top of page

The Carnival of Viareggio

The largest folkloric event since 1873

The first parade of festively decorated carriages in the historic Via Regia, in the heart of the old city, dates back to 1873. It was the first edition of the great show that is today the Viareggio Carnival. The idea of ​​a parade to celebrate Carnival blossomed among the young people of Viareggio well of the time who frequented the Casino café. It was February 1873 and a parade was planned for Shrove Tuesday. From that first nucleus, the Viareggio Carnival as it is known today developed: one of the most beautiful and grandiose spectacular events in the world. The fame of the Corso Mascherato of Viareggio has grown in tandem with the growth of the size of the allegorical floats. At the end of the century triumphal floats appeared in parade, monuments built in wood, scagliola and jute, modeled by local sculptors and set up by carpenters and blacksmiths who worked in the shipyards in the Darsena. Thanks to the transfer of the parade circuit from the Via Regia to the Promenade at the sea, at the beginning of the twentieth century, the show of the Viareggio Carnival was able to enjoy an extraordinary and spacious stage that stimulated the imagination and creativity of the Tankmen. Not even the First World War was able to destroy the demonstration. Who stopped, but then resumed his celebrations.


A watershed year is undoubtedly 1921. Of that edition is the official song, the "Champagne Cup", the official anthem. The event began to promote itself through the official magazine "Viareggio in disguise", still an undisputed witness today. Also in 1921, for the first time the masks came alive to the sound of music: a band found a place aboard the wagon entitled “Tonin di Burio”, which represented the wedding party in the yard of a house.


In 1923 the magic of the movement animated the allegorical floats. The most striking movement was the eyes of Pierrot del Giampieri. But the real revolution was in 1925. On the initiative of Antonio D’Arliano and some builders, the technique of cast paper, known by all as papier-mâché, was perfected. This material, extremely light, as it is poor, has allowed colossal constructions that are increasingly daring in terms of scenography and handling. To advertise the Masked Courses, since 1925, a poster has been printed, new every year.


In 1930 Uberto Bonetti, a futurist painter and graphic designer, conceived Burlamacco: the symbolic mask of Viareggio, which, in the 1931 manifesto, against the background of the piers stretched out into the sea, appeared in the company of Ondina, a bather, symbol of the summer season. Taking a cue from the masks of the Commedia dell'Arte and drawing it in a futurist key, Bonetti wanted to summarize in the mask the two highlights of the life of the city of Viareggio: summer (with the white and red colors typical of beach umbrellas in the 1930s) and the Carnival.

The first appearance of the two masks was in the poster for the Carnival of 1931. Since that edition Burlamacco and Ondina are the symbols of the city and its Carnival.


After the Second World War, the Carnival of Viareggio was reborn in 1946. In 1954 it was chosen as a great media event to deserve the first live broadcast of the newborn Rai. Four years later the commentary was on Eurovision. In 1960 the burning of the booths in via Cairoli, where the floats were built, failed to shatter the Carnival, which moved for forty years to the hangars in via Marco Polo. In 1984 the Viareggio National Lottery was combined with the competition for first category floats and in the two-year period 1988-1989 the Italian television Saturday evening, on RaiUno, was dedicated to the confetti of Viareggio.

In 2001 the new Carnival Citadel was inaugurated, an extraordinary architectural complex, entirely dedicated to the creation and conservation of the Viareggio Carnival. Sixteen hangar-workshops overlook a gigantic elliptical square, an arena for large outdoor performances in summer, where builders forge their ideas and intuitions. Here the gigantic floats are created. The Citadel is completed with the Carnival Museum, the Espace Gilbert and the Historical Archive.


Today the Viareggio Carnival is a great event of art, tradition, entertainment and culture. A show that fascinates audiences from all over the world. The Viareggio Carnival fills a whole month with day and night parties, with parades of mammoth floats, local parties, masked balls and festivals of all kinds.


bottom of page