Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Carnivale in Viareggio!

Right now in Italy, it is Carnivale season: the time before Lent where everyone celebrates the coming of the warm weather with festivals, parades, and most importantly, cake.  To experience Carnivale season, I took a trip through the program to Viareggio on a sunny Sunday afternoon where some of the biggest Carnivale celebrations take place.  Viareggio is famous for its humongous floats made of papier mache.  They aren't just any floats.  They are larger-than-life, in-your-face political statement floats.  A few of the first-class floats were as tall as the buildings on the street in Viareggio.  These floats are built year-round by people whose full-time job is to design and build these floats for the parade every year.  These were the most impressive floats I've ever seen. They are beautifully crafted and very colorful, and most of them were accompanied by at least 50-100 participants either singing and swaying on the float or dancing and singing in front of the float as it moved down the street.  Many of them have very ironic or pessimistic statements about politics or society, but they are made to poke fun and not to depress.

This was one of my favorite days so far in Italy.  Everyone was there to celebrate, and mostly everyone I saw was dressed up in some sort of costume or mask.  I found a mask in San Lorenzo market for 2 euros, so I decided to buy it  and wear it to Viareggio so I could feel more a part of the celebration too.  The best way I could describe the atmosphere in Viareggio was a partially drunken Italian Disneyland.  People both in the parade and on the sidelines were drinking, but they weren't annoying drunks.  They weren't even completely smashed and stumbling.  They were drinking to be merry, not drinking to get drunk.  Everyone was throwing confetti as well, and the street was absolutely covered when it came time to leave.  It made for a very fun and carefree atmosphere, and I was really able to enjoy myself.  Not only was the atmosphere a blast, but the scenery was beautiful as well.  On one side of the city, the Italian Alps towered over the city.  On the other side, a beautiful ocean and beach extended for miles under the sun.  It was such a beautiful place!

Carnivale in Viareggio is a unique experience in itself.  It was one that I am definitely glad I didn't miss.  The key to fully experiencing this kind of activity, I've found, is you need to fully open yourself up to it and let yourself be part of the craziness.   Performers and spectators alike dress up, throw confetti, and poke other people with various props all in the spirit of the Carnivale.  It was one of the most fun experiences I've had so far in Italy, and one I won't soon forget.
From left, me, Molly, Liz and Lindsey in our masks.

The lovely Italian alps! 

"Scacco Matto" ("Checkmate")

My favorite float, "Phoenix"! The dancing and singing was so good! 

A vendor selling confetti and silly string on the side of the street.

Ferris wheel! 

“Ma dov’รจ questa crisi” (“But Where This Crisis”)
Members of the float “Garibaldi fu ferito” (“Garibaldi was wounded”) look on before the parade starts.

Looking at the confetti... 

Sneak attack! 

“Santo Subito” (“Saint Immediately”)

He saw me and decided to blow his whistle at my camera!
Italy being eaten by mice like it is cheese.

“Non ti curar di loro ma guarda e passa” (translated “Speak not of them, but look and pass them by”). Designer Roberto Vannucci takes the title from Dante’s Divine Comedy. 
Getting ready to throw confetti! 
Confetti on the ground.

This performer just stopped and grabbed Liz and Lindsey to pose for a picture!

Trying to be scary! 
Dancing down the street!  
Performers on the float  “In questo mondo contempliamo i fiori sotto l’inferno” (“In this world we contemplate the flowers in hell”) by Alessandro Avanzini.

Leonardo Da Vinci in “Cervelli in Fuga” (“Runaway Brains”) 
If you have any questions about my study abroad experience or about St. Michael's College in general, don't hesitate to email me (emurray@mail.smcvt.edu), Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on Formspring (lizmurray3).


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