A Carnevale, ogni scherzo vale – At Carnival, anything goes
Today is Mardi Gras! Or, as they say in Italy, Carnevale! Americans may associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans and the French, but in Europe, the Italians really put on the show.
The Viareggio Carnival was established in 1873 when the local signori wanted to organize a parade with floats of flowers, but the rest of the people took it as an opportunity to dress up, wear masks, and mock the signori and the high taxes (how Italian!). That year they established the tradition of the float as art/satire/political humor that expresses the dissatisfaction of the people. Viareggio has become the home of the Italian Carnival, and since 1954, RAI broadcasts the entire event on national TV.
These floats are true works of art to which the local float makers dedicate an entire year of workmanship. There is not one politician, entertainer, or intellectual that has not been a target or protagonist of a float. On every float young people and children throw confetti and shooting stars onto the crowd.
Burlamacco, the clown, is the mascot of the Carnevale in Viareggio and plays a prominent role. He was chosen as the winner in a competition in 1931, with his red and white colors chosen to reflect the umbrellas on the beach at Viareggio in the summer. Later, he was named for the Burlamacca river.
So if you find yourself in Italy, skip the craziness in Venice and experience the Carnevale di Viareggio. And you’ll have time too since it lasts for a full month! See National Geographic’s list of the best Pre-Lenten celebrations and make sure to celebrate no matter where you are! As they say, at carnival, anything goes!