Battle of the Oranges

Get ready for a truly memorable festival

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Jules Pearson

Ronnie McCluskey
HomeAway travel expert

Battle of OrangesEurope is an odd place. Please don’t misunderstand this statement; it is written in the fondest possible sense. Indeed, the unique eccentricities of the various nations that comprise this fine continent are what make it what it is! Just look at some of the events that occur across our countries on an annual basis, and you'll soon see why 'odd' is meant as a compliment. Ireland has Tedfest, where hundreds of revellers, under the guise of priests and nuns, run amok on a tiny west coast island for three days. Spain, meanwhile, boasts La Tomatina, where some 20,000 locals and visitors gather to paint the town of Bunol red; by tossing tomatoes at one another, naturally.

Not to be outdone, the Italians have their own version of Spain's fruitful festival. In fact, the annual Battle of the Oranges has a history even more illustrious than its southern European cousin. If you’re unfamiliar with the aforementioned fruit-lobbing fiesta (and let’s face it, you probably are) then fear not. Our quick guide to the festival will tell you everything you need to know in a nutshell. When you decide whether or not it sounds like your cup of tea (or should we make that glass of juice?), simply browse through HomeAway to find your perfect rental accommodation for your stay. 


Battle of the Oranges: all you need to know


History of the festival History of the festival

The origins of the event in Ivrea lie in the Middle Ages, celebrating the overthrowing of tyrannical Lord Raineri di Biandrate. Legend has it that the despicable Raineri, after granting himself the right to spend the evening with any new bride on her wedding night, gifted pots of beans to the area’s poor families by means of reparation. The outraged locals responded by throwing the pots back into the street, and over the years, this act of defiance evolved into a tradition; a convention which saw girls throw oranges at potential love interests from their balconies, and the boys respond in kind. Thus, the institution known as the Battle of the Oranges was born. 

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The basics The basics

The Storica Carnevale di Ivrea occurs each year on the four days leading up to Shrove Tuesday. As well as the carnage of the battle itself, the event incorporates all manner of bonfires, processions and costumed pomposity to add to the curiosity of it all. The central figure is arguably the townswoman elected to play Mugnaia, the Miller’s daughter, who according to legend rejected the advances of the tyrant and promptly lopped off his head. Gruesomely, the oranges are said to represent the decapitated skull and, on a broader scale, the revolution that the humble Mugnaia jumpstarted.


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The battle The battle

The main event takes place throughout the town centre’s five squares. Participants are split into two teams: the Guards represent the followers of the evil lord and launch their weapons from horse-drawn carts, whereas the Peasants attack their “oppressors” from the ground. Anyone who doesn’t wish to take part is encouraged to don a Berretto Frigio, a red cap that marks you out as a humble spectator. Please note that whilst those in the thick of it do try their level best to aim their fruit at the opposing team, however, a certain degree of collateral damage is expected. The safest option is to find yourself a spot behind one of the many nets draped over the surrounding buildings; but it’s nonetheless wise to dress in clothes that would be of no great loss to you should they get splattered!

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The aftermath The aftermath

As you can likely imagine, the clean-up operation after 57,000 crates of rotting oranges have been splattered across a town centre for three days is unenviable, to say the least. Before all that, though, a winner must be declared; a task which is left in the capable hands of a team of impartial judges. The main criterion is the condition of the opponent’s uniform, but bonus points are awarded for avoiding the horses that are unwittingly involved in the chaos. At the end of the three days, an enormous procession weaves its way through Ivrea before some 100 unfortunate souls are drafted in to get rid of the mess. 

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Turin Turin

If you find that you don’t want to base your entire holiday around assaulting foreigners with fruit (although I can’t think for the life of me why not), it may please you to know that the historic city of Turin is a mere 16 kilometres from Ivrea. When you’ve rid yourself of the citrus stench, take time to venture to Italy’s industrial heartland. Lovers of culture in particular will appreciate the chance to clap eyes on the infamous Turin Shroud, the supposed burial cloth of Christ which resides in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The Biblioteca Reale also houses the most famous self-portrait ever etched, Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci. 

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Main image theme from Flickr, by Gio-S.p.o.t.s
Images for destinations 1, 2, 3 also contributed by Gio-S.p.o.t.s


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