Hello Italian Adventurers,
I am just back from an amazing weekend celebrating Carnevale in Viareggio. I am currently in pain all over and have no voice… both the signs of a good weekend.
Carnevale was something that was super new to me. It isn’t celebrated in Glasgow at all (as far as I am aware) and then I moved to Italy and a whole month long party takes over the country around February/March. Carnevale is something to do with Easter… less vague facts will follow. Kids are constantly dressed up, bakeries become filled with specific and delicious snacks… and most importantly (as well as most annoyingly) the streets (and your shoes, pockets, bra… any nook or cranny) are filled with coriandoli.
Coriandoli are like confetti… but less fancy. Think of the paper in a whole punch… that is coriandoli… and we have a love hate relationship. I know I will be finding little bits of Coriandoli alllll over my house until it is time to put the Christmas decorations up. (Then I will be cleaning up bits of tinsel and tree for a couple of months before the Coriandoli fun starts again…)
Esther and I make a yearly voyage to Viareggio to celebrate this time of year. There are other places that celebrate it too- most famously Venice- but there is something about the Viareggio one that I am completely in love with. I am terrified of masks, so Carnevale is a pretty horrendous time in my life. Venice is filled with these ‘beautiful’ and ornate masks that look like they are from the renaissance times and people dressed incredibly elegantly and wonderfully turned out. In Viareggio, people are dressed as tigers, or jellyfish. I definitely feel more at home in the second situation.
This was my first year going to Viareggio without a hangover. I can 100% confirm that I spent the second day in Viareggio with a hangover… and here is why.
So as you arrive in the little seaside town, you will see lots of masks and flags decorating the streets. It is a complete community celebration and everyone gets involved. I love seeing Italians being silly. It isn’t that regular an occurrence. Off the train, you head down towards the main promenade and buy tickets, which this year were 20 euros. It is quite steep, BUT it is 100% worth every penny and you will be entertained for a long time. We were given a completely useless map, as the parade takes place on a straight street and then the floats turn around and go back up the other side! But we did refer to the map more than we thought we might… I have no idea why we would have needed it but the map was definitely referred to.
They have these MASSIVE floats which usually have some form of political message behind them. The past couple of years, Donald Trump’s face has featured a lot. We spend a lot of time trying to work out what we think the floats are about, and what politicians are being abused. It really helps keep us up to date with world leaders.
The floats are led by groups of people dancing, singing, chucking coriandoli and sweets at the innocent passers by. It is AMAZING. The dancers will be themed to the main float in some way and we have seen loads of different and crazy creative ideas.
Also, the drinks available inside definitely make up for the price of entrance. We found 1euro wine and it was good. Then we found 2 euro fizzy wine and it was AMAZING. (I know nothing about wine… so amazing may be a bold statement but there were bubbled and I was happy!) Hence, the hangover on the second day. I was too excited and over stimulated by all the colours, sounds and smells.
Carnevale snacks tend to come in 2 forms. These weird rice balls called Frittelle which are covered in icing sugar, and Cenci (this is the Tuscan name). I can’t really explain what either of them are like but you should definitely buy a box and smash it without sharing!
I have never stayed in Viareggio on the night of Carnevale so this is completely from a one night story. It definitely became a place of parties. We found this bar. We danced. We sang. We saw a man with a teardrop tattoo who definitely didn’t look like he should have had one. They played the WORST music off someone’s phone and kept skipping during songs. They played the Fratellis’ ‘Chelsea Dagger’ at least 4 times in 45 minutes. They also played the Superman song (you know the one… ski… spray…) but would not play the Cha Cha Slide, no matter how many times I tried to steal the phone. Everyone was smoking inside so we stank.
It doesn’t sound like fun… But it was a damn good night.
Carnevale. You steal my soul in some way every year, but, I love you.
Would I return to Viareggio Carnevale?
100% YES! Every year… gotta be done… how else am I going to know who is in politics?!
Would I advise other people to visit Viareggio Carnevale?
For sure! It isn’t the greatest time of year to visit Italy for weather as it is CHILLY! But, I do think it is really a great experience for adults and kids alike!
Lots of love,