Viareggio Carnival: a special edition to mark its 150 years in 2023
16 January 2023
The history of the Viareggio Carnival and its masks
Viareggio's Burlamacco is undoubtedly one of the most famous masks of the Viareggio Carnival, a centuries-old tradition that has been performed in the heart of the city since 1873. Legend has it that Viareggio's traditional procession of floats originated at the tables of the historic Caffè del Casinò at the wish of the young people of Viareggio. From the idea to its realisation, it was a short step: the first floats paraded through the streets of Viareggio on Shrove Tuesday in 1873 and since that year, ever more majestic and elaborate, the triumphant floats have become the symbol of the city throughout the world.
In addition to Burlamacco, a mask created in 1930 by the futurist painter Uberto Bonetti, over the years his companion Ondina, the symbol of the Viareggio summer, Faraboletto, Marcopolino, Burlanotte and Pincianello have also emerged. To get a taste of the work that goes on behind the floats that march through the city every year, a visit to the Viareggio Carnival Museum is a must.
Credits photo: Deborah75
The Viareggio Carnival Parades
The Viareggio Carnival parades, also known as Corsi Mascherati (masked parades), take place every year on the Viali a Mare, a stone's throw from the beach. We use the plural because since that first parade in 1873, the celebrations in Viareggio have extended to the entire Carnival period with six different parades attended by up to 600,000 spectators each year.
Experiencing the tradition does not only mean standing open-mouthed in front of these wooden and papier-mâché masterpieces and cheering for the most beautiful and majestic ones, but also reveling in the Viareggio Carnival songs that are chosen year after year to represent a unique event in the world. A few examples: Maschereide of 1922, Carnevale magico of 1958 and Un tuffo tra i coriandoli of 2019.
The Viareggio Carnival floats are true works of art
The planning of the Viareggio Carnival floats begins well ahead of time, starting with the sketches that the Carnival artists create in preparation for the construction of the floats. The magic happens at the Cittadella del Carnevale, the place where the workshops for the builders and the hangars where the floats are constructed and stored are located. The sketches of the Viareggio Carnival 2023 have been published on the event's official website and we anticipate that tributes to Star Wars, Mars Attack and Stan Lee are planned.
The floats will parade along the Viali a Mare in a circular route that will give all attendees the chance to admire the papier-mâché masterpieces up close. The winning float of the Viareggio Carnival 2022 was "Il sognatore" (The Dreamer) by Jacopo Allegrucci for the 1st category. Who will win the 2023 edition?
The typical Viareggio sweets are all to be enjoyed
Discovering Viareggio during the Corsi Mascherati also has the advantage of allowing tourists and visitors to sample delicious Tuscan Carnival sweets. Delicacies such as frittelle con riso e uvetta (fritters with rice and sultanas) are just one of the gastronomic symbols of the Viareggio Carnival. Equally famous are the Ondine, fried sweets named after the mask of Ondina, Burlamacco's companion.
It is impossible to resist the chantilly-filled bomboloni and the tasty Tuscan cenci di Carnevale, a variant of chiacchiere with the addition of Vin Santo in the dough for a more aromatic flavour.
The programme and dates of the Viareggio Carnival 2023
The 2023 edition, celebrating 150 years of the Viareggio Carnival, will kick off on Saturday 4 February with the opening ceremony and the first of six Great Masked Parades.
Five more parades will be held on the following days: Sunday 12 February, Thursday 16 February (Fat Thursday), Sunday 19 February, Tuesday 21 February (Shrove Tuesday) and Saturday 25 February. After the last Masked Parade, scheduled from 5 p.m., there will be the reading of the Jury's verdicts and the winners of the various categories will be announced.
All parades take place on the Viali a Mare, a short walk from the beach. The ticket office of the Viareggio Carnival is open from 9.00 am on the days of the Parades, at the Cittadella, but those who prefer to arrive in town well prepared can also buy tickets online. Where should you park for the Viareggio Carnival? It's easy: throughout the city there are both free and paid parking spaces. The best advice is to download the official Mobilità Versilia app where all the parking areas are listed, and in some cases can even be booked in advance.