Carnevale in Viareggio
By Elizabeth Brown-Kaiser (ISI Florence)
On Sunday, February 5th at 3 pm sharp, the 144th Carnival of Viareggio commenced with its Grand Opening Parade. Spectators covered in confetti from head to toe were greeted by bright, papier-maché floats that met the standards for those expecting satire.
Viareggio is known for being the “capital of Carnival” and is particularly famous for its ironic depictions of timely, central themes. This year, the parade featured portrayals of issues as light as love ranging to more serious topics like the current refugee crisis in Europe.
American politics played an especially important role in the celebration. Several floats targeted United States’ President Donald Trump and attacked his policy stances. One float featured a live Statue of Liberty standing on top of Mr. Trump’s flowing and caricature-like hair, swinging around a rifle as the symbolic figure encouraged dancing Native Americans, cowboys, and Muslims to promenade down the street. The back of the float read “Make Carnival Great Again.”
Eric Petruzzo, a college junior from the University of Virginia studying abroad in Florence, noted the display’s symbolic significance.
“It was kind of jarring seeing such vivid political satire in a way that I think may be socially frowned upon in the States,” Petruzzo said. “It was also very interesting and eye-opening to see how important American politics are around the world and how [Italians’] perceptions are different than ours, and almost exclusively on the liberal side.”
Another prominent float featured President Trump under the McDonald’s signature golden arches holding Big Macs and tormenting a small Hillary Clinton figure. Instead of reading “McDonald’s,” the brand’s “M” was transformed to instead say “Mad Donald Trump.”
Other timely subjects depicted by floats during the promenade included global warming, the United Kingdom’s Brexit from the European Union, and the scientific exploration of new planets in space.
Regardless of the seemingly intense topics included in Carnival, the event is a festive celebration attended by over 600,000 spectators each year.
From young children in strollers to drunken adults hanging out of the nearby hotel balconies, the Viareggio Carnival was an event for all. The seaside street, known as “La Passeggiata,” was filled with people in masks and costumes, munching on Carnival staples such as bomboloni and pesce fritto.
The masked parade will continue this Saturday, February 18th at 5 pm, and on Sunday, February 26th at 3 pm. The Grand Finale will be held at 3 pm on February 28th, also known as Mardi Gras, and will continue into the evening. At the conclusion of the 2017 Viareggio Carnival, the best float will be recognized and a firework finale will close the festival.
“I loved the Carnevale experience,” Petruzzo said. “The hot donuts and confetti in the sea breeze was magical.”
Students in Florence can board a direct, regional train at Santa Maria Novella and arrive at the Viareggio Carnival in approximately 1.5 hours.