A vacation on the coast of Tuscany in northeastern Italy.
25 Jan 2019
Located on the coast of Tuscany in northeastern Italy, Viareggio might not be as famous as nearby Florence or Milan, but it has plenty of attractions - and neither of those larger cities can come close to matching Viareggio's carnival atmosphere.
So, what can you expect from carnival itself? If you've never experienced "Carnivale", you're in for a treat. It could be Europe's biggest party, and everyone's welcome.
Want to experience Carnival in Italy? Viareggio is the ideal destination.
Carnival takes place just before the start of Lent - which is the period of fasting leading into Easter. While Christians tend to cut back on luxuries during Lent, that's definitely not the case beforehand. Carnival developed as a way to let off steam and prepare for the period of self-discipline, meaning that food, dance, fireworks, music - basically anything goes.
The event first came to Viareggio in a big way back in 1873. Back then, the event saw beautifully decorated carriages rolling through the historic centre, but things soon became more energetic and down to earth.
By the 20th century, Viareggio's carnival was known for its party vibe. After World War Two, people started to visit from all over Italy, showing off their float-making skills. The procession became ever larger and more spectacular, and Italian TV started to make Viareggio's celebrations an annual broadcasting tradition.
How does Viareggio celebrate Carnival in the 21st century?
These days, the Viareggio carnival is bigger than ever. The centrepiece remains the parades, which feature enormous paper mache floats and figures. If you'd like to be there to watch them pass, there are five parades in total, starting on February 9th, and ending on March 5th, so there are plenty of opportunities.
No tickets are needed. Just head over to the Passeggiata (Viareggio's seafront promenade) and you can't miss the floats. Just remember to charge up your camera, as you'll definitely want to take a few photos to post on your Instagram account.
And get there early to secure a good vantage point. The festival attracts around 600,000 people every year, so things can get a bit crowded - which is one of the things that makes the atmosphere so special.
Sample the city's cultural life at Carnival time.
Naturally, with so many people in town, parades aren't the end of the story. A whole host of activities has grown up around carnival in Viareggio, meaning that there's no risk of boredom.
For one thing, you'll probably want to visit the Museum of the Carnival. It's a great place to discover how the papier mache floats are made and what some of the fantastical sculptures represent. And you'll get a chance to meet Burlamacco, the clown-like mascot of the city's events.
You can also head to the nearby Carnevalotto Museum of Contemporary Art for a visual, cultural feast. One of the best art collections on the Tuscan coast, it features a wonderful exhibit which honours the winning float from every carnival.
Make time to unwind with fine food and drink in Viareggio.
After that, you may have had enough of floats and sculptures for one day. And that's no problem. Carnival in Viareggio is the ideal time to explore the city's bars and restaurants, which often serve up specialities that are only available around carnival time.
For starters, there will be food stalls lining the parade route. These stalls are the ideal place to try some deep-fried cenci pastries. These strips of dough are sprinkled with sugar and are incredibly moreish.
If you want to sample sweet carnival desserts in a more laid-back environment, get a seat at the local Pasticceria Patalani. These pasticcerias are stacked with delicious sweets, so forget about your diet plans... it's not worth trying to resist.
Discover the delights of carnival with Gruppo UNA.
Finally, you can enjoy a glass of Chianti or another local wine overlooking the Mediterranean. Our local hotels offer terrace bars with exceptional views, offering the ideal place to relax and look through your photographs of the day.
You can stay at luxury accommodation while you experience carnival thanks to Gruppo UNA. Our Versilia Lido | UNA Esperienze commands gorgeous views over the Mediterranean and is close to the city. With a fitness centre, gourmet dining, and staff who know everything going on during carnival, it's the perfect place to stay.
Above all, our hotels will make you feel at ease and at home. With skilled staff who can point out activities and eating spots, you'll be able to make the most of carnival. So have a look at the options and book your Tuscan carnival escape with Gruppo UNA.