It’s not just Venice that celebrates Carnival in style. In the lovely seaside Tuscan town of Viareggio, Tuscany Carnival is less about masked decadence and more about their world-famous parade of papier-mache floats. In 1873 this parade was born when the town officials decided to celebrate the coming of Lent in a new way, which quickly became a means of poking fun at the tax collectors who everyone disliked. Following this tradition, 2012’s parade will feature satirical floats in the likenesses of Mario Draghi, head of the European Union Bank; Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France; Matteo Renzi, Mayor of Florence; Luca Lunardini, Mayor of Viareggio; Guilio Tremonti, former economy minister for Italy; and, of course, Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier.
You can see the floats on the Sundays of February (February 5, 12, 19, 26), and the first Saturday in March (the 3rd). The parade itself is held on Fat Tuesday, February 21st, the day before Lent officially begins. The parade travels along the long seaside promenade of Viareggio, known as La Passeggiata, a busy holiday boulevard of cafes, shops and hotels. Amongst the floats will be folk bands and street performers and you can dance and join the parade along its way.
More than a million people head to Viareggio for the parade each year and every evening during February there are street parties and celebrations in the various quarters of the city. Viereggio is one of the towns making up the Versilian Riviera of Tuscany, a long sandy coastline at the foot of the Apuan Alps. If you don’t want to stay in the partying-Viareggio itself during Carnival time, consider the nearby towns of Forte del Marmi, Lido di Camaiore or Marina di Pietrasanta or head inland to Massarosa.