person for the costume, make-up, hair, etc., but we were both busy in our day jobs at the time and simply didn’t find the time to do so.
We arrived on time and were greeted by the friendly hotel staff and shown to the reception room where it was time to have our photos taken for the memories, engage in some small-talk, and try some of the lovely nibbles and prosecco. An hour later we were all asked to make our way to the Marco Polo Ballroom upstairs, with its large-scale 18th Century frescos. We were led to our table and introduced ourselves to the other guests that were already seated. A Cuban actress, her retired Texan millionaire boyfriend, and a lovely couple from New York City. She was a primary school teacher. He had just completed a five-year stint with the marines and was currently re-training as an engineer.
Quite to our embarrassment we seemed literally the only couple who had not done the decent thing and dressed up properly. My costume consisted of one of my standard office suits, a mask we had bought ten years ago, a top hat, and a black Dracula cape. Ms B wore one of her fancier dresses, a mask, and a red cape. Luckily no one gave us any disapproving looks as far as we could tell, and we were certainly going to enjoy this evening.
The food from award-winning in-house Canova restaurant was pleasant, even though nothing too remarkable. Despite the large group of people and the relatively small number of waiting staff, service was quick and friendly.
Two hours later everyone had finished their meal and sipped their espressos. A small group of professional dancers performed a 15-minute routine in front of us, then everyone was invited to the dance floor. There was a great mix between traditional ballroom dancing and group dance and little games the staff had prepared for us. The time just flew by and none of us knew how it had suddenly turned 1:30am in the morning.
We thanked the staff, said goodbye to the other two couples, picked up our coats from the cloakroom and walked the fifteen minutes back to our hotel, Bisanzio, on the other side of St. Mark’s Square. We’ll be back at the Baglioni again next year. 5 out of 5 in our book.
For some more restaurant reviews, feel welcome to have a look at our posts about the Robot Restaurant, Tokyo, Gruvelageret near the North Pole, Lafleur, Frankfurt, and The Porch House, Stow-on-the-Wold.