Battle Of The Oranges 2021

8:00am 11 Feb - 10:00pm 16 Feb, 2021
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Ivrea, Italy

Battle of the Oranges: Carnevale di Ivrea, the Ultimate Food Fight

The Battle of the Oranges (Carnevale di Ivrea) is one of the craziest and most widely-anticipated festivals in Italy. The medieval tradition, which was established in 1808, is a three-day long festival that takes place just before the equally incredible Mardi Gras and is considered one of the craziest food fight festivals around. 

Over 100,000 spectators travel to Ivrea to witness and join in this exciting carnival yearly. The Battle of Ivrea is perhaps the best marriage of both history and good fun; an outdoor event where spectators get a chance to relive one of the most significant turning points in Italy’s past. As its name implies, you’ll be seeing lots of oranges: you can join one of the organized groups to throw them around!

The event mimics the civil war between the Royal Napoleonic Troops and the people of Ivrea following the murder of the tyrant Rainieri di Biandrate. The organized “battle” tells the story of a people who are rebelling against a tyrannical government. It is composed of squads where the orange throwers, known as the aranceri (who represent the people) defend the piazzas by tossing the citrus fruits (which represent arrows) from the carts (which represent the Napoleonic troops); creating one of the most unusual carnivals in the world. 

Historical personalities involved in the civil war are also represented, including the Mugnaia (miller’s daughter), and her cortege who generously distribute gifts to those who join in. The Battle of the Oranges is accompanied by vibrant, ostentatious floats as well as talented musical and folkloristic groups that visit from all corners of Italy and Europe.

‘Experience this one-of-a-kind tradition steeped in history as you join in the revelry set in the stunning medieval streets of Ivrea; home to artistic, historic, and natural treasures.’

Your experience at the Battle of the Oranges

I am kneeling on a stone floor with thirty Italians surrounding me. A strongly built Italian a meter from me is about to throw oranges at my head as hard as he can. From this distance, he can’t miss.

Two hard oranges land strongly on the crown of my head and the crowd begins to cheer. I rise to my feet as the newest member of the Asso di Picche, one of the nine tribes competing in the Ivrea Battle of the Oranges.

During the fight, I see one of the older members of our team (I’d guess 60-65), standing on the side with a fairly severe black eye. I approach him, gesture sympathetically, and suggest in my best Italian that he sees a doctor. 

He vehemently shakes his head, grabs his left bicep and says firmly “no, sono Asso di picche”. He then wanders back into the fray. Ace of Spades men, it seems, fight through their injuries.

On the subject of masculine pride, one man had wanted to join the Asso di Picche without being used as target practice from point-blank range. A tribe elder responded by grabbing the man’s crotch, to imply he had no balls. This is not a #MeToo space.

Two hours in, we are exhausted. There is no need to return to crates for oranges – enough oranges lie on the floor to pick up ammo wherever you stand. This is probably a good thing because the orange pulp is four inches deep and it is tough to walk or run.

Best views of the Battle of the Oranges

The Battle of the Oranges takes place right on Ivrea’s city center, a beautiful historic town that will take you back in time with its jaw-dropping medieval architecture. Did you know that the town’s origins date back to 100 BC? History buff or not, it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer beauty and palatial nature of the old buildings in town.

Anyone can join in the Battle of the Oranges, but instead of watching it from afar, the best way to enjoy it is to participate in the revelry itself! However, keep in mind that this citrus civil war reenactment means that everyone gets hit by a few oranges. If this isn’t your cup of tea, there is always the option of watching from afar.

What to wear

The weather in Italy is usually mild at this time of the year. Wear comfortable shoes that do not slip easily while walking through the oranges on the floor. Red hats are on almost everyone: these denote you are a non-combatant and should be treated as such. There is no guarantee that you won’t be hit by an orange so wear clothes that can get dirty.

What to pack

Pack some sunscreen as well as a water bottle to stay hydrated during the day. Many people take a waterproof case with some money, phone and keys.

Buy tickets

The tickets are  €10 on Sunday, February 23 while Monday and Tuesday are free to attend.

Battle of the Oranges Event Schedule

Unlike other food fights, this one lasts for three days. After the fighting finishes on the third day, the streets are cleaned, there is a parade and a celebratory burn in the main area. 

Sunday – February 14, 2021

Sunday morning starts with traditional activities at 9:30 am, the official swearing in, the arrival of the Miller’s daughter and the General, ritual bean tasting, the Preda in Dora ceremony where a stone is removed from a ruin with a promise to build a new castle following the historic carnival procession. Then the battle begins…

The Battle

After the traditional activities in the morning, the duke’s men enter at 2 pm and the orange throwing begins!

Every man, woman and child have oranges to hurl furiously at the masked villains on top of the wagons. They return fire hard. This lasts for perhaps thirty seconds, then their horses gallop around to a new part of the square. 

This happens at four distinct parts of the square before they trot out. Many different horse-drawn carriages repeat their route; each yields furious attacks. 

