At Carnival time many think of the beautiful period costumes and alluring masks of Venice and rarely of the huge satirical floats of Viareggio, Tuscany. I had been once to this parade years ago, and with a forecast of sunshine I headed for the beach town. A brilliant day, drenched in colour and sunshine with crowds of families and teenagers who had come ready to party and join in the fun. Kids screaming and laughing as they tossed handfuls of confetti and sprayed iridescent foam on unsuspecting bystanders.
The idea of a parade of floats started “In February 1873, around the coffee tables of the Casino, creating a major industry for local craftsmen and artisans: sculptors, carpenters, iron smiths who knew how to build ships able to challenge the tricky waters and capricious winds of the ocean were well equipped to build floats that have navigated through a sea of amazed and amused people.” (Carnival Foundation brochure)
Submerged Peninsula had our last Prime Ministers peering from their relevant hometown monuments and our current PM Renzi desperately hanging on to the bell tower of Florence.
The fabulous paper mâché floats, portray a clever satire on the current political, economic and social climate. And, in spite of the GFC, locals were delighted to rediscover their politicians “lost in the clouds” or as marionettes juggling taxes, Vat and home rates, or floundering in rough seas or Scrooge-like stuffing money into their pockets!. Much play on words, which may have been difficult for visiting tourists to grasp, but they still enjoyed the fun atmosphere.
Tuscans have such a great sense of humour, very tongue in cheek and are happy to laugh at themselves and even more so at people in power, and the floats (il carro) reflected that. The creative master Carristi need to be adaptable as the political situation can change so fast here that heads can need replacing during the 12 month construction period!
Young and old volunteers dance to blaring music in a choreographed line up both on and around the float, and the crowds sing along to any well known tune.
Voodoo was a doll with a graveyard of promises never maintained and consequences – workers rights, justice equal for all, abolition of home rates, savings dashed, pensions cut….
It was a Carnival of Dreams with a Dreamcatcher – hoping to hold onto our dreams
Last Beach (meaning a last resort) had volunteer lifesavers leading with gravesites behind of artisans, commerce, agriculture, small businesses, and industry.
Even Internet rated with Web connection and Don’t enter that website – fb, twitter, google, you tube
Social themes with Children of a lesser god preceded by 4 mini floats – Poverty, Homosexuality, Immigration, and Racism followed by an angelic Freddy Mercury moving to the blare of Queen. And Hysteria – an hysterical young red head under psychoanalysis in search of a solution, thought to be difficult and improbable.
And a special tribute to Berlusconi – Who laughs well has the last laugh – with twirling Berlusconi clowns to the tune of ‘ I’m sexy and I know it’!
Families and friends came dressed as pirates, ladybeetles and bugs, swinging 30’s, 70’s hippies, tigers and leopards, Zorro and Batman, complete with their dogs flaunting tulle. Father and sons as cowboys, mother and daughters as fairies, no costume too sophisticated or too expensive!
The “vu compra” boys adapt by selling spray foam, confetti and colourful wigs, while the usual food stands give out enticing aromas of roasted pork, aniseed from the freshly baked brigidini chips, roasted chestnuts, and crepes with nutella. And if you still need a sugar fix, there’s nougat, nut toffees, fairy floss, squishy crocodiles and even pop corn.
It’s awesome to think these massive floats, have been made out of simple strips of newspaper and a wealth of imagination and creativity. Sophisticated mechanization systems internally make Freddy Mercury’s wings spread wide and John Lennon’s hand open to hold the dancing flower girls. The music is earsplitting at times and the atmosphere electric.
As I leave it’s hard not to feel moved by John Lennon’s “Imagine”. I say “Every Italian is a dreamer…but they’re not the only ones!” and they will ride through this tough time.