A Midcentury Night’s Dream in Venice

By Teresa Rodriguez

There comes a time in a lady’s life where once-harmless facts become unmentionables. Those include the true color of her hair and the number of years she has graced the planet. Such questions can be deflected with well-maneuvered subject changes. But when the Gazette asked me to write about my 50th birthday blowout in Italy, I took pause: Should I reveal my age in print?

The writer is keeping her gown under wraps, but these glamorous looks give you an idea of what to expect. Photo by Antonia Sautter.

I must admit that disclosing the particulars of my milestone year feels like too much information. But for you, dear reader, I dutifully share the spectacular details of my plans to celebrate at the Carnival of Venice early next year.

The idea began as a whimsical dream. I hosted a birthday lunch for Greg Malin at Kokkari with Joel Goodrich and Clara Shayevich. Clara mentioned her travel schedule for 2019, and I quipped that we should all go to Carnival for my 50th birthday. I’d spent my 25th in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and my 30th dancing in the Sambadrome at Carnival in Brazil. What could be better than spending my big 5-0 in the city where the festival started in 1162 AD? With my dear friends’ unanimous and enthusiastic agreement, I began planning our trip.  

Carnival is an annual party that marks the start of Lent in the Christian calendar. In 2019, Carnival commences February 16 and runs through March 5. On the night of Saturday, March 1, 10 of us will magically transform into 14th-century royalty,  gliding en masque from our opulent palazzo to Il Ballo del Doge, dubbed by Vanity Fair the “most sumptuous, refined and exclusive event in the world.” There are quite a few balls taking place in Venice during Carnival, but we wanted to attend the best. After reading the reviews, there was no question. 

My San Francisco crew — Greg Malin, Joel Goodrich, Sharon and David Seto, Mark Calvano and Jarrod Baumann — is coming along for the fun. I have other guests flying in from Australia, London and Paris. 

Of course, a fairy-tale of this magnitude wouldn’t be complete without a tragic twist. One of my dearest friends, Shirley Scott, who lives in New York City and is joining the festivities, treated me to a weekend in Venice so we could nail down many of the details, including accommodations. We were to visit palazzos that could fit the whole group, since it would be a massive undertaking to find a place suitable for so many guests. We did find one and were lucky enough to stay there. It was called Palazzo Albrizzi, just steps from the Rialto Bridge. The place was perfect. We met the owner, who said he’d confirm our booking. We therefore didn’t visit other venues and left Venice satisfied with our progress. Weeks later, no word from the owner. Finally, I got a cryptic message from him saying that his place wasn’t available. I was heartbroken and worried sick. But thanks to an amazing company called Views on Venice and its agent Rachele Scarpa, we were able to secure a dream palazzo. This one isn’t as spacious, but it is even more opulent — and right on the Grand Canal. I got the fairy-tale ending after all!

Our schedule is packed with delights, including dinner at Harry’s, a trip to Murano, photoshoots in costume and scrumptious meals inside our glamorous lodgings. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and I am so lucky to be spending it with such wonderful friends. 

Il Ballo del Doge

Next year,  the world-famous masked ball will be called “The Magnificent Ephemeral: In Praise of Dream, Folly and Sin.”  Elaborating,  event organizers explain the intriguing theme as a “tribute to the importance of living fully the beauty of a moment, which lasts only one night, but which remains etched in memory forever.”

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