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Carnival Time

An earthquake, after-shocks, torrential rain and snow; not a promising start to the year here in Tuscany.
But now we’re into February and Carnevale time, an event celebrated throughout Italy, full of its own particular drama and excitement and looked forward to by whole communities, with many, both young and old taking part.

The popular seaside resort of Viareggio in the Lucca province emerges from hibernation at this time of year, and lights up the cold winter air with a spectacular event, second only to that in Venice.

With its schedule of satire, comedy, music, singing and dancing, the whole month from the 3 February to the 3 March (except for the 24 Feb, the weekend of the general elections) is devoted to carnevale and the party atmosphere sees the many thousands of spectators joining in the fun, dressing up in costume and throwing confetti.

The main feature of this carnival – the 140th in its history, which this year is dedicated to the actor and singer Giorgio Gaber who died ten years ago - is the parade of allegorical floats made from paper-mâché. They are wonderfully colourful artistic creations, 50 feet high and take around 2 hours to pass by as they make their way majestically down the wide avenue, alongside the beach.

The minotaur
This gives some idea of the scale of these creations! They have machinery that enables heads to nod up and down and move from side to side, making them look rather eerily life-like, especially when mouths open and close and eyes glint with the aid of lights. They seem to be constantly moving to the music, adding to the party atmosphere.

There are hundreds of participants – around 250 on each carro (seen here in the mouth of this creature) dressed in amazing costumes, waving to the crowds and throwing confetti.

Once upon a time - nostalgia?

But these are not just artistic creations; they are caricatures of politicians and other celebrities, full of political satire and targeting in particular political leaders like Berlusconi, Bersani, the satirist Grillo and
Fiorito, the regional councilor involved in the scandal "Laziogate."

This is one of my favourites – The Austerity Jazz band, referring to Monti’s austerity measures.
We mustn’t forget the piano accordion player
The media and Sky TV
Here come the jesters!
And more...

In the middle of this group is the clown, Burlamacco, the official mascot of the carnival.
His name derives from that of the Florentine artist, Buffalmacco, who was also a character in the Renaissance tales of
Boccaccio’s Decameron.

A game of solidarity?
This internationally renowned festa is impressive and those involved spend the whole year planning, designing and producing in the Cittadella del Carnevale (Carnival Citadel), located on the northern side of Viareggio.
It’s possible to visit La fabbrica del divertimento to see the huge complex of buildings where the maestri forge their giant papier-mâché creations.

During the month, many hotels along the Versilian coast host masked balls and carnival parties, and there are fireworks and numerous sports and cultural events.

The last parade takes place on March 3 and is well worth a visit. Further information can be found at: