Every year in late February the center of Ivrea, near Turin, becomes the stage of one of the most unusual Carnival celebrations in the world: the Battle of the Oranges.

Ivrea-Pinterest

Carnival in Italy is usually associated with the sophisticated costumes of Venice and the colorful carts of Viareggio, but there’s a place near Turin where locals prefer to fight hard with oranges at this time of the year

This event is called the Battle of the Oranges and it’s the historic Carnival of Ivrea. Put it simply, it is the recreation of the battle that took place between the town’s villagers and its tyrannic rulers back in the middle ages. Here are some notes following my experience  this year. 

The story behind the battle

Ivrea’s Battle of the Oranges is an event is steeped in history. Back in the XII century, the then-lord of Ivrea instituted a law with which the newly married women in his territory were obliged to spend their wedding night with him. While most women accepted this for fear, Violetta, the local miller’s daughter, refused to sleep with the nobleman and cut off his head. This ignited a revolution against the oppressive rulers, and from that day Violetta became a symbol of freedom.

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesThe Battle of the Oranges revokes this dark piece of local history, with participants split into commoners and noblemen and the orange representing the tyrant’s head.

How it works

The battle is played between nine teams on foot, representing the commoners, and the orange-throwers (aranceri) on horse-drawn carts, playing the role of the guards. Each of the nine teams belong to a specific town’s district and there are three main battle grounds: Piazza di Città, Piazza Ottinetti and Piazza Freguglia.

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesIf you are not a member of one of these teams, then you must wear a berretto frigio (phrygian cap), the traditional red hat that marks you as a spectator and not a target. This hat symbolizes the pursuit of freedom and wearing it is a sign of solidarity with the insurgents.

There is also a fantastic historical parade taking place on each day of the battle. Participants include Violetta and a series of characters representing the historical heritage of Ivrea, such as the General and his staff, the Assistant Grand Chancellor and the Podestà. The name of the girl playing the role of Violetta is announced on the Saturday before the first battle.

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesWhen to go

The battle takes place over three consecutive days at the end of the Carnival season, from Sunday to Fat Tuesday. Sunday can be intensely crowded and it is also the only day when you are charged to access the town center. I recommend going on Tuesday, when the winning team is announced with a ceremony in front of the town hall (although to be honest with you, I still don’t have a clue how the winner is actually determined).

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesWhat to wear

Wear your ugliest clothes. Seriously, leave your expensive bags or designer jackets at home, because that red hat doesn’t really guarantee that you won’t be hit by oranges. Also, make sure to wear some slip-resistant shoes, because after the battle the streets are covered in a thick orange pulp that makes them very slippery.

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesWhat’s the point?

This event is sometimes labelled as dangerous and perceived as an enormous waste of food. Firstly, this event may seem crazy, but there’s a lot of planning and organization behind the scenes, with tens of volunteers that work hard to make sure everything runs smoothly. Secondly, the 700 tons of oranges used for the battle, supplied by certified companies from Sicily and Calabria, were originally destined to be pulped and what remains of them at the end of the event is used to produce energy and compost heap.

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesI was actually pretty concerned for the horses, but the reality is that they are the stars of this event and during the battle there are always people around to take care of them and protect them from those oranges.

Where to stay

To fully enjoy the party, staying overnight is highly recommended, especially on Fat Tuesday when you can attend also a fantastic closing ceremony at night. A good option is staying at Il Tuchino B&B, in the the medieval heart of Ivrea. Alternatively, you could use Turin as a base and get to Ivrea by train: it’s just about an hour away, tickets and timetable are available on the Trenitalia website.

