Updated for 2012!
Anyone who has been in Italy for any length of time will know that the country is packed with traditions, festivals and fairs. Some celebrate food, others feature jousting competitions, and one even honors snakes. Then, there is an annual orange fight.
Of course there are the Palio horse races in Siena, and then there is the annual orange battle in the northern Italian town of Ivrea – which is to the north of Turin.
This week’s Food and Wine Friday feature takes a look at this pretty odd Italian food festival and battle which paints the town, er, orange.
Note that this post has been updated with the dates of the 2012 Orange Festival in Ivrea.
This juicy annual event has been around for ages, ever since a certain lady of the manner threw beans at Ivrea’s poor, who feeling somewhat disgusted at the gesture, threw the things in the street. Over the years, the beans started to be used during annual carnivals and were jokingly hurled at those imagined to be adversaries.
Well, some time during the 19th century, the girls of Ivrea started throwing confetti, lupins and flowers from balconies at the carnival processions, and some flung oranges.
How the Event Came About
Apparently the girls of Ivrea hurled all manner of things, albeit quite light objects, at the boys that caught their fancy, in the hope that such boys would become suitors. One way to get noticed I suppose. Whilst flowers might not have exactly grabbed the attention of the young ladies chosen men, a hard flung orange certainly would have done. Although if you were hit full on by an orange you might not immediately appreciate the amorous aim behind it.
Indeed, little by little, the young men on the carnival floats armed themselves with oranges too, in order, one imagines, to return fire. This transformed part of the carnival into a running battle between those on the ground, and those on the balconies. A sort of orangey battle of the sexes, you could say. And in case you were wondering, the event was very light hearted.
At sometime after the second world war, the orange battles became more organised, with the guardians of the carnival floats representing the men of the tyrant, and the other orange flingers taking the part of the rebellious locals.
Today, and the next battle takes place on Sunday the 22nd February 2009, anyone can take part in the fun, and Ivrea’s annual battle has squeezed itself into being an event of note both in and outside of Italy.
Orange Festival 2012 – 19, 20 and 21 February 2012
Although the Orange carnival kicks off on the 15 February, the Orange battles themselves will take place on the 19th, 20th and the 21st February 2012.
The Orange Throwing Squadrons
Those wishing to participate can register with one of the nine regiments of orange hurlers. The teams are the Scacchi – Chessmen – which uses as it’s battle ground Piazza Ottinetti. The Chessmen name derives from when there were originally sixteen members of the squad. Sixteen because there are sixteen pawns on a chess board. They wear orange scarves, and chequered black and white helmets. Their symbol is an orange castle, or rook, if you know chess.
Another platoon, founded in 1964, is the Arduini Scorpions, named after a well known street in Ivrea, Via Arduini. Members of this group of orange men and women wear light gray tights, and take on the Scacchi in Piazza Ottinetti. On the rear of their battle helmets the Arduini sport the design of a scorpion.
The other groups, such as the Ace of Clubs and the Deathly Orange Throwers (lost in translation from Aranceri Morte!) battle in Piazza di Città. The Tuchini represent an area of Ivrea of the same name, but I’m not sure where these pipsqueaks fight out their battle. Next up are the Devils and the Mercenaries, who along with the group known as the Panthers battle in Piazza del Rondolino.
Last but not least there are the Credendari, whose name comes from their symbol which includes an image of Palazzo della Credenza, along with a battle hammer, and a sceptre as was presumably carried by the town’s mayor, seeing as ‘podesta’ means ‘mayor’ in English, as well as the more common Italian word ‘sindaco’. The Credendari juice the piazza Freguglia area, although who their adversaries actually are is not too clear. Still, it sounds like an awful lot of freshly squeezed fun, even if it’s a great waste of vitamin C.
Each of the aforementioned battle teams has its very own web site and there seems to be quite a social scene behind these crazy orange throwers with the members sticking together not only during the orange wars. Indeed, these juiced up teams organise a whole host of parties other events. Good, if not particularly clean, fun!
OK, OK, no more pithy little comments, buy I do wonder whether the church bells peal while the battles take place.
Remember that the next mad tournament takes place between the 19th, 20th and the 21st February 2012.
Will I be going? Not likely, unless I can either find anti-orange damage insurance for my camera gear or a 600mm to 1000mm lens! Love the sound the event though, and I bet a gorgeously orangey perfume left by all the fruit fights pervades every single corner of the town of Ivrea during the orange battles.
Companies having a few crates of beyond their sell by date oranges might like to get some fun free publicity by sending a few hundred to Ivrea, if they have not already done so, that is.
The Ivrea Carnival site had plenty of information in English: Carnevalediivrea.it
However the English version seems to have disappeared, alas. Google Translate might help.