Finally….the Bucket List Trip to Carnivale in Venice

As promised, a more detailed post on my visit to Venice for Carnivale. As I compile these photos, the memories of this once in a lifetime opportunity come flooding back, and I am so pleased to have finally checked it off the list.

Photo Chris Bickford

I think it is my love of costumes, fashion, and particularly the world of the courtesan, and the mystery and intrigue that surrounded them that inspired my visit. Many of the romantic images I have of this time come from a favorite film, Dangerous Beauty (starring Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell.)

Originally the Doge’s Ball was an opportunity for the common Venetians to mix with the aristocracy, with the hope, of course, of romance and a fairytale ending. My fairytale started with my dress designs and two wonderful costume makers. I provided sketches and materials to New York based Maria Marzilli and Verona based Domenico Mendiola. Both Italians, with that spirit of theatricality in their DNA.  I sent them basically the same sketch but different fabrics and trims that I purchased had in NYC. Their different interpretations, and individual style,  and the love of their metier resulted in two very  romantic 18th century style gowns ( I have included their respective contact information for those of you interested in costume. Maria also does couture bridal gowns and Domenico  does event design as well. )

My  fitting with Maria Marzilli  in NYC : find her on Twitter @marzklassiks   Tel. +1 732 978 0669 

The fitting of the gown in Verona with Domenico Mendiola :  

Our very generous hosts were the Marchese and Marchesa Fumanelli – of the famous, wine family, based in Verona since 1470. As always when it comes to my travel, the schedule was relentless:


Thursday Night
Our hosts held a pre-ball dinner at their splendid villa in Verona.
I wore the not so demure, red dress, made by Domenico. I called Simon the Blue Boy 60 years later…he just rolled his eyes.

Friday Night
The  Hotel Metropole in Venice was the venue for a Grand Budapest Hotel film themed extravaganza. As the movie was set in 1932, I opted for a 30s inspired navy blue dress (purchased in Charleston) and accessorized with long gloves, and a blonde wig – the men wore white tie and tails. Thought that looked better then being the bell boy – SP agreed!

Trying on and putting together my look for The Grand Budapest Hotel

At dinner with our divine host Armando Fumanelli

Saturday Day
When in Venice, once must promenade, and in this case we became the star attraction for the many tourists in St Mark’s Square. Nervous of rain, I decided to forego another ball gown and instead dressed in male, military style. We lunched at a famous restaurant on the square, and I think spent more time having photos taken than we did eating! 


Photo Chris Bickford

Photo Chris Bickford


Saturday Night
Finally it was show time! I wore the the bronze and gold dress made by Maria. The Doge’s Ball did not disappoint – unbelievable costumes, a stage show to rival Circ du Soleil, and a feast for the eyes wherever you looked. Although it is rare that I stay up to 4:00 AM, Italy just runs on a different schedule ( a euphemism for always running late ) than this American woman!

Our group having dinner before leaving for the Doge’s Ball.


The “castrato” who was a tenor singing in a falsetto


The extravaganza of the Ballo dei Doges



We were joined at all these events by a marvelous selection of international guests – Spanish, Canadian, American, and of course local Italians, who gave us a wonderful insight into the local ways and culture.


Simon and Me at 3:00 AM !!!!

Our marvelous Italian impresario Domenico who designed the event, played a part in the event, and made my red costume. Does he not fit the part???

Not for the faint hearted, this was 3 days of serious revelry, but sometimes (to quote my favorite Tim McGraw) you just have to “live like you were dying!”

Arrivederci, and hope you like the short video!

44 thoughts on “Finally….the Bucket List Trip to Carnivale in Venice

  1. Carnivale is on my big bucket list too. I’ve always wanted to photograph it. What an adventure you had! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dear Carolyne,
    The gold gown is breathtaking. I bow down to you and Maria Marzilli.- Virginia Billeaud Anderson

  3. Carolyne
    This is too magnificent for words. A true feast.
    Thank you fore sharing your wonderful memories of what looks like a spectacular visit..

  4. Dear Carolyne,

    How splendid, I loved the blonde wig on you.
    It looked as though you had gone back in time. What a thrill to see your adventure.
    What’s next on the agenda?

    Marie 🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭🎭

  5. This is right of a fairytale it must of been marvelous…. How fabulous for you!

  6. Oh my goodness Carolyne, those pictures belong in an elaborate fairy tale book! Did you remember to leave a glass slipper somewhere? Your costumes are wonderfully opulent and absolutely fabulous!

  7. To quote those two party animals, Edina and Patsy, “Absolutely fabulous!”
    You all looked divine.

  8. I was there with a camera several years ago and can certainly attest to the mind blowing extravagance and beauty of carnevale. Ten days of snapping pix of costumers who so generously posed for the tourists and professional photographers. Carolyne you were stunning. Bellissima !

