Carnival of Viareggio from 1873 to the present day
The Carnival of Viareggio is one of Italy’s oldest and most renowned events, dating back to 1873. It is considered one of the most important carnivals in the world, second only to Venice in Italy.
For five weekends in February, the town of Viareggio is transformed into a festival featuring tradition, innovation, and satirical art through carnival floats and masquerade parades
Carnival floats and masquerade parades
The floats of the Viareggio Carnival are the true stars of the show. These gigantic constructions are made of wood or paper-mâché and often represent political and social satire. Their height can vary from 10 to 15 meters, and their length can exceed 40 meters, making them a sight to behold.
The floats are designed and built by several local companies, each trying to outdo the other in the imagination and originality of their creations. Their construction begins months before the event in the Carnival Citadel (La Cittadella del Carnevale), where artisans work tirelessly to create these moving giants. The art of paper-mâché making has been handed down for generations in Viareggio and is a crucial aspect of the carnival.
On the actual Carnival days, during the floats parade, an expert jury awards prizes to the floats for their originality, creativity, and artistic achievement. The winners are awarded the title of “King of Carnival,” a highly coveted honor among the participating companies.
The carnival is not only limited to a parade of paper-mâché floats. The city also hosts other gigs, such as concerts, street performances, and masquerade parties, providing entertainment for all ages. There are events such as the children’s parade and the parade of miniature floats, which showcase the talents and creativity of the younger participants.
The Citadel, the place where everything takes shape
The Carnival Citadel, also known as La Cittadella del Carnevale, is the hub of the Viareggio Carnival. This enclosed area serves as the center of operations for the construction of the floats, where participating companies work tirelessly to create their masterpieces out of wood and paper-mâché.
The floats are not only impressive in size and design, but also in the amount of work that goes into creating them. The construction of the floats begins months before the event, and the Citadel is a bustling place where artisans and designers come together to bring their creations to life. This place is where the technique of paper-mâché making is passed down from generation to generation and is preserved, keeping the tradition of the carnival alive.
During the carnival period, the Citadel is open to the public, providing an opportunity for visitors to witness the floats under construction up close and to meet the artisans who create them. It’s a chance to see the intricate details and the amount of effort put into each float, and to understand the dedication and craftsmanship that goes into creating these moving giants. Visitors can also see the floats being decorated and painted, and it’s a unique opportunity to learn more about the process of creating floats for the carnival.
Inside the Citadel, there is also the Carnival Museum, which is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of the tradition and culture of the Viareggio Carnival. The museum showcases the masks and costumes used in past editions, and it provides a glimpse into the history of the carnival. Visitors can learn about the different themes and motifs used over the years, and the evolution of the floats and costumes. The museum also features photographs, videos, and interactive exhibits, making it an engaging and informative experience.
The 2023 edition of the Carnival of Viareggio
The 2023 edition of the Viareggio Carnival promises to be a milestone event, celebrating its 150th anniversary. The carnival will take place from February 6th to 16th and will feature the traditional parade of colorful paper-mâché floats along the seaside promenade.
In honor of the carnival’s historical roots, a parade will also be held in Lucca, the city where the carnival originated. On the occasion of Mardi Gras in 1873, a group of aristocrats from Lucca organized a float parade through the streets of Viareggio, marking the start of this beloved tradition.
On February 5th, the masks of the Viareggio Carnival will take to the streets of Lucca, parading along the walk of the Walls during a three-day event filled with events, exhibitions, and even a masked vigil. The poster for this event will feature a sketch of a float depicting Lucca, created by artist Fabrizio Giannini and commissioned by Fratelli Francesconi in 1948. The float, which was never built, was to be called “Mercato Lucchese”.
This special edition of the carnival promises to be a celebration of tradition and history, bringing the past and present together for an unforgettable experience. Book your stay at our guesthouse L’Antica Bifore in the heart of Lucca, and don’t miss every single exciting moment of this event.