When the Carnivale di Viareggio began, there was a modest parade of festively decorated carriages in the heart of the old beach side resort town. The carnival’s roots go back to 1873 when the bourgious of the town were protesting high taxes. They decorated carriages in a mocking fashion to poke fun at politicians in power. At the beginning of the 20th century, the parade moved to the wide Promenade where its popularity as well as the festive floats continued to grow. Today, the displays are gigantic in size–some over 60 feet tall.
In 2001, the new, 800-foot, elliptically-shaped Cittadella del Carnevale was opened, an extraordinary architectural complex entirely dedicated to the creation and preservation of the Carnival of Viareggio. It’s “Hangers” (still the term used) are immense, and while each bay’s door is about 45 feet tall, the finished floats can be even taller–up to 60 feet–with their top parts being added by dedicated cranes after they are rolled out of their hangers.
Today the Viareggio Carnival claims to be the largest Italian folk event with a budget of €5 million per year. The “Hanger” itself is also used for concerts and other public events throughout the summer.
The main ingredient of the flats are characters–animals, people, monsters and characters from the likes of Swift, Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Disney or even from popular films and graphic novels (comic books).
The floats are usually accompanied by dozens of dancers and singers, and believe it or not, these huge creations are animated!
Viareggio is on the northern coast of Tuscany, about 12 miles north of Pisa and would be a wonderful way to spend the Mardi Gras season in Italy.