In late February/early March, extravagant paper mache floats cruise down the confetti-coated streets of Viareggio (Vee-ah-REJ-joh). For the past 141 years, this small beach town near Pisa has played host to one of Italy’s largest folk events, the Carnevale di Viareggio. This carnival is loaded with month-long day and night festivities, ranging from local parties and masked balls to lively parades with humongous allegorical floats more than 20 meters high and 12 meters wide.

Each one tells an animated (literally, they have moving parts) story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden message—usually of satirical nature—which is why you’ll see most topped with politicians, famous people, or sports figures.

These floats are truly one of a kind. And they should be! Each one takes up to an entire year to create. More than 1,000 people from 25 different artisan firms work on them from the day carnival ends to the time the next party starts.

Just take a look at these works of art:

Giant Carnevale Virareggio floats
His eyes bounced up and down and his head turned from side to side!
Viareggio Indian float
Some even produced smoke!
Obama float
Obama, is that you?
Viareggio carnival
Looks like he’s having a ball! 😉
Viareggio Hysteria float
Hands down, my favorite float! The characters talked to and interacted with each other!
Carnevale Di Viareggio
Politician Beppe Grillo doing some Italian hand gestures… and not the good kind.
world wide web float
The World Wide Web is taking over your lives!
Aliens are taking over
Attention: there is an alien invasion. You have been warned!
italian clown cannon
Of course, no carnival would be complete without a clown cannon shooting confetti!

These seriously mind-blowing floats even have their own museum with free entrance, just a few minutes’ walk from the train station!

Citadel of the Carnival of Viareggio
Via Santa Maria Goretti, 55049 Viareggio

If you want to experience a day of confetti, silly string, dancing in the streets, colorful costumes, and floats that outdo the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (by a long shot – sorry Macy’s!) you still have two more weekends to experience Viareggio Carnevale! One hour, twenty minutes, and €9 will get you to Viareggio from the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station, and from there it’s just €15 for a ticket to enjoy all the festivities.

3rd Masked Parade: Sunday March 2 @ 3 p.m.

4th Masked Parade: Fat Tuesday March 4 @ 2:50 p.m.

  • Recorded live on National TV! (RaiTre)

5th Masked Parade: Happy Birthday, Carnival! Sunday March 9 @ 3 p.m.

  • The 400th parade and longest day of carnival. Float competition winners are announced, the show closes with fireworks!
Check out their website for a full list of events and info, here.

Would you rather go to crazy Viareggio or traditional Venice carnival?

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…and after all the fun, you may want to relax in one of our student apartments!