Carnival Masks and Floats at Viareggio

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.

The performers

The audience

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.



In between

Aspiring teenagers

Animals are there too.

Rare species

Only known case of a ladybird (bug) being born to giraffes




If you’re alert, you’ll see some amusing vignettes.

Ciao tutti!

Which storybook are you from?


She wasn’t impressed?

There’s fast food…

Fast food

…and slow food.

Cacciucco (fish stew) at a bagno

At 3 pm three canon shots announce the start of the parade of floats.

Puffs of moke from the canon

Some are several storeys tall…

Obama above the bankers

…and others are people on the ground wearing elaborate headdresses.

Berlusconi beneath the babes

Some satirise politicians…

Superman to the rescue

Cradle snatcher

Who’s she?

…and some feature films and pop stars.

Nearly his last appearance

Some are monuments to the skill and ingenuity of the people who design and build the floats, now full-time jobs.

Flying and breathing fire as the band plays and choir sings

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.)

Erica 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 Erica’s own adventures on her blog.

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2 Responses to Carnival Masks and Floats at Viareggio

  1. Kathy Wood says:

    Heather, these photos are absolutely fantastic! Where is Viareggio?

  2. Heather Jarman says:

    Yes, Klaus is an excellent photographer, especially considering he’s bridge engineer, not a professional photographer. Viareggio is the next town on the Tuscan coast north of Pisa.

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