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Carnival is one of the oldest festivities in Italy, as it sinks its roots in the Roman Saturnalia, and even further back in time in the Greek Dionysian festivals, when a temporary reversal of social roles took place, in an atmosphere of levity and freedom, all the more enjoyable as everything was later to return exactly as it was before. Carnival is still celebrated in predominantly Catholic countries. The word Carnival derives from a religious precept – refrain from eating meat (carnem levare, in Latin) during Lent, a period of fasting and abstinence, immediately following Carnival.
The Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most beautiful and sumptuous Italian festivals, characterized as it is by the presence of wonderful floats and masks. At the beginning, they were made of wood, scagliola and jute, in the local shipyards. Today they are made of papier mâché, with spectacular mobile structures. The parade always starts from the Carnival Citadel, where floats are designed, manufactured and stored. Around 25 artisan businesses and over a thousand workers are engaged, all the year round, in the manufacturing of floats. As usual, floats and masks parade on the Promenade on five consecutive Sundays, and on the last day, the most beautiful float is awarded a prize. The award ceremony is followed by a spectacular fireworks display. The Carnival started this year on February 16th and it ended on March 9th. 100,000 people participated in this edition, or simply assembled along the Promenade to admire and applaud the floats. Among the many allegorical and satirical floats, representing the economical crisis and the mock-ups of political figures, you can always find the masks of Burlamacco and Ondina, named, respectively, after the channel that cuts through Viareggio and after a nymph, reminding us that we are in a seaside town!