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Viareggio Carnival

Its history and everything you need to know

The Viareggio Carnival has been one of the most important carnival events in Italy and Europe since 1873: this year the dates are still not certain, due to the pandemic, but it should be held in March.


What is Carnival for the people of Viareggio


For those born and living in Viareggio the Carnival is really a serious thing, an event rooted in the culture and history of the town itself, of vital importance, like many other things in the Tuscan landscape,we would dare to say.

Throughout the period of the festivities, the people of Viareggio live the event really to the maximum and this love does not end with the end of the parades, but continues also during the rest of the year. After the fun, in fact, we often start again immediately with the conception and creation of the new allegorical wagon of the following year: in general, the floats are focused oncurrent events and are almost always used as a vehicle for a message about what is happening in the world at that moment, all obviously seasoned with the proverbial Tuscan satirical spirit.


Etymology of the word Carnevale


The word carnival historically finds its basis in the ancient festivals that culminated in the day before the beginning of Lent, known as Shrove Tuesday.

Since the Lenten period provides for the renunciation of meat,it is easy to guess the connection with the Latin word meat(carnis in the genitive case): a popular explanation is that the carnival period matched with giving precisely a "farewell to the flesh"(vale represents a farewell in Latin).

This is the most overt interpretation, but as often happens also for other words the truth is never absolute.


The history of the Viareggio Carnival


The idea of celebrating the carnival in Versilia was born in 1873 among some young people from Viareggio of a good family of the time. Just on Shrove Tuesday of that same year this magical adventure started as it is known today (that is to say one of the most spectacular and beautiful events in the world).

The party was immediately great and immediately appeared some wagons:they were real giants, built in wood, plaster and jute, assembled by local artisans (carpenters and blacksmiths) who in everyday life built ships for the flourishing naval industry.

After the break during the First World War, the Carnival returned even more splendid and grandiose than before: in 1925 the materials used for the realization of the allegorical floats were replaced by papier-mâché,which allowed even more impressive constructions; this led to an increase in popularity, especially thanks to the skill of the craftsmen employed, recognized worldwide; they reached such a high artistic level that the national and international press began to call them the "papier-mâché magicians".


The Burlamacco


The typical mask of the Viareggio Carnival is the Burlamacco,designed by the painter Uberto Bonetti.

Burlamacco appeared for the first time on the scene in 1931, becoming one of the most famous and important Italian masks.

As we read on Wikipedia, his appearance "is a set of characteristics of the main Italian masks of the time: so we have the hat of Rugantino,the cloak of Dr. Balanzone,the checkered costume style Harlequin,the white gorgiera to Captain Fracassa (or Captain Spaventa) and the white button of pierrot French".


As we write this article, we do not yet have certain news on the development of the Viareggio Carnival 2022, but the allegorical floats will parade as always along the Viareggio promenade: we are sure that it will be, as since 1873, an incredible show.



image sources: falcini viaggi, corriere fiorentino, duomoluxury suites, versiliamo