Tuesday, Feb. 21 (Mardi Gras) & Saturday, Feb. 25 (5 pm, followed by a fireworks display): VIAREGGIO CARNIVAL. Viale Mazzini, Viareggio.
February signifies Carnival time in Tuscany, including Martedì Grasso, or Fat Tuesday. The seaside city of Viareggio hosts Tuscany’s biggest Carnival celebrations, this year continuing a tradition begun in 1873. Set on the Mediterranean Sea with a backdrop of the Apuan Alps, Viareggio boasts historical rulers from the Bonaparte and Bourbon royal families as well as one-time residents Giacomo Puccini, Percy Bysshe Shelly, and Lord Byron.
Carnival, Carnevale in Italian, has origins in the pagan Roman festival of Saturnalia and the term, derived from the Latin carnem levare, means ‘take away the meat.’ The name indicates the feast of unrestrained enjoyment of food, drink, and sensual pleasures leading up to Martedì Grasso, which is followed by 40 days of Lent, a time when good Catholics fast or deprive themselves of something they enjoy.
The Viareggio Carnival has its signature character, Burlamacco. The smiling clown, dressed in red and white, a huge black cape billowing behind, has become the symbol of the city’s yearly event and the town’s official mascot.
The parades feature huge papier mâché floats, called carri, proceeding down the wide beachfront avenue, accompanied by music, costumed dancers, and rife with satire. The objects of ridicule and denouncement – politicians, cultural icons, and evils of contemporary society – are brazenly portrayed in caricature on the floats.
Teams work throughout the year on creating the floats in great secrecy, building them in huge warehouses the size of airplane hangars. The following are some of the floats which will make an appearance this year.
UNA STORIA FANTASTICA (A FANTASTIC STORY)
An ancient storyteller with his accordion, drum, and faithful dog comes to relate the 150-year long history of Carnival. The fantastic tale of Carnival evokes memories and emotions which cause all to dream of a state where the imagination becomes true.
PACE ARMATA (ARMED PEACE)
This creation illustrates hope while mankind is faced with war. A small girl lorded over by a warrior but surrounded by the rainbow colors of the peace flag, a universal banner of brotherhood, inspires thought and resolve to overcome.
UNA MACUMBA PER DIRE BASTA! (A MACUMBA TO SAY ENOUGH!)
The world, threatened by pollution, wars, and pandemics, needs to heal and purify itself. Proposed by the theme, a ‘macumba,’ a ritual dance originating from the voodoo elements of the African-Brazilian ritual cult, can possibly be the answer to mankind’s woes.
EVOLUZIONE DELLE SPECIE (EVOLUTION OF THE SPECIES)
This float depicts the evolution of the species which has reached a tipping point. A ferocious growling beast, chest full of military medals, carries the United Nations on its back. Can we save ourselves with creativity, enthusiasm, and hope?
RIDI PAGLIACCIO, O L’ARTE DI PRENDERSI SERIAMENTE SUL SERIO (LAUGH PAGLIACCIO, OR THE ART OF TAKING ONESELF SERIOUSLY)
Looking in the mirror, the clown Pagliaccio in reality is looking beyond his own face. Will he make us laugh or will he laugh at the world which now resembles a circus? Irony and satire, our mirror and the constant theme of 150 years of Carnival, show us that laughter might be the supreme answer to exorcise this tragicomic world.
The creator of the float strives to draw attention to depression and mental illness, affecting millions of people worldwide. Pulcinella, the hunchback clown with a long hawk nose, always manages to hide behind his mask, recover from adversity with a smile, and rediscover the wonders of the earth.
IO SONO NESSUNO (I AM NOBODY)
A sad faced man sits playing a violin surrounded by sunflowers. War and pandemic have exhibited the ruthless results of capitalism in inflicting poverty and disease on mankind. Sunflowers, a symbol of hope, entreat us to follow the sunlight, giving us the strength to face life.
These are some of the many float’s spectators can view with admittance to the parade area. This year proves to provide many activities and events for all ages. (rita kungel)
For complete information, tickets and regulations, see the Carnival website.