Viareggio Carnival

The Viareggio Carnival (Italian: Carnevale di Viareggio) is a famous and popular carnival in Italy, and for several reasons, it is considered one of the most colorful events of its kind in Europe. It is held every year from the beginning of February to the first week of March.

The first masquerade party

The origin of the Carnival dates back to 1873 when a group of young men decided to have fun during the long carnival holiday. On February 22, 1873, they disguised themselves as Moors and paraded through the streets of Viareggio on carriages pulled by oxen, playing music and singing satirical songs. The next year the event was repeated and became an annual tradition. The following year the number of participants grew significantly and the event was moved to Piazza Mazzini, where it still takes place today. It attracts over one million people every year who come to see the famous floats on the streets of Viareggio.

The float competition

The parade takes place on a 2.5 km route, and the participants are the various "floats" that move along this route. The Viareggio Carnival is internationally renowned for its satirical floats, known as carri, which have made it an essential modern tradition in Italy. They can be up to 15 m high and weigh about 50 tons, and depict caricatures of popular characters and parody political events. The floats are created by various companies, which spend up to €250,000 on each and compete against each other during each edition of the Carnival. 

How are the floats made?

The construction of each float starts about two years before the actual Carnival. First, a wooden structure is built upon which the papier-mache is applied. Then, layers of paper soaked in glue are added to this structure, layer after layer, until it becomes very solid. As they dry out, they form the shape of the float. Once the layers are ready, artists paint these structures with bright colors and then add various details like eyes, mouth, etc.