Bringing the Talent to you

The Viareggio Carnivale is the second largest event of this kind after Venice and attracts over one million visitors and spectators every year. There is a whole month of festivities, day and night starting on the 9th February, with spectacular parades of allegorical papiér-mâché floats, local parties, masked balls and festivals of all kinds.

The first Viareggio parade took place in Via Regia in February 1873, when a group of middle-class men decided to celebrate Mardi Gras by organizing a parade of floats decorated with flowers. A number of citizens used the event to forge a protest against the high taxes they were having to pay by wearing masks and making huge puppets satirizing the mayor and other civic leaders.

Viareggio Carnivale 2014 - Tuscan Talent

Since then, one of the main characteristics of this carnival of floats and masks has been the depiction in caricatures, usually made of paper pulp, of well-known people, such as politicians, sportsmen and those connected with the arts.

By the end of the 19th century, the parade of wagons had developed to carry large sculptures made of wood, plaster and burlap, which were modelled by local sculptors and prepared by carpenters and blacksmiths who worked in the shipyards in the Dock.

During the 1920s, music and animation were introduced on the floats and a new exciting material was invented - papier-machéallowing huge but lightweight constructions to be built.

Burlamacco is the clown figure seen at every Viareggio carnival and is the town’s mascot.
In 1931 there was a competition to design a mascot, and the artist Uberto Bonetti, created the winning entry. He wanted to symbolize the main aspects of life in the town - summer with the red and white coloured beach umbrellas seen by the sea, and the masks of commedia dell’arte used in the carnival.

The name, Burlamacco is derived from the Burlamacca River in Viareggio.

Burlamacco by Uberto Bonetti

To this day the Burlamacco mascot remains an important feature of the carnival, and there is a statue of him all year round on the Lungomare. The carnival now takes place on the spacious promenade, located alongside the local beach.

Since 2001, all the floats, which are worked on all year round, have been built in the Cittadella del Carnevale (Carnival Citadel), located in Via Santa Maria Goretti on the northern side of the city.
This is an amazing purpose built complex which is dedicated to

the creation of these gigantic constructions. There are also two museums, one dedicated to the history of the Carnival floats and the other to Carnevalotto, a valuable collection of works of art by contemporary designers – inspired by the Carnival of Viareggio and using traditional and multi-media methods of communication.

The creations are spectacular, very high and can weigh up to a ton.

Today, the carnival continues the tradition of being a colourful, fun pre-Lentern celebration, with floats large enough to hold giant characters and hundreds of young people dressed in costume, interacting with the crowd while throwing confetti, streamers and sweets. It also cleverly demonstrates political satire, something the Italians do very well.

The floats dedicated to John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, under the theme of Revolution were particularly impressive.

As expected, the theme of austerity is a strong feature, as are racism and gay rights etc.

The Carnival will end with a spectacular firework display, lighting up the sky in celebration of another successful Viareggio Carnivale, which not only attracts thousands of visitors but also brings together the local community, to the benefit of all.

Written by Diane Warner