The Battle of the Oranges is a world-famous food fight that takes place in the Northern Italian town of Ivrea, on the Sunday before the beginning of the Catholic Lent season. This year, it takes place from February 27 to March 1. The event, which occurs over three days beginning on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday, is held as a festive way to commemorate the history of the Ivrean people’s liberation from a tyrannical government. The holiday serves as a symbol of their spirit and their victory in attaining freedom.
History of Battle of the Oranges Ivrea
The history of the Battle of the Oranges stems from a local legend that tells the story of a ruthless tyrant named Raneri de Biandrate, who ruled over Ivrea with an iron fist. Set in the Middle Ages, the story recalls the Ivrean people’s revolt against the tyrant de Biandrate in 1194 and the sacking of his castle in response to the abuse of power that he exuded over the town, especially following the attempted rape of a young village woman, who was thought to begin the town’s rebellion by beheading de Biandrate during her struggle. Another ruler, the Marquis Gugliemo of Monferrato, suffered the same fate a few decades later.
Over the years, the legend took on its own life as it was told to younger generations, with de Biandrate and the Marquis Gugliemo eventually summed up as a single tyrant. Thus, the carnival became a celebration of the Ivrean people’s liberation and attitude against tyranny as a whole. The destruction of the tyrants’ castles is symbolized through the Battle of the Oranges, played out by the residents, where the throwing of oranges takes place over three days during the Carnival of Ivrea. During the celebration, the town is split into two factions that represent the Ivrean people and the emperor’s forces.
The ones representing the people parade the town on foot, divided into nine teams, and hurl the zesty orbs to those playing the tyrant’s forces, who play out the festival (and throw oranges as well) from traveling wagons. The first official Carnival of Ivrea took place in 1808, following the Napoleonic government in Turin’s decision to unify all similar events into one festivity, becoming a celebration that honors the town’s history. However, it wouldn’t be until after World War II that the celebrations took on the entertaining format that is practiced today. All in all, the Battle of the Oranges is a spectacular affair that colors the sunny Northern Italian town in orange as a celebration of their unity and pride.
Battle of the Oranges Ivrea timeline
The tyrant Raineri de Biandrate is killed by a young woman who was at the mercy of his abuse, triggering the Ivrean revolution against de Biandrate's symbols of power.
The first full-scale Carnival of Ivrea takes place following the ruling French government's decision to combine all separate orange-throwing festivities into one event.
The young woman, who became known as 'the Miller's Daughter,' becomes the official symbol of the Carnival of Ivrea.
The first iteration of the modern-day Battle of the Oranges takes place in its current format.
Battle of the Oranges Ivrea FAQs
How is the Carnival of Ivrea celebrated?
The first festivities begin on a Sunday, as dishes of ‘fagioli grassi’ are distributed and eaten together, before the Battle of the Oranges begins in the afternoon, and continues on Monday. On the last day of the Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, the final round of the battle takes place and, in the evening, a mock funeral is held for the ‘fallen’ ones of the battle. On the morning of Ash Wednesday, the population makes their way to Ivrea’s Borghetto quarter for the distribution of polenta and cod dishes which symbolize the end of the festival.
There are several theories why oranges are the ammunition of choice. One of them stems from the idea that oranges represent the testicles of the tyrant, ripped away from him as a symbol of the people’s defiance. Another one states that the oranges represent his head, and the pulp represents his blood. Before oranges, it was believed that the townspeople used beans.
Why are there nine teams fighting the Battle of the Oranges?
The number of teams increased gradually following the first modern battle in 1947. The nine teams generally represent Ivrea’s different neighborhoods. They are the ‘Aranceri Asso di Picche’ (the oldest team, founded in 1947), ‘Aranceri della Morte,’ ‘Aranceri Tuchini del Borghetto,’ ‘Aranceri degli Scacchi,’ ‘Aranceri Pantera Nera,’ ‘Aranceri Scorpioni d’Arduino,’ ‘Aranceri Diavoli,’ ‘Aranceri Mercenari,’ and the ‘Aranceri Credendari.’
Battle of the Oranges Ivrea Activities
Have at it
The main idea behind the Battle of the Oranges is to, well, hurl oranges. Over 500,000 pounds of oranges are used during the Carnival of Ivrea, so get one and start chucking.
Or, have one yourself
If you're not in Ivrea during the festivities but want to take part, you can help yourself to a citrusy treat or two, to show your respect to the symbol of the Carnival. It's a better option than hurling them at unsuspecting people who aren't aware of the holiday.
Indulge in a feast
Have yourself a wonderful banquet with friends and family to commemorate the Carnival, which is also a pre-Easter celebration. Feasts and banquets generally take place the Sunday before the Carnival and the main dish is the ‘fagioli grassi,’ or ‘fat beans,’ which represent the food given to the poor in times of famine.
5 Interesting Facts About Ivrea
Home to ancient Roman remains
The remains of a Roman amphitheater built around 1 A.D., albeit restored, still stand in Ivrea today.
Ivrea's most notable landmark, the Ivrea Castle, was once used as a prison in the 18th century.
Home to a figure of European industry
Ivrea is home to one of Europe's largest office machinery manufacturers in the 20th century, Olivetti, which produces typewriters, computers, and smartphones.
An official World Heritage site
Ivrea was designated as a "UNESCO Industrial City of the 20th Century" in 2018, due to the significant and unique industrial and socio-cultural developments that took place in the 20th century under the Olivetti company.
An original taste
Ivrea is the home of the Torta 900 pastry, a mousse-filled sponge cake — the original recipe of which can only be experienced at the town's Pasticceria Balla bakery.
Why We Love Battle of the Oranges Ivrea
The carnival is a celebration of humanity and fair rule
The core idea of the Carnival of Ivrea is the resistance to oppression and abuse of power by the rulers. Because of this, the Carnival acts as a bold, yet fun, tribute to the spirit of fairness, and rejection of all things tyrannical.
It’s an amazing sight
The Battle of the Oranges itself is a sight to behold. Along with the colorful celebrations, lively atmosphere, and cultural art forms on show, the battle itself serves as a unique form of expression that must be seen in all its wonders to be believed.
It sets aside all differences for the sake of coming together
The Carnival of Ivrea represents the time of the year when all disputes and rivalries are set aside to fulfill one unified goal. The Battle of the Oranges serves as a proper time when emotions should be let out. Because of this, it brings together the people of Ivrea and helps forge strong bonds between the townspeople that are difficult to break.
Battle of the Oranges Ivrea dates