In Italy, the month of February is dedicated to celebrating Carnival. Many towns in Tuscany host traditional processions of allegorical floats, and the streets are fitted out in a festive atmosphere. The Carnival of Viareggio is the most famous carnival in Tuscany, with five major processions during February, when the inhabitants and visitors dress up in masks and costumes, especially designed for the event, and follow the enormous floats along the main street of Viareggio, accompanied by music and dance.
History of the Carnival of Viareggio
The Carnival of Viareggio dates back to 1873, when a group of young bourgeois of Viareggio decided to organise a procession through the quarters of the town to protest against excessive taxation. The young men rode on their carriages, dressed in a wide variety of colourful costumes, to underscore the ironic and provocatory nature of their protest. From then on, the Carnival became a recurrent feast. One of the oldest floats of which written memory and testimony survive was that of the “Four Moors”, of 1883, depicting Ferdinand I and four chained slaves, mounted on a marble base and drawn by oxen. When World War One broke out, the Carnival vanished, but came back more lively than ever around 1920, when a float was built which hosted a whole musical band, and “Coppa Champagne”, the official anthem of the Carnival, was composed. After World War Two, the first live TV broadcast from the Viareggio Carnival took place in 1954, turning the festival into a symbol for all Italy.
The mask of Burlamacco, accompanied by his partner Ondina, has always been the symbol of Carnival celebrations in the city. This character was invented in 1930 by the Futurist artist from Viareggio, Umberto Bonetti, to improve the graphics of the flyer for the 1931 edition. The character was made up as a clown and dressed in a white overall with red lozenges, a black mantle and a red cocked bicorn hat. His name probably comes from the Carnival “burla” or jests, which it plays ruthlessly every year.
The Carnival of Viareggio is especially famous for its satirical floats. If you have never seen an allegorical float before, you can’t even imagine how large they are: they are built in a special place, called a hangar, like those used to build planes! In 2001, the Carnival Citadel was established, as a great, multi-purpose complex in the northern part of the town, where master float-makers have a chance to vent their satirical and ironical skills on the artistic creations they give life to. Everything begins with a draft, then a theme report and a technical project, which each artist submits to the Carnival Foundation. After choosing the finalists, the Foundation provides them with a certain amount of money and a workshop. Here they start building enormous figures using paper mache, starting from their own plaster mould. Usually, no less than seven layers of newspapers, stuck together using a special kind of glue and then reinforced with an iron structure, are used. Finally, each moving piece – many characters are designed to move and throw confetti and streamers on the masses following them along the procession – is painted and mounted together, to create a gigantic figure on a special carriage. Famous people who will appear in this edition of the Carnival parade include premier Matteo Renzi, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope Francis, the singer Mina, the characters of the Alan Ford comics and the Minions cartoons.
Carnival of Viareggio 2018
Viareggio, capital of Italian Carnival, will be waiting for us from February 5th to February 28th, to watch the colourful procession of floats along the seaside streets, nighttime feasts in the various quarters of the town – Campo d’Aviazione, Marco Polo, Darsena – , and with dances organised at night in famous hotels and clubs in the Versilia area, theatre shows, masked dinners and international sports events. Like every year, the beginning of the celebrations will be announced by three cannon shots from the sea, starting the floats procession or “Corso Mascherato” and all the side events organised by the holiday town.
- Saturday 27th January
1st MASKED PARADE
At the end of the parade Great Ending Fireworks
- Sunday 4th February
2nd MASKED PARADE
- Sunday 11th February
3rd MASKED PARADE
- Tuesday 13th February
4th MASKED PARADE
- Saturday 17th February
5th MASKED PARADE
At the end of the parade reading of verdicts of juries
Great Ending Fireworks
Book now the UNA Hotel Versilia special offer: 1 ticket per person for the Carnival parade included and much more.[Read also Carnival: the ten Italian traditional masks]