Carnival craze!

A look at Tuscany’s seasonal fun

Sam Lawley
January 31, 2013
Credit | Angelo Romano Credit | Angelo Romano


While the annual Carnival festivities originally marked the start of Lent and a period of abstinence from meat, nowadays it is much more than a ‘ciao for now' to protein-rich foods. In Tuscany, the festival has become synonymous with colourful street parties, Bacchanalian excess and unbridled fun. Indeed, the Italian saying, A carnevale, ogni scherzo vale, meaning ‘Every joke is allowed during Carnival,' rings true each February. Masks, period costumes and vibrant parades will be on show in what promises to be a phantasmagoria of vibrancy and excitement as the huge papier-mâché floats that have been carefully prepared for months finally take to the streets. Brace yourselves: Carnival 2013 is coming to a Tuscan town near you!


From the world-famous Viareggio parades to more modest village celebrations, Tuscany's carnival festivities have a lot to offer. Adults and children alike are able to enjoy the upcoming bonanza of celebrations, which cater to a range of requirements and expectations.



February 3, 10, 12, 17, March 3

The Viareggio Carnival started in 1873, when a number of local aristocrats decided to organise an extravagant parade on Shrove Tuesday (martedì grasso), before the 40-day austerity of Lent. The 140th Viareggio Carnival promises to be one of the most exciting yet. There will be five masked parades through the seaside town, each with its own set of papier-mâché floats. These floats, some as high as six stories tall, will support giant sculptures and satirical caricatures of politicians and other celebrities, towering comically above the crowds as they move down the streets. The winner of the ‘best float' award will be announced at the end of the last parade, on March 3. Look out for Burlamacco, a clown-like figure who presides over carnival, and is the town's mascot. For more information, see TF 157 and visit



February 3, 10, 17, March 3

Like Viareggio, the small agricultural town of Foiano della Chiana boasts one of the most prestigious carnivals in Italy, tracing its pagan origins back to 1539. The four districts of the town: Bombolo, Azzurri, Rustici, and Nottambuli were formed during the 1930s, and to this day, compete for the best float prize. Spectators of the parades traditionally throw fruit and vegetables at the people on the floats, who, in turn, throw corn and lupins at the spectators. The protagonist of the Foiano Carnival is King Giocondo, whose effigy is burnt every year in the main square as a form of collective purification. This year, the 474th burning of King Giocondo will take place on March 3 at 6:30pm. For more information, visit



February 3, 10, 12

Hosted in the municipality of Vinci, birthplace of Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci, the Carnevale sulle Due Rive will deliver its 20th edition, under the theme ‘super heroes'. In a clash of epochs and outlooks, lots of Supermen, Batmen, and Spidermen will parade through the streets of this humble medieval town. The parade on February 3 is particularly befitting for children, who will have access to the many floats and attractions. A nocturnal parade will take to the streets at 10:30pm on Shrove Tuesday (February 12), and will be accompanied by a fireworks display. For details, visit



February 3, 10

Hosted in piazza Dante of Borgo San Lorenzo, the Mugellano Carnival traces its origins back to Medicean Tuscany and the sixteenth century. Amongst the masks and floats, confetti and streamers, entertainment for all will be offered from 3pm on both of these Sundays. Satirical floats, traditional music and market stands will abound in this Roman town. Carnival has been long been considered a brief period of self-indulgence, so why not try the traditional cenci sweets? These pieces of fried and sugared dough are as delicious as they are simple. (Find a recipe in TF 136.) For more information, click



February 3, 10, 12

The municipality of Sesto Fiorentino, home to the tales of Carlo Collodi and Pinocchio, offers perhaps the closest carnival celebration to Florence. Tapping into the theme of the famous long-nosed wooden puppet, there will masked parades on both February 3 and February 10, between 2:30 and 5:30pm, culminating in piazza Vittorio Veneto. The parades will be accompanied by music from the local municipal band and a number of stands will line the streets, offering traditional carnival sweets, including cenci (fried and sugared dough), schiacciata alla fiorentina (orangy sponge cake) and fritelle di riso (flavoured rice cakes). The winner of the ‘best mask' competition will be announced on February 12 at 11pm. For more information, please visit


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