Spring is springing, the sun is shining – we’re well into Lent and still the Carnevale di Viareggio haunts the seaside boardwalks of the beach resort town.
And a haunting phantasmagorical vision it is. The floats in this years event are particularly grim… and scary. Werewolves, skulls, demons, bats and rats feature prominently in this year’s designs. The mood in Italy is more than a little bleak – people are struggling with the “Crisi Nera” and the bold austerity programs and reforms of the (un)elected government of Mister Monti are just beginning to be understood. Still the crowd smiles and the children stare in wonder at the colorful papier-mache designs. The Carnevale in Viareggio is a truly unique carnival, where biting political satire traditionally mingles with the frenetic dancing and merrymaking one normally associates with carnivals. No other Carnival competes with the Viareggio in wit, or style; it’s a blaring and loud art exhibit even the more famous Venice Carnival can’t touch. It’s creative, jarring… if more than a little crass; it’s FUN “Made in Italy.”
The floats in Viareggio are masterworks of artistic skill; the Carristi – the pros who spend the bulk of the year designing, preparing and building the floats – are true artists – sculptors in their own right – and the event is part loud street party and part art exhibition. But still, this year’s floats exorcise a particularly dark side of the Italian animus: the usual politicians are skewered with glee – the Cavaliere is featured center-stage in several designs as the floats were designed last year, before Berlusconi graciously stepped down to pursue more personal legislative endeavors of his own, and Merkle and Sarkozy … and Obama all make preposterous entrances here and there, … even Mister Monti is present wielding whips and assorted instruments of torture. One float depicts Italy as a block of cheese being attacked by an army of menacing rats, surrounded by demonic bats all labelled with the names of the various taxes, surcharges and fees choking Italy and the Italians. One float revives the tsunami, another a snarling wolf the size of a building (its name is “La Rabbia” – the anger.)
The Carnevale suffered from poor attendance due to the unseasonably cold temperatures during the first “corsi” and so it has been extended for two additional runs, which happen this coming weekend – on Saturday evening, with a grand finale of fireworks and again on Sunday afternoon when the winning design will be announced.
We feature here a few photographs – they were taken by Lorena Pasqualini from PizzikaPizzica (hi Lorena! …thanks for sharing!) with many more after the jump.
Ps: the current political leadership is trying hard to “save Italy” … and the euro. Mister Monti is presiding over major changes to “how things are done here” and also over a course of shock-therapy – the Financial Police are staging very publicized raids in well-known centers of The Dolce Vita. One such raid took place in the past weeks… yes, at the Carnevale. Several studios were raided and several of the Carristi themselves were targeted and charged with financial improprieties. We have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps next year’s Carnevale will be EVEN darker – the floats this year may seem mild children’s cartoons by comparison.