The Viareggio Carnival was established in 1873 when some of the local "signori" decided to organize a Sunday a little different from the rest, by inventing a procession of decorated floats which travelled up and down the main street of the city. On the occasion , a masked protest was also organized by a number of citizens, as they were forced to pay too many taxes and as a result the chief tax collector was certainly made fun of!! The parade was liked alot, not only by the patrons but also by the citizens and the idea of making floats that interpreted humor and dissatisfaction of the people and the events that came about in that year.
Carnival of Viareggio celebrating 139 years of life and activity under the sign of a vivid tradition such as the long – established European tradition of Carnival festivals, is no doubt one of the best known events in Italy.
Carnival of Viareggio since it was born it has been acquiring a strong touristic value and attracts every year more than one million spectators gathering to attend the magic of the great parade of big floats in papier – maché.
In 2012, the usual five carnival masked parades are planned for February 5th, 12th 19th 21th 26th and March, 3th, on the extraordinary Liberty style staging along the seaside avenues of Viareggio. Every evening, there are carnival celebrations in all of the city's different quarters.
Real travelling theatres - the allegorical papier-maché floats are the product of the unequalled creativity, of the extraordinary sculpture and painting skill of Viareggio ‘magicians’, and are the highest example of this popular art whose language has spread all over the world.
The parades take place in a ring-like circuit 2 km. long, on the seaside avenues of Viareggio, best known as La Passeggiata.
Here the floats move among the spectators, who can attend the show with no barriers, becoming in turn the protagonists of the parade.
During the Carnival period, Viareggio and his Passeggiata change into a true open air Museum where people coming from all over the world meet to enjoy together.
The parades also include folkloristic bands and performers with the most original masks, offering excitement, culture and tradition in a wide programme of entertainment and fun for children and adults
The official Viareggio Carnival mask is the "Burlamacco", a clown which wears clothes. Checkered overalls, taken form the Harlequin's costume, a white ponpon stolen from Pierrot's big puffy blouse, a white gorget-"Captain Scary" style, a red headband and a black mantle. The name Burlamacco derives from Buffaimacco a Florentine painter and a character in the "Decamerone". However, it is also said to be linked to the Lucchese surname Burlamacchi.