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Viareggio Carnival – The Biggest & Best Carnival Floats in the World!
1st February, 2020
25th February, 2020
- 1 What is Carnival in Viareggio?
- 2 When is the 2020 Viareggio Carnival?
- 3 Viareggio Carnival 2020 Masked Parades Dates
- 4 Where is Viareggio?
- 5 How do they celebrate carnival in Viareggio?
- 6 What is the history of Viareggio Carnival?
- 7 The World-Famous Papier-Maché Floats
- 8 Parades
- 9 Night Party
- 10 The Cittadella of Viareggio Carnival
- 11 The Burlamacco
- 12 What to wear for carnival in Viareggio?
- 13 How to get to Viareggio?
- 14 How to get to around Viareggio during Carnival?
- 15 How much does Viareggio Carnival cost?
- 16 Where to stay for the Viareggio Carnevale?
What is Carnival in Viareggio?
Every year, Viareggio celebrates a traditional carnival that began in 1873, and began as a way to mock the elected city officials. Viareggio Carnival or Carnival di Viareggio in Italian is a pre-Lenten carnival that is now in its 147th year! This carnival is world-renowned, and rightly so because this Italian town puts on a carnival that is like nothing else in the world!
Viareggio Carnival attracts more than 800,000 spectators every year who come to see what separates this carnival from the rest, the awe-inspiring floats! These floats are absolute masterpieces! They are giant 20 meter high papier-mache floats which are famous for being the best carnival floats in the entire world!
The city has preserved this tradition and every year the residents and tourists from around the world preserve the tradition and turn it into a giant party with lots of colour, music, dancing, which symbolises peace love and unity!
When is the 2020 Viareggio Carnival?
Viareggio Carnival season takes place for an entire month, with five processions every year! The processions are always held on the four weekends and Shrove Tuesday, prior to Ash Wednesday!
Viareggio Carnival 2020 Masked Parades Dates
- Saturday 1st February 2020: 1st Masked Parade
- Sunday 9th February 2020: 2nd Masked Parade
- Saturday 15th February 2020: 3rd Masked Parade
- Sunday 23rd February 2020: 4th Masked Parade
- Tuesday 25th February, 2020 – Masked Parade, Jury Verdict & Firework Display
Where is Viareggio?
Viareggio is a popular beachside town in Tuscany, Italy. It is the second biggest city in the province of Lucca, Tuscany. It sits on the Tyrrhenian sea and is surrounded by the peaks of Massa Carrara. The incredible masked parades take place along the extraordinary Liberty seaside boulevards.
The City of Viareggio is rich in Art Deco architecture and is a great introduction to the part of Tuscany known as Versilia.
How do they celebrate carnival in Viareggio?
The Viareggio Carnival officially opens with a symbolic shooting of a triple cannon into the sea, which symbolically opens the carnival. There are five chances to see the carnival floats in the Viareggio Carnival Parades. All these processions occur during daylight in combination with a grand celebration with loads of costumes, music and everyone joining in to dance.
Besides the parades there are also culinary events, sporting competitions, theatre performances, cultural events, parties, masquerade balls and an impressive firework show. Every evening there are plenty of parties and performances hosted in the bars, restaurants, hotels and nightclubs in town.
What is the history of Viareggio Carnival?
The Carnival of Viareggio was born in 1873 as is widely considered to be the greatest folk event ever since it first began. The first ever parade featured decorated carriages that were actually started by the wealthy citizens protesting excessive taxation. However, it continued to evolve into an event where you could express your ideas freely and mock the elite.
It’s popularity continued to grow every year and by the end of the 19th century the famous giant floats made their first appearance in the carnival parades. The first floats were made from plaster, canvas and wood, and were very heavy unlike the papier-mache floats used today. The papier-mache floats were first introduced to carnival in the 1930s.
The World-Famous Papier-Maché Floats
The reason that Viareggio Carnival is so renowned is because of the giant papier-mache floats. They are majestic, huge and incredibly thought provoking! They are real travelling theatres that are inspired by current events, world and Italian politics, that are often represented in satire form, with lots of irreverence.
