Viareggio is known as a seaside resort in the area of Tuscany called Versilia, but also for one of the most important Carnivals in Italy. This post has the aim of explaining what it is, how it works and to tell you its long history.
Viareggio is a very charming town with a large street by the seaside that is good for walking, running, riding a bike or shopping in the many glamorous shops along the promenade. During Carnival, this street becomes a 2 kilometres long circuit where more than 1.000.000 people from all over the world come to take part to this unique event.
History of Viareggio’s Carnival
The Carnival of Viareggio was born in 1873, when a group of artisans and sculptors started building astonishing carriages. It soon became a popular party for a joyful city. At first it was held in Via Regia, in the heart of the old town. Then, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it moved to the long street along the seaside, growing in size and popularity year after year.
During World War One the Carnival stopped until 1921 and then again during the World War Second. In 1946, the Carnival of Viareggio flourished again, returning even more beautiful than before.
The symbol of Viareggio’s Carnival is Burlamacco (see picture below), which was created in 1930 by Umberto Bonetti.
In 2001 the new “Cittadella del Carnevale” (Carnival’s Citadel) was inaugurated: it is an extraordinary architectural complex entirely dedicated to the creation and preservation of the Carnival of Viareggio. It has sixteen hangars, where the allegorical floats are built, overlooking a giant elliptical square.
The Cittadella is also the place where during the summer the biggest outdoor events take place. Here visitors can find two museums, one dedicated to the history of the Carnival floats and the other to Carnevalotto, a valuable collection of works of art created by contemporary designer.
The raw material of the Carnival of Viareggio is papier-mâché or rather the paper mold. Paper mold allowed to build huge works, that are light at the same time. Models in clay, plaster casts, newsprint and glue made by flour and water are the simple ingredients of the biggest show of its kind in the world. To know more about the “behind the scenes” read this post.
By train: Viareggio’s train station is about 15 minutes walk from the seaside where the parade takes place. Check out Trenitalia’s website.
By car: You can find car parkings at:
- Terrazza della Repubblica: around Viale Belluomini
- Via Fratti (sea side)
- Via Bixio
Anyway, the suggestion is to reach Viareggio with public transportation to avoid traffic.
The Carnival takes place every year in February (the exact dates change every year depending on the Easter). For a month, the city is transformed into a factory of fun with parades of giant papier-marché floats, night parties, fireworks, theatre, food events and big sporting events (like the Viareggio World Cup Football Tournament Coppa Carnevale).
To take part in the Viareggio Carnival you need to buy a ticket that costs 15-18 euros for adults and 10-13 euros for kids depending on the parade you want to attend, while kids until up to 7 years old don’t pay (read below for the details). When in 2017:
- February 5th – Tickets: adults 15 €, kids 10 €
- February 12th - Tickets: adults 18 €, kids 13 €
- February 18th - Tickets: adults 18 €, kids 13 €
- February 26th - Tickets: adults 18 €, kids 13 €
- February 28th (Mardì Gras) - Tickets: adults 15 €, kids 10 €
More info on the prices on the official website of the Carnival.
You can but the tickets online on VivaTicket.it. Tribune must be booked by fax +39 0584/580771 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and payed by bank transfer within 20 days from the chosen parade.
Additional tip: there is also a summer Carnival in Viareggio! Read more here.
[Post updated in January 2017]