GET READY FOR CARNIVAL!

CARNEVALE DI VIAREGGIO – FEBRUARY 9 – MARCH 5, 2019

Carnival celebrations are held all over Italy from Venice and Milan down to the villages and towns of Sicily with many of the biggest celebrations on Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras) or Fat Tuesday.  As in many other parts of the world, it is also approaching Carnival time in Tuscany.  Viareggio is home to one of the most impressive Carnival festivals in Italy and 2019 marks the 146th edition of the Viareggio Carnival.  This years festival is dedicated to women and so we look forward to seeing what floats have been created.  It has become a well established European tradition of carnival festivals, with parades and celebrations being held for the five weekends before lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. The first indication that the Carnival Season is here are the beautiful sweets that start to appear in the local bakery.  Sweet delights such as Cenci, Frittelle di Riso and Schiacciata alla Fiorentina.

Second only to the famous festivities held in Venice,  the Carnival of Viareggio was born in 1873 when the first parade of festively decorated carriages was seen in the historic Via Regia, the heart of the old town. It was transferred to the Promenade at the beginning of the twentieth century and it has grown in size and popularity year after year. In 1954 a big media event was created when the newly founded Radiotelevisione Italiana – RAI sent their first outside live TV report from the Carnival of Viareggio.  In 1958 the report of the parade was broadcast in Eurovision and nowadays it is the largest Italian folk event with a budget of € 5 million per year.

The Carnival of Viareggio lasts a whole month with day-time and night-time festivities, the famous parades of floats, local parties, masked balls and festivals of all kinds. The huge floats are made in what is known as the Cittadella del Carnevale.  Sixteen hangars, where the “Papier-Mâché Masters” set up the  huge Carnival floats, overlook a giant elliptical square.  The complex has a specific architectural structure and in addition to the hangars, there is the Carnival museum,  Carnevalotto Museum for contemporary art. An historical archive, a restaurant and the big central square, where some of the most important events of Viareggio take place, like summer concerts, parties and dance shows.

 

A papier mache depicting Uberto Bonettii who created Burlamacco, the Clown mascot of the Viareggio Carnival

DID YOU KNOW?

Burlamacco was first depicted in 1931 by Uberto Bonetti when he won a competition to design the mascot for the Carnival.   He chose the red and white of the outfit from the traditional colours of the umbrellas on the beachs of Viareggio and the name Burlamacco came 8 years later, derived from the Burlamacca river.  To this day Burlamacco remains a feature of the carnival and there is a statue of him all the year round on the Lungomare in Viareggio.

These days the Carnival of Viareggio is broadcast on national television and watched all over Italy.  Each year famous guests, politicians and sports figures come to Viareggio to admire their papier – mâché effigies although not all are complimentary and mostly satirical.

Each year the Viareggio carnival attracts more than 600,000 people so be prepared if you decide to brave the crowds.  Getting there by bus or train is probably the best option but we can also organise a private transfer to the Cittadella and also to the promenade to watch the parade! 

The parades take place in a 2km long, ring-like circuit on the seaside avenue, best known as La Passeggiata.  Here the floats move among the crowds of spectators, who can attend the show as there are no barriers – so the spectators often become the protagonists of the parade too!

CARNEVALE DI VIAREGGIO – FEBRUARY 9 – MARCH 5, 2019

Click here for more details – VIAREGGIO CARNIVAL