The Carnival of Viareggio

Since 1873, the Carnival of Viareggio is the most amazing Italian parade.

Only in Viareggio, you can fully enjoy the atmosphere of Carnival: it is a party involving children and adults thanks to its satirical floats, huge papier-mâché works up to 25 metres.
It deals with Carnival masks, cheerfulness, music and dances.
It is made up by five parades and parties at night in different areas of the city.
During the event, the entire city is adorned with masks and colours, balconies and windows are full of colourful flags.
The Carnival of Viareggio was born in 1873 as a simple show of masks on floats.
Considered that the initiative had great success, people created the “Carnival Society”, with the charge of organising everything for the next year.
Things improved each year; there were two parades and in the later editions, floats were introduced. As time passed by, they became satirical.
In 1912, a marching band was presented on the float and the song it played, has now become the official Carnival song (“Su, la coppa di champagne”).
In 1923, there was another great innovation: a structure that permitted the movements of heads and eyes of the masks was introduced.
In 1954 the show was recorded by television and broadcasted, finally declaring that it could also be defined as the Italian or European Carnival.
Today, it also represents the meeting point among different countries and cultures. It is the occasion to celebrate universal values as, for example, solidarity and peace.

Each year, the Carnival of Viareggio celebrates the splendour of a month of night and day parties, mask parties, and events of any kind.
A sequence of cultural events and crazy nights, improves this funny atmosphere, which characterises all the Carnivals of the world.

The idea of organising a parade of floats to celebrate Carnival outdoors, all together along the streets, developed from some youths of the well-to-do society in February 1873 in the Cafè del Casino. Later this original event, which took place on the Sunday and Shrove Tuesday of February 1873, ripened in the Carnival of Viareggio, as it is known today; one of the most beautiful and magnificent spectacular events of the world. The processions were introduced towards the end of the century and were immediately warmly welcomed by the people. The triumphal floats, which were actually real monuments built in wood, scagliola and jute, were modelled by sculptor and put together by the same carpenters and blacksmiths who worked in the shipyards of the town and built ship able to successfully withstand the insidious waters and unpredictable winds of the oceans. From then on, these floats, which are built very much the same way, have sailed among throngs of astonished and amused people. The First World War almost destroyed the tradition of the Carnival in Viareggio like the belle Epoque itself. The Carnival, however, flourished again with more splendour and grandiosity in 1921, when the masked floats paraded along the two splendid avenues, which run parallel along the beach. The avenues along the seashore, known as the mall, which gathered nationally and internationally famous people in the summer, became from then on - also thanks to the beautiful setting of the Apuan Alps in the background - the natural, stunning and incomparably beautiful stage where the Carnival floats have paraded year after year with renewed liveliness and mirth. 1921 was also the year in which the first official song "La Coppa di Champagne" (The Champaign glass) was inaugurated. Today this is still is the hymn of the Carnival. For the first time even the masks danced to the music and the band sat on a cart called "Tonin di Burio" that represented a wedding being celebrated in the barnyard of a country house. Two years later "Pierrot", the most nostalgic and romantic of all carnival masks, was the first figure to move its head and eyes. Thanks to the initiative of some manufacturers, papier-machè was introduced in 1925. This material, which was immediately used for the floats, enabled to create huge yet extremely light constructions, which hovered on the floats challenging the law of gravity. This innovation helped to transform the Carnival of Viareggio into a legend. Because of their creative abilities, manufacturers were soon named the papier-machè wizards by both the national and international press. In 1930, the painter Uberto Bonetti who illustrated the Carnival on the official programs, created Burlamacco - now a famous mask - that is portrayed on the 1931 program together with Ondina, standing against the piers. Today Burlamacco is displayed among the Italian masks at the Museo del Folklore e della Tradizione (Museum of Folklore and Populalar Traditions) in Rome and is exhibited at the Musèe de l'Homme in Paris. After the Second World War, the Carnival of Viareggio recovered its full splendour in 1946. From this date onwards, King Carnival has sat on his throne undisturbed, unharmed by the terrible fire that destroyed the hangars where the floats were built in June 1960. From the very outset ( 1954), the national broadcasting company first, and Eurovision ( 1958) later, have celebrated the Popularity of this event showing Viareggio and its Carnival throughout the world. Every year a long list of famous guests - from politicians, artists and athletes - come to Viareggio to admire their own papier-machè reproduction. Every year thousands of visitors contribute to the success of this famous event by participating to the editions of the Carnival. In 1998 the Carnival of Viareggio has celebrated its 125` anniversary with over a month of day- and night-time celebrations. Strong with its continuous and growing success.


The Carnival is now concentrating all its efforts towards the year 2000 edition, which will owe its spectacularity to the floats, parades, local celebrations, masked balls and other events, including also the world youth football tournament, "Coppa Carnevale", which celebrated its 50` edition in 1998. The new Carnival Town will also be inaugurated in year 2000. This area, designed to become a very popular attraction, will be equipped with hangars, an arena for shows, a multimedia museum, a papier-machè making school and offer a great variety of cultural and leisure initiatives.
Every year Viareggio plays host to thousands of visitors. Why wait? Join in too.

To know more about the dates of the Carnival of Viareggio and all the parties, check the events page

@ Pier Luca Mori 2024

Camaiore, Lucca (Italy)