Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most important Carnival events of Italy and Europe. It became famous through time thanks to its unique story, its strong identity, and its big floats. The ones parading in Viareggio are renowned to be some of the biggest floats of the entire world.

The Passeggiata, the seaside promenade of the town, is the scene of the huge street parades. The Carnival in Viareggio takes place during for five weekends. Usually between the second half of January and the first week of March, depending on the annual date of Carnival.

Carnevale di Viareggio

You will find the marching band, huge monumental allegorical floats, hundreds of masks, and people wearing thematic costumes. All together they liven up Viareggio dancing to the rhythm of the music.

Viareggio Carnival 2023 Edition – The Program

Carnival of Viareggio

This 2023 Edition celebrates the 150th birthday of the Carnevale di Viareggio. It is dedicated to all traditions, stories, and cultures of Carnival from all over the world. A Universal Carnival, as they call it.

  • Saturday 4th February, starting time TBC. Opening ceremony and 1st float parade.
  • Sunday 12 February, starting time TBC, 2nd float parade by night and fireworks.
  • Thursday 16 February, starting time TBC, 3rd float parade.
  • Sunday 19 February, starting time TBC, 4th float parade.
  • Tuesday 21 February, starting time TBC, 5th float parade.
  • Saturday 25 February, starting time TBC, 6th and final parade. To follow the award ceremony for the best float and Grand Final with fireworks.

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

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

How to reach Viareggio for Carnival

The best way to get to Viareggio during the parade days is by train. You can easily arrive with a direct train from FlorencePisa, Lucca, La Spezia, and Cinque Terre. The train station is only 10-15 minutes from the seaside promenade.

Things to know about the Carnevale di Viareggio

Viareggio means Carnevale. It is a serious thing. Carnival is deeply embedded into the culture and history of Viareggio. Of vital importance, I would say. Locals, called “Viareggini”, get mad at Carnival. For the entire period of celebrations, they are like crazy. But this forever-love never ends. It lasts for the rest of the year too. Just long enough to recover from the orgy of the fun of the last edition that it’s time to think about a new costume for the next year.

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

The Carnival Floats

Along the avenues, you will see floats of different sizes. There are colossal floats of the 1st category and smaller but still amazing floats of the 2nd category. You will also notice single masks dancing in the street. They all participate in strong competition to win the title of the best creation. On the last day of the Carnevale, a jury of experts declares the winners.

Usually, the topics of the floats are themes of universal relevance like peace or environment. But also political satire, or the triumph of famous international celebrities and sports figures.

Pulcinella Carnival Float
No tu no, float from Carnival 2018 Edition

The Carnival parades in Viareggio

During the Carnival, you breathe a magic atmosphere in town. Every year, the parades of the Carnevale di Viareggio attract thousands of tourists. They come to admire the impressive floats, having fun throwing confetti and streamers. No matter what is their age. You will find adults and children dressing like princes and princesses, or kings and queens. But also characters from TV and history, cartoons, and animals. The list could go on forever.

It’s also a must-do to get some food from street trucks. Cotton candies, fried donuts, fluffy doughnuts filled with cream, or other traditional pastries of Carnival.

Here are two recipes to make your own Dolci di Carnevale of Italian tradition:

Carnival of Viareggio peaceandlove

When the parade is over, celebrations continue even at the night. Most of the suburbs in town (Rioni), host their own street parties with a lot of music, food, and alcohol. Here, people crowd the street wearing funny and odd costumes (homemade or rented for the occasion). With just one goal: to have fun with friends until the morning after. This Carnival craziness ends with the Grand Final after the last parade. The jury proclaims the winners while the fireworks enlighten the calm water of the sea of Versilia.

Rolling Stones fload at Carnival in Viareggio

History of Carnival of Viareggio

The Carnival of Viareggio was born on the 24th of 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 in 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 convict (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 paper-mâché.

The Mascots of Viareggio Carnival

Carnival of Viareggio has its own mascot. His name is Burlamacco. Umberto Bonetti, a local futuristic painter and also designer, invented the character of Burlamacco in 1930. This smiling figure is a mix of elements that characterize other Italian masks of the time. He wears the checkered Harlequin-style costume, with a white button from the French Pierrot. The red and white colors remind me of the tones of beach resort umbrellas by the sea. The white ruff resembles that of Captain Fracassa (or Captain Spaventa). On his head, he wears the hat of Rugantino and wraps himself in the night-black cloak of Doctor Balanzone. He paints his face like a clown, a symbol of laughs and jokes.

In the Carnival poster of 1931, Burlamacco is drawn with a slender female. Ondina is her name, and she represents the typical bathers of the summer season of Viareggio. Burlamacco and Ondina together represent the essence of the city of Viareggio: the Carnival and the summer.

In 2001 floats and masks have a new house: the Cittadella del Carnevale. This is where the magic of Carnival comes to life. Inside sixteen huge hangars, artists set their creativity working hard on the new float projects. The vast complex hosts also a museum dedicated to the history of Viareggio’s Carnival and a contemporary art exhibit.

Float at Carnival of Viareggio

Year after year, Viareggio Carnival has become more and more important. So relevant to reach during the edition of 2011 the record of 325 thousand spectators in a single parade.

Carnival faces

Further Readings

Planning to visit Viareggio and Versilia for Carnival, the following articles may interest you:

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(Updated on 17.05.2022)

7 thoughts on “Carnival of Viareggio in Tuscany. All you need to know

  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.

  4. Cameron Watson says:

    We almost stumbled across the 2022 carnival by accident as we didn’t have the benefit of your excellent website. It was just the best time – an impressive scale and the effort that everyone had gone to was very impressive. We didn’t see any negative attitudes or poor behaviour – it was simply a fantastic experience that we hope to repeat each year now we have found it. Grazie Viareggio!

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