What is the Ivrea Carnival and Battle of the Oranges?

This ultimate food fight is a festival held in Italy, a medieval tradition which was started in 1808 and is a three day long celebration that takes place just prior to the equally anticipated Mardi Gras parade. Over 100,000 spectators travel to Ivre each year to participate in this carnival and historically the Battle of Ivrea was perhaps a great turning point in Italy’s past that its remembrance is significant. This local tradition which is one of the oldest in the entire world was initiate when the city’s French government decide to amass the various rowdy crowds disperse in the country to come together and celebrate this huge battle of the oranges.

Hurling oranges is the main attraction of this battle. Even though beans were also used as means of ammunition in this festival, the huge surplus of citrus fruits in Nice in the early nineteenth century made it apparent that oranges were going to be the major source. However, if you have no interest in being cover with sticky orange juice or pulp you can protect yourself by wearing a red Phrygian cap. This is a sign that you do not want to be engulf in orange, juice, peel or pith and definitely do not want to be struck on the temple with a hard variety of the fruit. 

The history of the Battle of Oranges

This festival in Italy is a symbol of rebellion against a tyrannical government. In the memory of a civil war between the Royal Napoleonic Troops and the people of Ivrea. This was following the murder of the tyrant Rainieri di Biandrate. It is composed of different opposing groups where the orange throwers known as aranceri (who represent the people). They defend the piazzas by tossing the citrus fruits (which represent arrows) from the carts (which represent the Napoleonic troops). Some historical personalities are also involve such as those present in the actual civil war. For instance Mugnaia (miller’s daughter) and her procession that awards anyone who joins in the parade some gifts. Many talented musicians and folklorists also visit from all across Italy and Europe.

The ceremony starts early in January when Ivrea selects the people who will represent the characters in the actual civil war. In the 12th century the dictator Conte Ranieri di Biandrate exerted his right to jus primae noctis. This gave him the right to spend the first night with every bride the city had. This tradition proceeded until one day a dauntless young woman Violetta, the local miller’s daughter refused to move ahead with it. She was engage to be marry to Toniotto. Violetta slashed Conte’s head off on her wedding night. She waved his head as a sign of victory from the balcony and it caused a rebellion in the people of Ivrea. Thus came an end to the rule of the hated Biandrate family. They were expelled from the city, which was then to be govern as a free municipality.

The events that take place prior to the Irvea Carnival 

The Battle of Oranges takes place in Irvea’s medieval city center with its remarkable architecture. In January a General is elected from the town as the head of the ceremonies. He conveys his power after an announcement from the town hall balcony. He then travels on horseback to pay homage to the Bishop. The General gets the party started in the evening when he opens a grand masked ball in Piazza Ottinetti.

Abba Day:

This is also known as the Abbà day. These are a group of 10 children representing the 5 parishishes in Ivrea while dressed in Renaissance costumes. In 1700, Abbà was the head of an association call Badia. This association was frequent by young people who organized parties. Their emblem was a loaf of bread stuck on the end of a pick. These days the pick is a sword and the bread (an orange of course) to symbolize the beheaded tyrant. 

Before the Battle of the Oranges

Before the Battle of the Oranges, on Saturday at 9pm the identity of Violetta, (the Mugnaia) is unveil. This is do by Miller’s daughter’s escort of honor (Scorta d’ Onore della Mugnaia). She will march through the entire city with a torch light. She is accompanied by a parade of fireworks and white fat beans bubbling away in huge cauldrons. This is a traditional dish which starts off the charity bean fest.

Beans are cooked:

Hundreds of kilos of beans are cook with juicy salami and beanskin. This is serve to the hungry town people early in the Sunday morning. It will fuel them for the battles that ensue later in the afternoon. The first blow of the whistle commences the fight but the second whistle signals a temporary halt in the battle for the weary participants to draw breath and prepare for the next onslaught. The participants who still have some strength left can still dash out the oranges on Monday and Tuesday in a carnevale finale that lasts 4 days and involves 9 combat teams. 

The spectators who are conscious of being covere in oranges can hide behind the safety nets covering the piazza and edges of buildings. However, the participants who are more adventurous and love taking risks can be at the forefront. Standing in the battlefield to fight the attacks. The members who are dedicate food-lovers will be excited to learn that at the end of the battle they will be treated with a hearty meal. Irvea’s carnival celebration ends with serving polenta and cod (polenta e merluzzo). Thousands of portions of the polenta are serve soft and made with maize flour. These are dish up along with the salted cod and a hefty portion of thinly sliced onions. The dish is serve on Ash Wednesday to coincide with the first day of Lent in Piazza La Marmora.

Some Advice for The Battle of Oranges

Wear comfortable shoes so that you don’t slip on floors covered with oranges. Red hats will also symbolize that you are a noncombatant and must be treat as such. Put on an attire that is unclean and not neat enough in case you get hit by oranges. Take sunscreens and a water bottle to stay hydrated. Bring along a waterproof case with some money, phone and keys.

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