The most beautiful carnivals in Tuscany

5 min · 29 May 2023

The most beautiful carnivals in Tuscany

Prominent among the best-known festivals in Italy is the carnival, whose origins date back to the 8th century, when a banquet was held with lots of food and drink before the fast of Lent, the period culminating in Easter. It is no coincidence that the term “carnival” comes from the Latin “carnem levare,” which literally means “to eliminate meat.” This time of year is particularly popular in Tuscany. In fact, many cities in the region do not miss the opportunity to celebrate it with parties, masks, floats, music and lots of fun.

What are the most beautiful carnivals in Tuscany? Let’s find out together!

The Viareggio Carnival

One of the most beautiful and famous, not only in Tuscany but in the world, is the Viareggio Carnival. It was the year 1873 when there was the first parade of festively decorated carriages along the historic Via Regia. After more than 140 years, its appeal seems to increase with the passage of time. It takes place over the course of a month, during which daytime and nighttime festivals, parades of mammoth floats, neighborhood festivals, masquerade vigils and reviews of all kinds are offered. The undisputed protagonists are the papier-mâché floats, which bring political and topical issues to the stage in an ironic way. We also recommend you drop by the Carnival Citadel, where you can learn about the history of the event and participate in educational events.

The Carnival of Foiano della Chiana

The Val di Chiana is famous not only for “Chianina” meat, but also and especially for the Carnival of Foiano della Chiana, a small village in the province of Arezzo. Despite being relatively recent (1930s) as it is known today, its celebration as a pagan festival dates back to the first half of the 16th century. It is considered one of the most important carnivals in Italy, both for its spectacular choreography and its historiographical tradition. Each year four large competing floats, belonging to the yards (Azzurri, Bombolo, Nottambuli and Rustici) into which the Foianese population is divided, parade before a jury of art experts accompanied by masquerades, music and dancing.

The Carnival of Castiglion Fibocchi

Also in the province of Arezzo, in the splendid medieval village of Castiglion Fibocchi, there is the fascinating and evocative Carnival of the Sons of Bocco. It has very ancient origins and is probably the oldest carnival in Tuscany: evidence of this festival dates back to the 12th century. Every year more than two hundred figures with their faces covered by fine papier-mâché masks parade through the narrow streets of the ancient village. All this is enhanced by street performers, theatrical performances and food stands. A visit to the Sons of Bocco Carnival Museum is recommended, where costumes and masks from the carnival performance can be admired.

The Follonica Carnival

Another carnival not to be missed is that of Follonica, a municipality in the province of Grosseto located in the center of the gulf of the same name. Born in 1910, the Follonica Carnival includes three/four parades of majestic floats, but in the circuit, there are also small floats, single masks, papier-mâché masks and marching bands. Participating in the parade are the wards belonging to the different districts of the city, each of which presents its queen. The festival then ends with the traditional burning of King Carnival, a large paper mache mask that is burned on the beach in front of XXV April Square. The event is enhanced by a varied program of side events.

The Medieval Carnival of Calenzano

Finally, we could not fail to include in this list the Medieval Carnival of Calenzano, a small town on the outskirts of Florence. What is celebrated here is a somewhat special carnival that immerses visitors in the atmosphere of medieval times. The procession of figures, accompanied by flag-wavers, travels through the streets of the town center to the castle of Calenzano Alto, where the different counties compete in some traditional themed games. The winning county is awarded the Tower and the Golden Tower. Here, too, at the end of the festivities, King Carnival is burned as a propitiatory sign.

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