The World's Best Costume Parties
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What it is: Una festa grande just before the 40-day repentance period of Lent. But this ain't no Girls Gone Wild: Venetians do it up in a rather sophisticated, 18th-century style. More Prosecco, per favore.
Party time: The ten days before Lent; 2007's celebration starts on Saturday, February 10, and goes to Tuesday, February 20.
The getup: Elaborate costumes re-created in excruciating period detail. And we do mean excruciating—the men in their powdered wigs, tights, and velvet pantaloons, and the women in layers of brocade, lace, corsets, bustles, and petticoats can't possibly be comfortable. The masks, often embellished with bulky horns, long noses, and towering sprays of feathers, are major productions in themselves. But such is the price of fabulousness.
Where it's at: The palazzos, grand hotels, and canals around Piazza San Marco.
What goes down: People-watching is free, but almost nothing else is. Exclusive masquerade balls are held every night in some of Venice's most spectacular old buildings, and they might make bottle service at a snooty NYC nightclub seem cheap and easy. The most famous, the Ballo del Doge at the 1460-built, Gothic-style Palazzo Pisani Moretta, will set you back somewhere around $700 for entry, and you'd better look straordinario. On the final evening of Carnival, the festivities culminate with fireworks over the Grand Canal (and enough booze to ensure a 40-day hangover).
Venice Carnival history and information: www.carnivalofvenice.com
Ballo del Doge: www.ballodeldoge.com