    • Thank you Cindy, and glad to hear you were able to witness the spectacle yourself, cr

  9. Impressive! You led the pack in looking fantastic. I’m sure this was a wonderful experience. Now, you need to go to the Vienna Opera Ball and wear a version of the gown worn by Empress Elizabeth of Austria as seen in her portrait painted but Franz Xavier Winterhalter. You’d look divine! This event is on my bucket list.

    • Peggy it is on my bucket list as well and I have always love that painting of the beautiful Sisi! cr

  10. Swoon worthy,Carolyne,a true “feast for the eyes”. Fairytales really do come true! YOU looked amazing in the one of a kind couture gowns and costumes.
    We had deemed Venice surely as one of the most vividly picturesque and romantic places we have visited. YOU and Simon actually lived it gloriously.
    Magnifico! Molte grazie!

  11. You all look perfectly splendid, and Simon looks so at home and debonair in white tie. Love the Farinelli re-enactment. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’d enjoy it very much. Here is the scene you saw:

    Would love to see you in a portrait in the golden gown, done in the 18th century style. Annie Liebovitz is really good at that sort of thing.

    • Thank you Cynthia….perhaps I should add a Leibovitz sitting to the bucket list! cr

  12. Dear Carolyne,
    Absolutely Stunning! I would love to have this beautiful experience someday. Thank you for sharing such a gorgeous affair.


    • Thank you Marilyn, I’m glad you enjoyed it….and I do hope you make it over there one year, cr

  13. No words, beyond beautiful and charmed! Another world. I am so happy for you.

  14. Beautiful pics and video! You are absolutely stunning…we have to partake in all that surrounds, as life is fleeting! You truly are a motivation for accomplishing all that we dream!

    • Thank you Meredith, and you are indeed right life is fleeting…..somedays easier to remind oneself than others, but definitely one of my mottos to live by, cr

  15. Carolyne – Wonderful pictures of your trip — beautiful portrait on the bridge. I’m pleased someone did an evening theme of “the Grand Budapest Hotel” — I can’t find people that have seen that eccentric, amusing film with such extraordinary characters — like Tilda Swinton and all the others. Oh well…… I enjoyed it tremendously. And obviously you did too. Quelle aventure!! best jav

    WHAT A TREAT…………….
    BRAVA BRAVA ENCORE……..are there no more photos!???!!!!!

    • Thank you….there are plenty more photos but I didn’t want to put all my readers through the equivalent of a never ending slide show! cr

  17. How stunning you all looked and it did look like a “once in a lifetime” dream come true. So happy you were able to cross this off your bucket list!!!!

  18. You are just magnificent. More intricate than many costumes from movies. Glad you had such fun – I would not have made it to 4 am.
    P.S. Dangerous Beauty is the most beautiful movie that no ones ever seen. Honestly, you are the first person I’ve ever heard speak of it. Many wonderful costumes……. and then of course many scenes with no costumes at all. Ha.

    • So pleased to have found a mutual fan….I agree, the most beautiful movie, missed by nearly everyone! Re the 4am finish, I would say the same thing, but once there, the moment takes over, and I’m confident you would make it through too! cr

  19. Oh my stars Carolyne, Incredible. What an adventure. I was transported through these photos and video. What an experience. Good for you and Simon. How wonderful to truly “live like you were dying.” I too love Tim McGraw.

    So happy that you fulfilled a dream.
    Much Love,

    • Thank you…glad you’re a fan too – that is the song I play whenever I’m feeling down! cr

  20. What a great trip! As usual, you just blow me away! I adore your dresses…..

  21. What fun! Thank you for sharing your incredible trip. Your gowns were beautiful as were you in them .It is so nice that you were able to live out a fantacy.

  22. Thank you for taking us along on this marvelous adventure. Although I have been to Venice many times, never at Carnevale time. You are SUCH an inspiration with your exquisite taste and lovely face and figure. And Simon is so adorable !! Multo grazie !

  23. How in the world did you manage to pack those beautiful dresses and head pieces? Did you ship them? Absolutely stunning. I am so happy for you.

    • Thank you Adrian….it was just the one made by Maria that I needed to transport, and I did so in a hard shell suitcase, with no problems! cr

  24. I am MAD for all of your “looks” and can’t imagine the luggage, the costume changes, the MU + wigs, and the extensive preparations. You actualized a dream that I too, have always had to attend the grand balls at Carnivale. Your research, love of fabrics and styled details certainly paid off. Loved seeing you having the time of your life- it showed clearly in every shot! I’ll be in Charleston to visit Helen in late summer and hope we’ll all catch up. Thanks again for sharing your travels.

  25. Dear Carolyne,

    What a wonderful post. You are an eighteenth century goddess!!!!!! I felt like I was seeing scenes from a Fellini movie. Thank you for sharing your visit into the eighteenth century, thats my 18th century fix for the month.

    Love Kevin and N

    • Glad you enjoyed it Kevin, and you are right, much of it does look Felliniesque! cr

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