The Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most important Carnival events in Italy and Europe. It became famous over 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 in 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 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 2024 Edition – The Program

Carnival of Viareggio

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

It is only a few days after the end of this grand edition that we already have the dates for the 2024 parades.

  • Saturday 3rd February. Opening ceremony and 1st float parade at 4 p.m. Fireworks to follow.
  • Thursday 8 February, 2nd float parade by night at 6 p.m.
  • Sunday 11 February, 3rd float parade at 3 p.m.
  • Tuesday 13 February, 4th float parade by night at 5 p.m.
  • Sunday 18 February, 5th float parade at 3 p.m.
  • Saturday 24 February, 6th and final parade at 5 p.m. 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 by 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 in the 1st category and smaller but still amazing floats in 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 into 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 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 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 an 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.

Burlamacco Ondina Carnival of Viareggio
One of the first posters of 1931 with Burlamacco and Ondina.

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

Where to stay in Viareggio during the Carnival

To enjoy the crazy Carnival atmosphere of Viareggio at its most, I would recommend spending at least one night in town. So once the parades are over, you can hit the streets again and experience one of the street events organized by the city’s various districts.

  • Principe di Piemonte: If you’re looking for a 5-star experience, book a suite at one of the area’s most iconic hotels. A Michelin-starred restaurant and a rooftop infinity pool enhance the facilities.
  • Hotel Plaza e de Russie – Relais & Châteaux: Another luxurious hotel facing the seaside promenade in the heart of Viareggio.
  • Hotel La Pace: A lovely 3-star hotel overlooking the waterfront. If you book a room with a sea view, you can enjoy the Carnival parade from the comfort of your terrace.

Further Readings

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

Pin it for Later!

(Updated on 10.03.2023)

21 thoughts on “Carnival of Viareggio in Tuscany 2024. 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!

  5. wendy says:

    i went to the 2014 carnivale, the tank float was my favourite! the john lennon float was also in 2014, best part of the trip and definitely worth visiting!

  6. richard milanese says:

    WE will be in Florence and thought it would be great to take in the Carnevalle in Via Reggio on february 13 To do so we need some info on the event. First hoiw would we get there by train from Florence. Then what time does the parade start so we can be sure to get there in time to watch it

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hey Richard, many thanks for your comment. Starting times have not yet been made official. But presumably on Feb. 13, the parade will start around 5 p.m.. The easiest way to get there from Florence is by train. You can take a regionale train from Central train station SMN Florence to Viareggio (sometimes it may happen to change train in Pisa). From Viareggio train station in 10 minutes walk you reach the promenade by the sea and the entrance. I suggest you to download trenitalia app and check timetables from it (consider that the exact timetable will be available at the end of the year).

  7. Jeanine says:

    Thank you for the great information. We will be in Florence in February of 2024 and would love to visit the carnivale. Do we have to purchase any tickets and is there any advice that you can offer us, so that we don’t offend anyone or do anything “wrong?” Thanks!

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Dear Jeanine, thanks for the comment. There is nothing you can to offend people. Especially for Carnival Time. However, yes, you need to buy a ticket. Online or at the entrance. Advices….if you like to watch fireworks i suggest to go for the last parade when a firework show is set to end the event. There are a few parades at 3 pm which are nice with the good weather because you enjoy the sun and the mild weather of february. Also the night parade are magic too because all the floats turn on the lights when it gets dark and they have a different charme. You can wear a carnival dress if you like, but it is not a must. or a a colored wig. 🙂

  8. cheryl says:

    Great information!! We hope to go Feb 13 as well. What are the approx times for the parade that day (I know it’s probably not confirmed yet but an estimate will do) … trying to figure out if we should take the train back to Florence that night or try and find accomodations in Viareggio.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hi Cheryl, on Feb 13 the parade will start at 5 pm and it lasts about 2/3 hours. You can catch the last train to go back to Florence at about 10 pm. However the idea of spend one night in Viareggio is not bad. After the parade there are usually parties in town. You can enjoy the atmosphere with no rush. And the day after, if the weather is nice, take a stroll along the beach. 🙂

  9. Verity Russell says:

    Hi, I think sme tickets seated or you can walk and stop in resturants and bars etc. Just looking at the carnival site and the pirces vary for tickets. What do you think is the best option for a first time visitor?

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hi Verity, I would suggest to do not take the seated ticket option. Go for the classic “posto in piedi” ticket and walk around along the promenade by sea where the parade takes place. It is so much funnier than be seated. Unless you don’t want to walk, of course. 🙂

  10. Kit Argilla says:

    We are just now planning a trip to include the 2/24/24 parade and events. Do the festivities last all weekend? Are there other hotels well situated (not necessarily overlooking the parade, but close) that you can recommend? We would like to be where the action is and walkable to everything.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hey Kit, thanks for writing. Most of the hotels in Viareggio are located along the promenade by the sea. In the article I suggest three hotels: two luxury hotels and also a lovely 3stars hotel called hotel la Pace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!