Battaglia delle Arance – The battle of the oranges. Yes, oranges. Ivrea’s historical carnival during mid-February revolves around orange battles between the city’s medieval tyrants and the peasants. It is the largest food fight in Italy.
The largest orange battle is on the last day of carnival, the last Tuesday of February before lent. Peasants form different combat groups and differentiate themselves based on their costumes. Combat groups fight one another as well as the tyrants arriving in buggies. All peasants are on foot and armed with oranges, waiting along the narrow streets of the city centre to throw oranges at the tyrants in horse-ridden carts. Depending on whom you speak to, there are different stories about the origin of this battle.
The fight is nasty. As soon as I arrived on scene; black eyes, swollen lips, and orange pulp was everywhere. Typically, both the peasants and tyrants pay for the week long event that includes traditional meals and a lot of drinking.
If you want to attend but not get taken out by an orange, you MUST wear a red hat. I bought one as soon as I got into the city. I was not ready to get pulped and risk ruining my camera. There are also netted off areas where you can stay safe, and small battle areas where the tyrants go at the end of the major battles in order to let the young boys and girls a taste at fighting the tyrants.
An Ivrean friend met up with Stephan and I upon arrival and they both went into the heart of the battle while I strolled the citrus smelling streets trying not to slip on orange peels. I didn’t venture into the narrow streets where the most intense fighting occurs, but I heard great stories of walking in 20 cms of orange pulp and skin next to intoxicated men chanting historical songs and taking things very seriously. (The key is, apparently, to target the bare hands of the tyrants since they are armoured.)
I was assured that no horses are targeted nor hit during the battles. Horses are respected and almost sacred around Ivrea and they have a festival of their own in the Summer. No oranges are involved.