Every year in February the spirit of Carnival livens up Italy. It brings multicoloured costumes, eye-popping spectacle and a bit of fun and folly. In Tuscany we get a good share of this, as many towns organise floats and all sorts of parties with people dressing up in fancy costumes. Here we show you the best places in Tuscany to soak up the crazy Carnival mood and experience carnival in true Tuscan style.
Viareggio – The king of Carnivals in Tuscany, Italy
The town of Viareggio on the Versilia coast has been organising one of the most spectacular carnivals in Italy for 150 years. Every Saturday or Sunday in February and on shrove Tuesday this seaside resort turns into a wondrous theatre set, with huge allegorical floats parading along the sea front. There’s a sea of people, colours, music costumes and all sorts of fun to be had.
Find out more about the spectacular Viareggio Carnival.
The float parades happen every Saturday or Sunday afternoon in February and during the weekend nights the party carries on with concerts along the streets and squares of Viareggio. People of all ages wear zany costumes and everywhere you walk a constant shower of confetti and party poppers. Humour and irreverence are part and parcel of the Viareggio Carnival. The floats themselves often take a satirical poke at politics and celebrities, and are accompanied by groups of dancers. each playing their own very music. Loud, mad and crowded.
When: The Carnival period is over the 40 days before Lent (70 days before Easter) – in 2019 the first parade is on Saturday 9th February at 4pm, then Sunday 17th February (3pm), Sunday 23rd February (3pm), Sunday 3rd March (3pm), Tuesday 5th March (4:30pm).
Other towns where you can enjoy Carnival in Tuscany, Italy
FOIANO DELLA CHIANA
On a smaller scale, Foiano della Chiana has a very famous and ancient carnival. Beautiful floats with dancers, street band-concerts and artists, jugglers and various shows animate the street of this small town near Cortona in Eastern Tuscany.
They claim to have one of the most ancient carnival traditions in Italy, as there are documents from the 16th century that mention this important festival. Great floats compete with each other for originality and craft. A giant puppet, the Re Giocondo (literally “joyful king) opens the parade, and on the last day of the festival it ends its days in a giant fire to celebrate the end of winter.
When: in 2019 first parade on 10th February, then 17th, 24th February and 3rd, 10th March – Full program on the official site.
A colourful party popular with kids, is hosted in San Gimignano during February. The famous town of the towers, known as the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” embraces the festive feel of Carnival with plenty of lively events: animation for children, music and fancy-dress costumes. It’s a smaller scale affair, with a lovely atmosphere and a chance to see the scenic San Gimignano dressed up in Carnival finery.
When: 9th, 16th, 23rd February and 2nd March 2019
This small town near Arezzo organises a very special Carnival festival every year, that has ancient roots. The “Carnevale dei figli d Bocco” shows off some beautifully crafted masks and delightfully elegant costumes. More than two hundred ‘extras’ – people dressed up in gorgeous Baroque-style costumes walk around the city’s historic centre – creating a timeless and dreamy atmosphere. It’s a real feast for the eyes, and these refined costumes and masks pose along the narrow streets of Castiglion Fibocchi reminiscent of the most famous Venice’s carnival.
When: 16th and 17th February and 23rd, 24th February 2019 – see official site for the full program.
FOLLONICA – The biggest Carnival party in the Maremma
Another seaside location for a great parade of floats along the seafront promenade. Follonica is a seaside resort in the Maremma, near Grosseto, very popular with families. Since the 1950’s every year in February the town has been devotedly organising the “Carnevale Follonichese”, which boasts allegorical floats, costume competitions, music concerts and plenty of events for children and grown-ups. On the last day of the festival a giant papier-mâché mask makes the rounds – the king of the Carnival – who is burned on the beach near Piazza XXV Aprile.
When: in 2019 the first parade is on Sunday 10th February, then 17th, 24th February, 3rd March. – for more information see the official site.