Being that Viareggio is my adoptive town, I would like to tell you about it’s famous Carnival which takes place every year with an explosion of sounds and colors. The residents of this beautiful coastal town dedicate months preparing costumes, floats, amazing events like Rioni nights (quarter or neighborhood parties) and masquerade balls.
Viareggio Carnival 2020
This year’s dates are February 1, 9, 15, 20, 23, and 25. A parade featuring Viareggio’s own residents (Carnevale dei Viareggini) takes place on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday which is February 25th this year. It is a beautiful experience beginning at sunset and lasting into the night to finish with a fireworks show.
In order to learn more about the event that has made Viareggio famous around the world, I suggest visiting the Cittadella del Carnevale Museum where the floats are designed and built. Inside the museum, the history so deeply rooted in folklore is also explained. In 1925, the famous Viareggio painter Antonio D’Arliano had the idea of using paper-mâché to make the carnival floats, and this process is still in use today.
The themes of the paper-mâché floats are often satirical and allegorical in nature and range from Italian politics and customs, to national and international news to everyday problems of society.
The Carnival floats are divided into different categories which include group floats and individuals. The latter are really funny since the individuals have to walk around supporting the weight of the paper-mâché mini floats.
The weather is usually perfect for walking along the promenade and allows for the complete Carnival experience- fun! On Sunday mornings typical Carnival songs resonate from the promenade loudspeakers. Walking along the promenade from Lido di Camaiore to Viareggio you can see the huge floats slowly moving along the via. They are silent giants exploding with colors. When the Carnival parade starts at 3 p.m. the floats begin their procession, revealing vibrant colors and unleashing tireless singers and dancers. I actually know serious professionals who let loose for this annual event and wear costumes and dance on the Carnival floats. It is a tradition that is innate in Viareggio’s culture.
Stands offering hot food or sweets can be found all over the promenade. Even the historical, elegant Bar Galliano, which dates back to 1923, has an outdoor stand. Confetti spray bottles, or silly string, are not allowed because it’s sticky and harmful to the environment; however, paper confetti is allowed and I warn you- you will be finding these little pieces of colored paper in your bags and pockets for months to come after the festivities have long been over. They will hopefully remind you of the carefree days spent in Viareggio.
Don’t forget to take part in at least one of the five Rioni of Viareggio Carnivals, or district parties held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. The most famous one is Rione Darsena, which takes place in the harbor area. There are small amateur floats and a lot of masqueraded people dancing in the streets to the sound of disco music. Their costumes, which are always hand-made, are very original and eccentric. This is the part of the Carnival celebration that’s designed for young people since it means letting go in uninhibited fun.
Viareggio’s Carnival is a unique experience that won’t soon be forgotten by anyone fortunate enough to attend.
Article written by: S. Maestrelli
Copyright photos: viareggio.ilcarnevale.com, viareggino.com