Viareggio Carnival, The History


The Carnival of Viareggio, one of the most famous and magnificent celebrations both in Italy and Europe, has very ancient traditions. In fact, the first parade of float was held in 1873, in the heart of the old town. The idea of celebrating the carnival was thought of in a café, Caffè del Casinò, among wealthy middle-class men. It was exactly the 24th of February 1873. They came up with the idea of having a parade with floats adorned with flowers as a celebration for the carnival.

The idea came to life around the end of the century, when the parade’s triumphal floats appeared alongside monuments made of wood, canary grass and jute, created by local sculptors and set up by carpenters and smiths from the area. In 1921, music was introduced thanks to a band set on a float which represented wedding celebrations in the yard of a farmhouse. The year 1930 marks another important innovation: the creation of the technique, cast paper, universally known as papier-mâché, in homage to some builders in the area. The official mascot of the Viareggio Carnival is Burlamacco, created in 1931 by Uberto Bonetti, painter and futurist graphic designer. Drawing inspiration from the masks of the Comedy of other professional artists, Bonetti wanted to emphasize in it the two most important moments of the city’s life: summer and the Carnival. The Second World War caused a pause in the celebration of this feast which was suspended until its rebirth in 1946.

In 2001, the new Carnival Citadel was inaugurated, an extraordinary architectural complex entirely dedicated to the creation and preservation of the Carnival of Viareggio, but also a centre of culture and exhibition. There are sixteen hangar-labs on a giant elliptical square, where artists carry out their creations. It also hosts two museums, one dedicated to the history of the Carnival floats, and the other to a collection of artwork created by contemporary artists. The Carnival of Viareggio is characterized by daytime and nighttime festivities with parades of allegorical floats, local parties, masked balls and celebrations of all kinds. The floats, among the biggest in the world, parade along the coast of Viareggio, and the main theme is always satire.

During the carnival period, the five local districts, Quartiere Campo d’aviazione, Torre del Lago, Marco Polo, Darsena and Croce Verde, traditionally set up several events; from floats, masquerades, trade kiosks, dance floors, to stands where you can taste the local specialties, you’re guaranteed to have a good time!

To taste Carnival, emerge yourself in the taste of Italy’s thousand colors. Italian Traditions takes you to the best restaurants with the IT5 of the week.

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