Ivrea, a town in northwestern Italy is most famous for its traditional carnival celebration. The core of the Carnevale di Ivrea is the famous Battle of the Oranges where thousands of citizens are divided into nine teams who them violently pelt each other with oranges. These orange battles occur on the traditional carnival days of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Held every year in late February, the celebration revolves around a 12th century legend of a miller’s daughter who refused the local duke’s “right” to spend a night with each newlywed woman in his domain and instead chipped off his head. This refusal lead the commoners in the town revolting against their rulers, they then stormed and burned the palace. Each year a young girl is elected “Mugnaia” and plays the role of Violetta, the miller’s daughter who still today, honored as a local symbol of freedom.
Today’s Carnevale di Ivrea took its roots during the time Napoleon ruled the region. Until this time, each district in the city celebrated its own carnival separately; but it was changed to combined all of them into a single city-wide party, and when the area returned to Italian rule, it continued as one large celebration. The Battle of the Oranges symbolizes the towns’ liberation from its rulers and the teams of Aranceri (orange handlers) are either representing the commoners or the duke’s allies during the three day citrus conflict. The duke’s allies take their positions on their horse drawn carriages and battle against the nine opposing Aranceri teams who are on foot. The teams in the carriages are geared up with humongous helmets along with other protective gear, the citizen teams wear their traditional costumes along with some protective gear minus those silly helmets. The use of oranges during the festival is a relative new addition; particularly since oranges are not grown in the area and over half a million pounds of oranges have to be shipping in from Sicily. Previous festivals had used apples and beans until sometime in the early 20th centuries when the last switch was made.
Sadly spectators can only spectate, if you are looking to get into the mix you will have to plan ahead and sign up to join one of the nine teams. Anyone who wants to take have fun but not get pelted with oranges should rock a red hat, this marks you as a spectator instead of a target. At the end of the Carnevale di Ivrea, a ceremony is held in front of town hall to announce the winners of the orange battle which is then followed by an awesome bonfire. So make sure you pack some citrus friendly clothing, be prepared to party for three days and make your way to Ivrea.