Italians seem to exploit every opportunity to celebrate as a community and right now it’s Carnival, time to have fun before the penitential period of Lent. The Carnival at Viareggio is strong competition for the one at Venice, and it’s so little known outside Italy that you rarely hear a foreign language being spoken.
Everything is focused on the festive parade of magnificent papier mâché floats that sally forth every Sunday for a month or so and on Shrove Tuesday (the schedule changes each year). You need to arrive early to get a parking space, but you won’t get bored while waiting. The setting is the passegiata or boardwalk with its backdrop of ‘stile liberty’ buildings and beach establishments.
People of all ages come to enjoy the spectacle, many showing off their costumes.
Animals are there too.
If you’re alert, you’ll see some amusing vignettes.
There’s fast food…
…and slow food.
At 3 pm three canon shots announce the start of the parade of floats.
Some are several storeys tall…
…and others are people on the ground wearing elaborate headdresses.
Some satirise politicians…
…and some feature films and pop stars.
Some are monuments to the skill and ingenuity of the people who design and build the floats, now full-time jobs.
As the sun sets, the floats go round for the last time and spectators drift happily homewards.
(I’d like to thank Klaus Falbe-Hansen for his keen eye, excellent photos and unfailing sense of humour at Carnival 2010.)
Heather Jarman invites you on inspiring culinary tours of life behind the scenes that you won’t find in any guidebook — get to know the food artisans and craftspeople of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Liguria. Come join me and my Italian friends and dip into a lifestyle where lunch is more important than business. Find out more at Sapori e Saperi Adventures and follow Heather’s own adventures on her blog.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.