The floats are the product of unequalled creativity, incredible painting skills and extraordinary sculpture. The Viareggio Carnival floats are about 20m tall, weigh about 40 tonnes but still very light for their size. They are unique because of the way they move and can be choreographed. Each floats plays their own musical soundtrack.
These floats created by Viareggio painter and builder Antonio D’Arliano in 1925, are the absolute highest examples of an historical art form that a has spread all over the world. The floats express an old knowledge that dates back to the ancient ‘trionfi’ of the Renaissance. They adhere to the building techniques of big sailing boats!
Today there are over 25 companies with over 1000 people involved in the creation of these floats. The secret trades and skills needed to create these floats has often been passed down from generation to generation. The floats are also judged in the parades by a jury who will announce the winners after the last parade.
There are five Viareggio Parades, where the incredible giant floats come to life, moving and dancing to the music. The Parades take place during the day, in a 2km long ring-like parade route, which runs along the Liberty Seaside Boulevards, in an area known as La Passeggiata.
Each parade receives about 200,000 spectators of all ages. People from all over the world meet together to experience the event. There are no barriers, and the floats move freely amongst the spectators making the show a true open air museum.
Accompanying the floats are marching bands, folkloristic bands and hundreds of dancers wearing original masks and costumes. There is lots of excitement, tradition and culture going on and loads of entertainment that will excite both kids and the adults!
The fun doesn’t end with the parades, there is something called veglioni colorati which translates as ‘coloured all-night dances’. As the name suggests these parties are held at night, after the parades! Each suburb hosts a night party in the streets where people wear funny costumes and dance, socialise and drink the night away.
The Cittadella of Viareggio Carnival
The Cittadella is an impressive complex created in 2001 which incorporates sixteen large buildings where the float constructions occur. The Cittadella hosts workshops, the carnival museum, a papier-mâché teaching laboratory and photo archives. It is possible to visit the Papier Mâchè Museum during carnival to visit the models, which only leave the building during the parades.
The Burlamacco is a character that was created in the 1930’s by Uberto Bonetti. It is now the official mask and symbol for Viareggio Carnival. In every parade the Burlamacco is accompaniesd by a float full of females to honour Viareggio’s ties with the sea. The Burlamacco character is all about not taking life too seriously and encouraging people to stay positive even when life gets hard.
What to wear for carnival in Viareggio?
If you want, you can dress up! The locals do and why not, it adds to the fun. Its not essential though and you wont feel left out if you don’t. Most people will just add a little fancy-dress element to their outfit wearing a wig, mask, hat or a bit of face paint.
How to get to Viareggio?
The closest airport to Viareggio is in Pisa which is about 15 minutes away from Viareggio by train. It is easy to reach Viareggio by catching one of the local trains as it sits on a line that runs between Genova and Rome. There are also plenty of bus services to Viareggio from other Italian cities, although the train is the fastest option.
How to get to around Viareggio during Carnival?
Viareggio is easy to get to by train as the parade promenade is only about a 15-minute walk from the train station. There is also plenty of local buses transporting people around during carnival. It is also possible to drive there, and the city provides plenty of parking options. Of course, if you stay nearby then you can just get around on foot or hire a bike.
How much does Viareggio Carnival cost?
Tickets to go to the Viareggio Parades will cost about €15 for the opening parade, and about €18 for the rest. You can buy your tickets on the day from the ticket booths on site or they can be pre-purchased online at the official site.
For an extra 10€ you can purchase seats in the tribune which are located in the central part of the parade route where the judges sit.
We recommend sticking with the crowd where you can feel the atmosphere and move around, but it’s a good option if you have mobility issues. The floats are so tall that you don’t need to worry about crowds blocking your view.
Where to stay for the Viareggio Carnevale?
There is plenty of accommodation options in Viareggio because this city is a very popular resort town in the summer. There are accommodations for all levels of budget and comfort. Many of the hotels in Viareggio will offer package deals for carnival which are great value.
There are several hotel options along the parade route which can be booked, and that way if the weather is bad or you are feeling the cold you can easily watch from the comfort of your room. We recommend booking around the promenade because that way you will be close to the carnival party atmosphere.
Check out some accommodation options here.
For more information about tours, things to do, sightseeing tours, day trips and more click here.