Ivrea: the traditional Battle of the Oranges lights up the carnival festivities

February 27, 2017

The Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, a town in the Piedmont region in Italy, is a 150-year old tradition. The festival is held every year during the carnival festivities and is the largest food fight in the Country.

The origin of the Battle of the Oranges is somehow unclear: according to a popular account, it commemorates the city’s defiance against its tyrant, who is usually either a member of the Ranieri family of the 13-th century Marquis William VII of Montferrat.

The most commonly told story, though, is about a 12th century miller’s daughter fighting back against an evil baron when he came to her on the evening of her wedding to exercise his “jus primae noctis” — a reference to medieval lords having the supposed right to have sexual relations with subordinate women.

The reaction of the bride was definitely one of a kind: she supposedly cut off the baron’s head and paraded it all over town, sparking a general uprising against tyranny.

The battle’s official website states that the battle existed and was celebrated since 1858, gathering thousands of participants every year. Of course, the current Battle of The Oranges does not have anything in common with the gory legend from which it was born and is completely fun-oriented. It wasn’t always like that.

“It is a historical reconstruction of a real fact which happened several hundreds years ago with the revolt against a king,” said Roberto, who participated in the battle. “In the last century, the battle is waged with oranges but before we were throwing stones, if you can imagine that.”

During the battle, a team of so-called “aranceri” (orange holders) on foot throws oranges (which represent old weapons and stones) against other aranceri riding in carts and representing the tyrant’s ranks.

Today, the Battle of the Oranges involves thousands of citizens divided into nine different combat teams during the traditional carnival days of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Yesterday’s battle was a triumph of color orange, laughter and all in all general fun.

“It’s madness … really madness,” local resident Francesca told AFP. “Some may think these people are crazy, but for us in Ivrea, this is something we have in our DNA. Children are born with this madness.”

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