Elegant and refined Viareggio is one of the more famous coast resorts in Versilia and a tourist destination known all over the world. It is an amusement-centre, the country of the Carnival and of the night-refinement with its advanced anf first-rate night-clubs and premises. The night lights make room for a lively and coloured landscape in summer and for wonderful sunsets and tranquillity in winter.
Anyway Viareggio is always the right place to visit as it displays, during every season, different kinds of tourist attractions. The historical traditions are scanty: its name derives from the tower in Via Regia, which was built during the XVth century by the inhabitants of Lucca.
In that period, once the Burlamacca's outlet had been make in working order, the arbour become lively and trading was set going. Anyway the real industrial growth starts only some centuries later and was based mostly on shipyards.
The sea, the big ally of the inhabitants of Viareggio, constituted the starting-point to build the fishermen's boats. The development and growing of the town have caused that, nowadays, yachts and posh boats are designed and built in the same shipyards.
Anyhow tourism is still Viareggio' strenght: you only have to note that in the beginning of the 20th century the bathing huts reached already 3000 units, to see the neverending development of this tourist resort . The landscape is unique thanks either to the greenery of the hills, the pinewoods, the blue sea and the carnival which enlivens this town every year through a long parade. Custom, actuality and policy are the targets of the organizers' imagination.
The carnival was born in 1873 and is as famous as the Rio carnival. Another important local tradition is the Literature Award (created in 1929 by Leonida Rapaci) still following the development of our literature.
The architecture in Viareggio is not very interesting due to its mogenious art-nouveau style designed by the architect Belluomini and to the ceramics by Galileo and Chino Chini. It's worth visiting Matilde's tower and Shelley Square where you can see a bust representing the poet.
Viareggio and Apuane
The Carnival of Viareggio
The Viareggio Carnival was established in 1873 when some of the local "signori" decided to organize a Sunday a little different from the rest, by inventing a procession of decorated floats which travelled up and down the main street of the city.
On that occasion a masked protest was also organized by a number of citizens, as they were forced to pay too many taxes and as a result the chief tax collector was certainly made fun of!!
The parade was liked alot not only by the patrons but also by the citizens and the idea of making floats that interpreted humour and disatisfaction of the people came about in that year.
Since then Viareggio has become the home of the Italian Carnival, with its masked parades characterized by allegorical floats in papermache. These floats are true works of art to which the local float makers dedicate an entire year of workmanship. There is not one politician, entertainer, or intellectual that has not been a target (protagonist) of one of these floats which almost comes to life during the parade by the moving arms, opening and closing mouths and rolling eyes.
On every float young people and children find a place from which to throw confetti and shooting stars to the crowd. During the entire period masked balls and parties in the various "rioni" (quarters, districts) are organized as well as numerous sports and cultural events.
The official Viareggio Carnival mask is the "Burlamacco", a clown which wears clothes taken from other Italian masks: checkered overalls, taken from the Harlequin's costume, a white ponpon stolen from Pierrot's big puffy blouse, a white gorget - "Captain Scary" style, a red headband and a black mantle.
The name Burlamacco derives from Buffalmacco a Florentine painter and a character in the "Decamerone". However, it is also said to be linked to the Lucchese surname Burlamacchi.