The Carnival of Viareggio is one of the largest carnival (Mardi Gras) parades in Italy. The first parade took place in 1873. The idea came to some young, local students: they wanted to celebrate carnival on the 24th of February with a parade on the via Regia. Since then, the Carnival of Viareggio has continued to grow and each year it catches the attention of more and more visitors. The best possible description is: an open air party suitable for all ages…
Surprisingly the floats are made just with papier-maché by local artists (often the craft of making them is passed down from one generation to quality). To participate in the Carnival of Viareggio, the artist must show a sketch to a special board, who will decide whether to admit it or not to the parade.
The production of the floats begins just a few months before the parade. There is a specific place where the floats are built and tested: the Cittadella. The days prior to carnival, it is possible to go and get a sneak peak of what will be in the parade.
The floats are made with 3 simple ingredients: old newspapers which are mixed with water and flour; the law requires a certain amount on each float in order to take part in the carnival parade. The result of this simple technique is really amazing. The floats vary in size, from small to huge and usually the really big ones have such modern technology that they can move. Moreover, the big floats include music and people dancing on them.
The theme of the floats tend to be both socially and politically satirical, an opportunity for to make fun of society, Italy’s politicians as well as to highlight important issues of the day.
The Carnival of Viareggio parades take place every Sunday in February and (some years) the first Saturday of March on the Passeggiata of Viareggio (just a 10 minute walk from the station). The parades begin at 3 pm which is marked by 3 cannon shots so that wherever you happen to be in the city, you know the party is about to begin.
To purchase tickets, just go to one of the many ticket offices near the parade.
There are several “package deaks” to enter the carnival of Viareggio depending on how many times you plan on going:
- One entrance costs 18 Euros (children until 14 years pay only 13 Euros)
- Cumulative ticket for 30 Euros which allows you to enter all of the parades (children in this case pay 20 Euros)
For more info here for the official website. Remember that if there is strong wind or heavy rain the Carnival could be canceled.
Curiosities on the Carnival of Viareggio
- The official mask of the Carnival of Viareggio is Burlamacco. This mask was created in 1930. He wears a kind of red and white harlequin bodysuit with a white pompon on the belly. His first appearance was in 1931 on the carnval poster. He is always represented with Ondina (which means small wave), his “girlfriend”. The name Burlamacco probably comes from the channel “Burlamacca” which crosses the city of Viareggio.
- During the whole period of the carnival, four principal districts of Viareggio have parties (Rioni) with food and music the day before the parade. If you decide to participate at one make, be sure you are masked.
- After the carnival, the floats are dismantled. Some parts are recuperated for the next year, others instead are sold.
Now, the only thing left to do is to decide what costume to wear.. And be ready to dance…