One of the biggest food battles in Europe takes place every year in a small town of Ivrea, Piedmont as part of the local Carnival, which can be visited on private tours of Italy.
The Battle of oranges is part of the Historical Carnival of Ivrea, which origin goes back to medieval times, when the locals revolted against the despotic duke who ruled the town. The evil tyrant claimed the first night’s rights with all new brides in Ivrea until one of them chopped his head off and incited the riot. Over the centuries the Carnival has become a celebration of freedom and grew into a spectacular festival that involves about 5000 people and is celebrated over four days with parades, marching bands and feasts.
During the Carnival three orange battles take place and only members of the teams can participate although it is easy enough to join one. Despite the seemingly chaotic and messy orange throwing, the events follow strict rules. Nine teams of orange throwers (Aranceri) on foot representing the revolutionaries hurl oranges at the 50 horse-drawn carts carrying other Aranceri wearing protective masks who personify the tyrant’s army and throw oranges back at the rebels. Normally, 400 tons of oranges are brought to Piemonte from Sicily for the battle. To show their support for the “uprising” and make sure that they are not attacked by the rebels, the locals on the streets wear the “Phrygian cap” (“Berretto Frigio”), a red stocking-like hat.
On Sunday, during the Carnival, in different parts of Ivrea plates of delicious beans are distribute for free. They are cooked in huge cauldrons with salami and pig skin, just like in medieval times when bean feasts (Fagiolate) were organised for the poor of the town. Another traditional dish eaten during the celebration is polenta with codfish. Local bakeries sell various Carnival sweets and all restaurants offer a special traditional menu.
Photos by: Edoardo Bartoccetti, Maurizio Montanaro, Edoardo Forneris.