Monday – February 15, 2021

Monday starts off with a parade at 9:30am followed by a competition where people try to throw and orange as far as they can. This is just a warm up, the battle of the oranges food fight starts after 2pm.

Tuesday – February 16, 2021

On the last day the carnival procession and the food fight start at 2 pm before the prizes are given to the winning team at 5:45 pm. 

The Burning of the Scarlo marks the end of the carnival and goes on for a few hours from 8 pm.

The Tribes

There are nine tribes and each has its own story and history. From speaking with locals, I gather that tribal allegiances are similar to English football clubs: you pick your team early based on friend/family allegiances, and you do not switch your team later in life without a very good reason. 

Aranceri Asso di Picche (Ace of Spades), founded in 1947
Aranceri della Morte (Death’s Aranceri), founded in 1954
Aranceri Tuchini del Borghetto (Revolutionaries of the Borough), founded in 1964
Aranceri degli Scacchi (The Chess), founded in 1964
Aranceri Pantera Nera (Black Panther), founded in 1965
Aranceri Scorpioni d’Arduino (Arduino’s Scorpions), founded in 1966
Aranceri Diavoli (The Devils), 1973
Aranceri Mercenari (The Mercenaries), 1974
Aranceri Credendari (The Credendari), 1985

Top Tips if you’re thinking of Taking Part

Join your tribe early: I recommend you reach out to some of the tribes a month in advance, ideally with an Italian speaker. Do not show up on the day and expect to join a tribe. 

Freshen up your Italian: Some of the tribes only speak Italian. Bring an Italian speaker or build up some basic knowledge to communicate with your tribe.  

Follow the rules: I find myself impressed by how rigidly everyone keeps to the rules. nobody throws oranges at the horses bearing the duke’s wagon. Nobody throws oranges at the wrong tribe, and nobody aims at a red-hatted spectator. A single poor sportsman could have ruined the event for everyone, but this orange fight has no bad apples. 

History of the Battle of the Oranges

This bizarre festival, known to the locals as Carnival, has its roots in a historical incident from 1194. The miller’s daughter, “la Mugnaia Violetta” was married and the unpopular Duke claimed his droit du seigneur, forcing Violetta into his castle. She refused to submit to his advances and cut off his head.

This started the revolution that brought down the castle.

Today, the Tyrant’s henchmen are represented by masked Arcanceri (Orange throwers) on horses. They parade around the city, attacking and being attacked by locals from nine tribes representing the 12th-century villagers. We, the people, outnumber our opponents, but we are on foot and without protective headgear. It’s a fair fight. 

Things to do in Ivrea

After participating in a day, two, or three of the Battle of the Oranges, make sure to get some rest because you’re going to want to explore and experience the rest that the city has to offer.

Start with the iconic Ivrea castle, Piazza Castello, Ivrea Cathedral and Crypt, and the Roman Amphitheatre. Book an excursion to Turin, or go see the rest of Italy.

What to eat in Ivrea

Sink your teeth into the legendary cuisine of Italy, down an espresso – Italian style, and marvel at the architecture. 

Try the legendary faseuj grass, a slow cooked stew of beans, pork rind, sausages, pig’s trotters, pig bones, lard and onions. On Wednesday sample polenta and codfish, the traditional meal kicking off the lent.

How to get there

By Plane

Turin airport is only an hour away from Ivrea. Logistically, this is easy to get to Ivrea by taxi or train. Trains run every 30 minutes to get to Turin (Dora, Porta Susa and Lingotto) from where you can take the Turin-Aosta train to Ivrea which takes about an hour.

By Car

Ivrea is easy to get to, just head for the A5 direction Aosta and take the exit for Ivrea.

By Train

Take the Turin-Aosta line to Ivrea train station and enjoy the countryside along the way.

Where to stay

There are several hotels, guesthouses, and inns that cater to visitors traveling for the event. For an authentic Italian experience, check out the homestays and make friends with your lovely hosts. Head to the map here for the best accommodation deals during the festival.

How to get around

Getting around Ivrea is pretty easy on foot as it is a small town. Park your car outside the closed-off areas and walk to the action.

The Battle of the Oranges is one of the most popular food fights in Italy. Are you looking for more strange Italian events? Check out Calcio Storico, a combination of soccer, rugby, and wrestling in traditional costumes and Pizza Fest, the biggest Pizza party in Italy.

Photo credits: Storico Carnevale di Ivrea, Marco Bertorello/AFP

Italy Travel Tips:

Plan ahead: Book your perfect trip with our Italy travel guide and destination information. Does Italy require a visa? Check the visa requirements before you get caught up during your travel.

Stay safe: Even the best-laid plans can head south. battleface can help you stay safe in dangerous or hostile situations as well as that epic road trip or catching a few waves. How to stay safe during Battle Of The Oranges 2021? If you’re not covered for your trip yet, get your quote here.

Spend money wisely: Take public transport and dine in from time to time are common saving tips during traveling. How to spend money wisely in Italy? Make use of technology. There’s an app for everything.

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