Ivrea-battle-of-the-orangesUSEFUL TIPS

  • Oranges literally fly everywhere and wearing a red hat doesn’t really save you. You can stay behind safety nets during the battle, but to be honest that’s not fun, so don’t be afraid of walking into the battle ground, just watch out and shield your face
  • Don’t forget to cover your camera and phone with a transparent plastic bag to protect them from all that sticky orange juice
  • Further information about the Battle of the Oranges  are available on the historic carnival of Ivrea website

Locals consider the Battle of the Oranges to be an important part of their culture and I must say that it’s one of the most spectacular events I’ve ever seen, one that sees the joyful participation of the entire community – and leaves a whole town smelling of freshly squeezed oranges!

 

Until next time,

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21 Comments

Andie 16 February 2018 at 13:38

I want to visit Italy now! Thanks for this post!! X

    admin 16 February 2018 at 13:45

    Thanks so much Andy, hope to have inspired some of your future trips 🙂

Dora 16 February 2018 at 14:02

This is so cool! Love the fact it leaves the town smelling of oranges 🍊🍊

    admin 16 February 2018 at 14:31

    I know, such a unique event!!

Natasha Malik 16 February 2018 at 15:02

I haven’t read such an informative and entertaining blog in a while!

Thanks for sharing, will definitely pack my bags for this one 🙂

    admin 16 February 2018 at 15:32

    Aaw, I’m so glad you liked it Natasha! One more for your travel bucket list then 🙂

Catherine 16 February 2018 at 21:16

Wow – this must really be an amazing experience. My kids would totally love the flying oranges, but they’d want to participate rather than spectate with a red hat….

    admin 17 February 2018 at 13:43

    Well, I had a red hat but couldn’t resist jumping in the middle of the fight! Ahah

Bekah 16 February 2018 at 22:00

This is quite quirky and fun sounding! It’s really neat that they have it planned so fully that they compost and use orange remains for energy. Does it smell likes oranges for a while after because of the juice residue??

    admin 17 February 2018 at 13:45

    Good question! I honestly don’t know, because I left after the battle, but the smell was quite intense 🙂
    All in all, a really cool event!

Elise @ Belle Meets World 16 February 2018 at 23:45

Okay this sounds like a lot of fun!! I loved learning about this tradition and to see how Fat Tuesday is celebrated somewhere else in the world. Thanks for sharing!!

    admin 17 February 2018 at 13:50

    So glad you liked it Elise! x

Martina 17 February 2018 at 08:37

Thanks for this great blog post! Its so interesting how other countries celebrate theire carneval.
Must be a really cool experience be at this event

    admin 17 February 2018 at 13:51

    Thanks so much Martina! Definitely something very different from the usual Carnival celebrations 🙂

Shreya Saha 18 February 2018 at 03:30

The event looks a bit dangerous to me. I am glad you had fun. Good know about how oranges are produced for this event and where it goes to post the wastage. But still skeptical about the horses. Hope they are OK after the event.

    admin 18 February 2018 at 13:28

    I was a little bit worried, too, but the level of attention and organization was really high!

Ritika 18 February 2018 at 10:51

Sounds like a great trip … And thanks for putting so much details ..quite a unique post ..wish could see a few pictures though .. Have bookmarked this post for future

    admin 18 February 2018 at 13:29

    Thanks Ritika! There are over 30 pictures in the slide show at the top of the article 😉

service 19 February 2018 at 00:01

Excellent post! We will be linking to this particularly great article on our site.
Keep up the great writing. http://www.residence-seniors-guide.com/harvard-university-notation-style/

Medha 20 February 2018 at 05:21

I have never heard of this carnival and I am so intrigued! It sounds a lot like La Tomatina in Spain but I also found it very interesting to read the story behind it and also the fact that it is not entirely a wastage of food. I’m glad they’re mindful of the horses!

    admin 20 February 2018 at 09:46

    Glad you liked the article, it’s a truly fascinating event!

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Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I’m Val

Ciao! I'm Valentina, an Italian blogger with a huge passion for my country, its culture and traditions. My Italian Diaries is the online space where I share my expert knowledge of itineraries, activities and off-the-beaten path places to help you experience the best of Italy like a local.

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