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Carnevale di Viareggio

Each year at Viareggio, between January and March there is the most popular event in the whole of Tuscany well known throughout Europe: the Carnival.
Since 1873, the year in which certain young persons had the idea of organising a fancy dress parade to relive the bygone carnival celebrations, a tradition was established that every year has been enriched with something new, and which now welcomes the public from all over Europe.

After a few years, apart from the people and the carriages in fancy dress, there began to appear open floats depicting satirical characters.
These early floats were so heavy, as the figures were constructed in wood, plaster, metal or fabric, that they needed oxen to pull them the length of the parade.
The construction of these fantastic floats was, in the first place, trusted to the voluntary work of the master wood cutters in the naval yards of Viareggio, subsequently in 1922 the use of the much lighter and easier worked papier-maché was introduced, and the construction work on the floats was no longer a pass-time but became true institutions and workshops, where, in great secrecy, the papier-maché artists each year construct floats even more original and spectacular, enormous effigies at times imaginary, sometimes satirical, which parade between the two wings of rejoicing crowds.

In the area to the north of Viareggio "La Cittadella" has been constructed, inaugurated in December 2001 and designed by Architect Francesco Tomassi, where, together with the theatre and the multimedia museum there have been built special hangars where the talented papier-maché artists give life each year to their fantastic and complex floats.
After the second world war, in 1946 the parade of floats was resumed and in 1954 the television took up the event and transmitted it in "Eurovisione".
So, each year under the Viareggian "Burlamacco" mask conceived by Umberto Bonetti in 1931, the multicoloured reunion of the cheerful crowds which invade Viareggio during the carnival period is renewed and enlarged.

Another event to be noted is that of "Foiano della Chiana", where, since the nineteenth century is celebrated the "Carri Matti" (mad floats) which are huge decorated floats from which the people in fancy dress on board throw oranges and other vegetables at the crowds, depicting a folklore battle with the crowds on the ground below them. At the end of Carnival time they celebrate the funeral of Giocondo, a tall effigy is burnt in the town square.
Carnival is very important in Tuscany where, each year, every town and city, and especially the small villages, organise fancy dress parades and masked balls and merry carnival events, where the young and old can enjoy themselves together.


Picture by Sandro Santioli

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