Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most important and relevant Carnival events of Italy and Europe. It became famous thanks to its unique story and strong identity. The main floats of Viareggio Carnival are renowned to be one of the biggest and animated floats of the Carnivals of the entire world.

The big parades of Viareggio Carnival take place along the Passeggiata, the seaside promenade of the city, for five weekends, between the second half of January and the first week of March, depending on the annual date of Carnival. The marching band, huge monumental allegorical floats, hundreds of masks and people wearing thematic costumes, animate the streets dancing at the rhythm of the music.

Rolling Stones fload at Carnival in Viareggio

Viareggio Carnival 2020 Edition – The Program

This is the program of the 146th edition of the Carnevale di Viareggio:

  • Saturday 1 February, 3 pm Opening ceremony, 4 pm 1st float parade and music firework show to follow.
  • Sunday 9 February, 3 pm 2nd float parade.
  • Saturday 15 February, 5 pm 3rd float parade.
  • Thursday 20 February, 6 pm 4th float parade and fireworks to follow.
  • Sunday 23 February, 3 pm 4th float parade.
  • Tuesday 25 February (Fat Tuesday) – 5 pm 5th parade, the award ceremony for the best float, and Grand Final with the firework show.

Location: Viali a Mare (the main avenues along the beach side).

The best way to reach Viareggio during the parade days is by train. You can easily reach Viareggio with direct trains from Florence, Pisa, La Spezia, and Cinque Terre. The train station is only 10-15 minutes from the seaside promenade. For anyone who is coming from Lucca, please note that due to works along the line, buses replace trains and they take about 1 hour to reach Viareggio.

For more info and online tickets, visit the official website of the event.

Things to know about Carnevale di Viareggio

Along the avenues, you will see the huge floats of the first category (the biggest ones), the smaller but still amazing floats of the second category, and single masks dancing in the street. All of them participate in a strong competition that ends with the declaration of the winners, made by a jury, the last day of the Carnevale.

Carnival of Viareggio trunk
A tank full of happiness (2014)

Usually, the topics of the floats are the political satire, themes of universal relevance or the triumph of famous international celebrities, politicians and sports figures.

During the Carnival of Viareggio, you breathe a magic atmosphere in town. Carnival is part of the culture and history of Viareggio. Locals, called “Viareggini”, have a great passion for Carnival. They are so in love with it that, for the entire month of celebrations, they get really excited. They wait for this moment for the whole year spending that time to design their own carnival costumes to wear at the parades and at the after Carnival parties.

Pulcinella Carnival Float
No tu no, float from Carnival 2018

Every year, the parades of the Carnevale di Viareggio attracts thousands of tourists to admire the impressive floats, have fun throwing confetti and streamers. You can find adults and children dressing like princes and princesses, kings and queens, characters of the TV and history, cartoons and animals, but the list could go on forever.

It’s also a classic get some cotton candies, fried donuts, and fluffy doughnut filled with cream, or other traditional Carnival pastries. If you want to try to prepare some traditional Carnival cakes at home, as we do, do not miss our recipe of the St Joseph rice doughnuts and of Cenci pastries.

Celebrations continue even during the night. Most of the suburb in town (Rione in Italian) hosts lively street parties with a lot of music, food, and alcohol. Here, people parade along the street wearing their funny and odd costumes (homemade or rented for the occasion), drinking, dancing, and having fun with friends since the morning after.

The Carnival happiness ends after the last parade with the magnificent fireworks that enlight the calm water of the sea of Versilia.

Obama Float Carnival
Obama mask (2014)

History of Carnival of Viareggio

The tradition of the Carnival of Viareggio born the 24th February 1873 on a Mardi gras thanks to the initiative of a group of the rich young bourgeois. During one of their usual meetings at the Café of the Casino, they decided to celebrate Carnival with a parade of carriages adorned with flowers, along with the old Via Regia. Instead, some locals wearing colored masks used the parade to protest against the increase of taxes. Since that time, the Carnival parade is also the occasion to exorcize the dissatisfaction of the people.

Carnival Float
Political Satire – The many faces of Silvio Berlusconi, jocker, entertainer, thief and convit (2014).

A few years later, music and motion were introduced on the floats. Then, from 1925, floats were built with the revolutionary technique of the papier-mâché.

Carnival of Viareggio has is own mascot. His name is Burlamacco. Umberto Bonetti, a futuristic painter, and designer, invented the character of Burlamacco in 1930. In the Carnival poster of 1931, Burlamacco is drowned with a female named Ondina that represents the typical bather of the summer season of Viareggio. Together they represent the essence of the city of Viareggio: the Carnival and the summer.

Burlamacco Ondina Carnival of Viareggio
One of the first poster of 1931 with Burlamacco and Ondina.
Viareggio Carnival 2020 poster
The poster of the 2020 Carnival Edition.

From 2001 floats and masks have a new house, the Cittadella del Carnevale. The huge complex hosts sixteen hangars where artists create the floats, an elliptical square, a museum dedicated to the history of the Carnival in Viareggio, and an exhibit of contemporary works of art.

Year by year the Carnival of Viareggio became much more important reaching the record of 325.000 viewers on a single parade in 2011.

Float at Carnival of Viareggio

Carnival faces

Burlamacco carnival of viareggio
"Proxima Ventura" carnival of Viareggio
"love sex" carnival of viareggio
Dwarf carnival of viareggio

If you are planning to visit Versilia for Carnival and you wish to know more about the area, have a look at our article about the 15 things to do in Versilia.

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Carnival of Viareggio
(Updated on 23.09.2019)

6 thoughts on “The marvellous Carnival of Viareggio in Tuscany

  1. Diana C says:

    The last (and only) time I’ve been to a carnival of this magnitude was probably when my parents brought me to Mardi Gras when I was 4 years old haha. I would love to check out the festival in the summer as I’m usually in Europe in the summer. Do you know how/when I can book a ticket to the carnival?

  2. Neha says:

    I’ve never really been to a carnival. This one looks a lot of fun, although I’m not sure I would be comfortable travelling in the winter. How different would you say the summer carnival is from this one?

    • Nicola - My Travel in Tuscany says:

      Winter is not that cold in Tuscany. Of course you need a warm jacket! Even summer is not the best period to visit Tuscany, especially the countryside and the cities because it is too hot. The summer carnival is not that different from the winter one. It takes place at night instead of the afternoon because of the temperature. But the real one, the one that locals go crazy for, is the winter one.

  3. Jamie says:

    It’s so interesting to learn the history of a place as I travel. Like this carnival in Viareggio for people to express their dissatisfaction. The floats are so colorful and would be fun to photograph.

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