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Viareggio Carnival
Photo © Gagliardi Photography via CanvaPro
Photo © Gagliardi Photography via CanvaPro

Carnival and the LGBTQ+ community: the story of an unbreakable bond

History, events and places to get to know the Viareggio Carnival through a queer perspective

Carnival and the LGBTQ+ community have been linked for centuries. In the past, this festive occasion was the only time of the year in which everyone could play the role of their alter ego and be their true selves for a day, without fear.

Throughout the history Viareggio Carnival, the festival has always been a moment of liberation and carefree fun for many LGBTQ+ people, under the complicit and amused gaze of Burlamacco, the symbolic mask.

Viareggio Carnival: fun and social issues

Parade at the Viareggio Carnival
Parade at the Viareggio Carnival - Credit: Gagliardi Photography via CanvaPro

The festival arrived in the city in 1873, formed from an idea that blossomed at the tables of the Casino café. Originally, it was a way to joyfully celebrate an entertaining tradition ("Semel in anno licet insanire"); today, it's an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the present and the evolution of society through themed floats and masks.

Until 2013 in Torre del Lago, the top gay-friendly destination in Versilia, there was also an event called Mardi Gras: an LGBTQ+ extension of the carnival that took place in the summer and attracted many people from all over the country.

Although the Mardi Grass no longer takes place, the queer spirit of carnival has never left Versilia and Viareggio has taken up the baton, promoting the themes of inclusiveness that formed the basis of the Torre del Lago event.

Among the themed floats and masked groups that participated in the carnival in the past, we have to mention the float by the Boschi Brothers in 2020 "Neither of Eve nor of Adam". It celebrated love without distinction of sex, orientation and gender, a mission that the Viareggio Carnival carries on every year.

"The allegorical construction is a tribute to love in all its expressions and a warning against homophobia. The ancient temple is as old as the universal feeling of love, with symbolic figures dancing in an engaging waltz. It's a hymn to love without sex or distinction of colour or religion, with the freedom to kiss without obstacles. The unique swans on the tympanum of the temple are the symbol of purity and poetic love" (official descriptive report of the Viareggio Carnival).

To get to know the Viareggio Carnival up close, we recommend that you participate in its parades and visit the Citadel and the Carnival Museum, the place where artisans build floats and where you can discover its history and admire the statue of Burlamacco created by Uberto Bonetti in 1930 and the official posters that  announced the event from 1925 through to today.

Viareggio Carnival float

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