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Viareggio Carnival 2024:

Confetti in their blood

9 February 2024 | 28 minutes
Dancers and a carnival float at dusk

Photo: Linda Nari

The flags are out, the bunting too, and the red and white mascot Burlamacco is everywhere as Viareggio eagerly awaits the start of Carnival. The trees are heavy with oranges, the sweet fried dough, chiacchiere, are in the pastry shops - there’s excitement in the air!

sculpture of Burlamacco in a large factory hanger


sculpture of Burlamacco the clown-like mascot


Dating back to 1873, Viareggio’s Carnival attracts thousands of visitors each year to watch the enormous, intricate papier-mâché sculptures dance their way along the seaside promenade.

large papier-mâché lion's head with two onlookers
close-up of papier-mâché lion's face

From September through March the Citta del Carnevale - a circular complex with 16 hangars - is a hub of energy for the artisan community using boat-making skills from Viareggio, and artistic creativity from Pietrasanta. Last year we learnt how they use newspaper, along with flour and water paste, to create papier-mâché floats. 

But between the audience watching and the artists creating, there’s another community: hundreds of volunteers or 'figurants' who turn up to rehearse, rain or shine, each weekend, to form the colourful dancing troupes in front of the floats.

gleeful carnival dancers with arms raised

Photo: Linda Nari

smiling dancers with colourful costumes

Photo: Linda Nari

So Mike and I are here to revisit the LeBigre family on the 20th anniversary of their La Compagnia del Carnevale to learn why their 200 volunteers return each year, and what impact one creative project can have on the wider community.

six adults in a workshop smiling and looking into the camera

Enzo, Mike, Sarah, Corinne, Elodie & Celia

For this episode we are also proud to collaborate with Celia & Enzo of Piazza Talk Lucca - a popular YouTube channel sharing how life is in Lucca, and in the Tuscan hills. Celia, a book restorer, and Enzo, a sea captain dived right in to volunteer behind the scenes with the Le Bigre family creating papier-mâché items for the float.

Check out the videos they made of their behind the scenes experience volunteering with the Le Bigre family on their YouTube channel

woman and man applying papier-mâché

Celia & Enzo


Producer: Sarah Monk

Producer/Editor: Mike Axinn

Music: courtesy of Audio Network

  • Gypsy World, Haris Custovic

Special thanks to Linda Nari for sharing her vibrant photos

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