Carnevale di Viareggio

I’ve recently been in Venice when people were dressed for a 15th century masquerade ball. I’ve recently been in Bassano del Grappa to witness a group of walking Lego blocks and a group of faux (and very convincing) military personnel dressed in full camouflage, ready for an ambush. I’ve recently ogled myriad costumed children in several little cities around Rome – Castel Gandolfo, Nettuno, Latina, Nemi, and Velletri to name a few.

I’m not referring to Halloween in Italy; I’m referring to Carnevale (kar-ne-VA-leh). The costumes are far more intricate, the atmosphere is far more festive, and the women aren’t trying to compete for shortest skirt or most revealing outfit. The festivities aren’t about tricks, or treats, or drinking parties. No, Carnevale is where everyone comes out in colorful –and often impressive– costumes to make friends with everyone else, celebrate with strangers, and be surprised in all sorts of ways. And the coriandoli*, oh the coriandoli! It’s merely confetti, yet not, and so much fun. It’s light and colorful and a great way to make new friends or simply partake in the reveling. Friends sprinkle it on each other. Strangers carry around bags of it to throw at other strangers. Children sit in it and toss it around like it’s the best thing ever. The paper confetti flies down from the floats and up into the air, and it covers the streets like a layer of snow in multi-colored pastels. Carnevale may not be Disneyland, but for two to three weeks a year, it sparks magic and happiness in the air.

I’ve now seen bits of Carnevale in Veneto, Lazio, and Toscana. I’ve witnessed masked revelers in full regalia in both Venezia and Viareggio – Italy’s two most popular cities for Carnevale. Though most foreigners are probably more familiar with Venezia’s masks and celebrations, Viareggio is an excellent contender. It’s a big celebration in a small city. Rather than attempting a poor description of the festivities, however, I’m probably better off showing you. Happy viewing!


*The coriandoli will follow you home. You will literally leave a trail of joy around the house. You will find the confetti for days, no matter how much you shook yourself off. You will marvel at how a coriandolo got in that part of the house. You will probably like it.