The world’s most famous and most gigantic allegorical floats are about to parade for six times from 1 to 25 February on the seafront esplanade for the Carnival of Viareggio, seaside resort on Tuscany’s northern coast, as they’ve been doing every year for over 140 years.
Why allegorical? You may as well ask.
An allegory is a symbolic representation, a metaphor that is used as an image for something else, a concrete and simple figure that delivers a message about something abstract and complex. In literature, a classic example of allegory is George Orwell’s Animal Farm representing the Russian Revolution and communism.
In that great masterpiece which is Dante’s Divine Comedy, three wild animals are used to represent vices that disturb the soul of man: pride (lion), greed (she-wolf), covetousness (lynx).
Allegory is also used in figurative arts, for example in Salvator Rosa’s painting Allegory of Fortune, portraying the goddess of luck Fortuna holding the horn of plenty.
And Viareggio Carnival’s floats (over 20 metres high and 12 metres wide) are themselves works of art produced by masters of papier-mâché, and they require great amount of work and high numbers of professionals and skilled people.
They use satirical self-moving masks to ridicule and make fun of the big and the famous, the powerful, the celebrated and the popular, as well as to convey messages about contemporary society, politics and current affairs. You may not always agree with the message, but the floats will surely make you laugh, feel happy to be alive and marvel at their beauty.
This year, prominent in Viareggio among the colossal masks personifying the misery of our times will be the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, modestly self-proclaimed prophet of the apocalypse and collective conscience of the entire globe for past, present and future generations.
There is something tragically appropriate about her rise to fame, in a way, since, being as young as a human being as climatology is as a science, Greta is just as likely to make disastrous mistakes. Except that climatologists, contrary to media’s fake news reports, don’t agree by any stretch of the imagination about the fashionable but by no means scientifically established gloom and doom scenario so dear to the environmentalist movement and lobby, which over the few decades of its existence must have a world record in wrong predictions.
I don’t want to be too negative because the propaganda about AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) seems to be making people more inclined to become vegan or vegetarian: a good thing, but for completely different reasons, namely compassion for animal suffering and concern for human health.
Very apt is also the fact that the float of Viareggio Carnival dedicated to Greta Thunberg characterises her as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, which, being a fairy tale, has just as much contact with reality as Greta’s pontifications.
Among the 2020 novelties there will also be an allegorical construction against the gratuitous, pointless atrocity of bullfighting. Definitively a good message.
Trump will have his own float, as he’s always had every year at Viareggio Carnival since he became President, this year as protagonist of “Populist art”.
Some of the other themes will be the idol of the moment, Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo portrayed as a modern Frankenstein; the economic leap of China represented by a robotic tiger, and its trade war with the United States; the negative side effects of the web and maniacal dependence on social networks (another recurring topic) in a singular wonderland 2.0; and, inevitably, Italian politicians, such as Italian Parliament’s most popular member and Former Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, liked and voted for by the Italian electorate but attacked by nearly everybody else, and current Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in a float significantly titled “Those great geniuses”.
A novelty of 2020 will be Thursday 20 February’s night parade (“in notturna”) to celebrate Fat Thursday, followed by fireworks, starting at 6pm.
Nobody has seen the finished floats, yet, and nobody will see them until they will exhibit themselves parading on the seafront promenade for the first time on 1 February.
What is known about them is just through their sketches and unfinished constructions still in their hangars, like the photo of the Greta float above.
For more details on Viareggio Carnival 2020 dates and events, see Viareggio Carnival.