In Viareggio, the idea for a carnival celebration with floats began in 1870's when a group of wealthy young men discussed the idea in one of the local casinos. The first of the Viareggio carnivals, as we know them today, took place on Shrove Tuesday 1873. This annual carnival became a huge success and the anonimity of everyone being dressed in costumes and masks very quickly gave the inhabitants of Viareggio another idea. Needless to say, it was not long before the event was used as an opportunity to protest against excessive taxation.
The massive floats were first built by the world famous ship builders of Viareggio. These men were skilled carpenters and ironmongers who were well used to building large ships strong enough to travel across oceans. In 1925, the use of papier mache was introduced which meant that as the floats were now lightweight, as well as strong, they could become even larger and more elaborate.
Today, the floats are planned and worked on for the whole year prior to the carnival. The floats are large and elaborate, many of them reaching as high as the rooves on the five storey hotels which line the streets they pass down. They have moving parts and puppets with people inside the float to manouevre the weights and levers that make the puppets move. The largest floats will also carry around 200 people, dressed in costume, dancing, singing and throwing confetti. The papier mache puppets on the floats satirise puplic and political figures and each depicts some item of news ranging from politics to film stars.
It has become traditional for the people attending the carnival to also dress up and it is something the children really enjoy. There are puppies, bees, skeletons, bears, soldiers and whole families dressed as dogs or rabbits. There is a real party atmosphere with music, dancing and large bags of confetti which the children throw over everyone.
There are five parades which take place over the five weekends before Lent. As these dates change each year, it is wise to check on the Official Carnival website before booking your holiday.
2019 - Saturday 9, Sunday 17, Saturday 23 February, Sunday 3 and Tuesday 5 March 2019
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