The Carnival of Italy and Europe
The idea of celebrating the carnival in Versilia, blossomed in 1873 among the young well–to–do of Viareggio of that time. It was on Mardì Gras of that same year that the Viareggio Carnival, as it is known today (that's to say a spectacular event among the finest and greatest in the world), was born. The people's festival was immediately great and triumphal floats begun to appear on its scenery: these were real and proper monuments, built in wood, plaster and jute, designed by sculptors and put together by Viareggio's craftsmen (carpenters and iron smiths) who built ships for the naval industry of this zone.
After the first world war the Carnival flourished again, even more splendid and grandiose than before, and the coloured floats paraded through the two main Viareggio's avenues, running parallel to each other and the beach (the coastal promenade), the Apuan Alps as their background. All at once the avenues in Viareggio became the summer meeting point of national and international society life.
1921 was also the year in which the first official carnival song, "Cup of Champagne" was sung (it is the current song of the Carnival today), and the figures on the floats became animated to the sound of music for the first time, since a band found a place on board a float. Two years later a float with the figure of a "Pierrot" who moved head and eyes was realized (it was the first carnival moving figure).
In 1925 the materials employed to create the floats have been replaced by papier–maché, which allowed huge but very high constructions and figures, so that this event increased in popularity, mainly thanks to floats constructors' ability which was worldwide acknowledged; they reached so high artistic level that national and international press used to call them "papier–maché wizards".
The typical Viareggio Carnival's figure is the "Burlamacco", created by the painter Uberto Bonetti. Burlamacco appeared for the first time on the scene, in 1931, then becoming one of the most famous and important Italian carnival masks; it has a place today, among the Italian carnival figures in Rome at the Folklore and Tradition museum and is on exhibition in Paris at the Musée de l'Homme.
After the second world war, the Carnival restarted in 1946, becoming even more important in the international scenery. National TV first (1954), then Eurovision in 1958, have established this spectacular show by taking Viareggio Carnival everywhere by satellite and each year several well–known guests, such as politicians, sport and show business personalities, come to Viareggio to admire their effiges in papier-maché parade along the promenade. Hundreds of thousands of people above all, have contributed to make this spectacle a great success.
Viareggio Carnival floats
The Viareggio Carnival (called Carnival of Italy and Europe, from 2002) every year celebrates the splendour of a whole month (usually during the whole month of February) of night and day celebrations, with floats, parades, district celebrations, masked dances and shows of every kind.
In 2001 the "Cittadella del Carnevale" (Carnival Town) was inaugurated, an important and unique structure which encloses new hangars for the floats creation, and where you can find the papier-maché school and a great arena where, during summertime, the review called "Cittadella under the stars" (shows, concerts and cultural activities) takes place. A Carnival museum and a theatre as well, have been set up inside the Cittadella, to improve and diffuse the historical and cultural memory of Viareggio's Carnival and the other ones celebrated all over the world.
Viareggio's Carnival represents a meeting place of Italian tradition and universal principles of solidarity and peace in a light and happy atmosphere.