I f there is one thing which is crazier than missing the carnival of Viareggio, it has to be the carnival itself, famous for its spectacular allegorical wagons of papier-mâché which parade along the “Passeggiata al mare”, surrounded by thousands of amazed and amused spectators from all over the world.
Local district celebrations, additionally to the huge and colourful wagons, occupy the promenade each year for four weeks for the past 140 years. These show all the passion and the spirit of the inhabitants of this town to portray political situations and people from politics, show business, and more generally of modern times in a satirical way.
The carnival is not the only reason that makes tourists visit Viareggio. The romantic harbour offers a great background for the excellent restaurants with sea view. The “Passeggiata” can be defined the window on Viareggio, filled with bars, restaurants and shops in Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings (for example the Caffé Margherita, where the composer Giacomo Puccini loved to sit down). Great artistic expressions can be found in the Museo Civico di Villa Paolina.
Viareggio was founded in 1172, but it was only in 1819 that the duchess Maria Luisa di Borbone laid the foundation for the transformation from a simple harbour - only access to the sea for the republic of Lucca - to seaside town. After this, Viareggio changed gradually, becoming a tourist centre, also thanks to the stay of Paolina Borghese, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister. In 1828, with the construction of the first bathing establishment, Viareggio was able to lay the foundations for what is still today a famous seaside town.